As a young musician who’s already worked with a big cast of heroes, Marcus King still has a long way to go.
Opportunity keeps knocking for Marcus King. At just 25 years old he’s checked off enough high-profile collaborations to satisfy any musician for life. When King first emerged, his raw talent—serious guitar chops mixed with a pure R&B voice—was staggeringly apparent, and predecessors took notice.
While still a teenager, he was mentored by Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes, who produced the Marcus King Band’s 2016 eponymous album, an authentic roots effort that also featured an appearance by slide guitar ace Derek Trucks. He then worked with Americana go-to producer Dave Cobb on the 2018 follow-up, “Carolina Confessions,” and became a regular opening act on Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show.
Endorsements aside, King has mostly built his own reputation through a rigorous road ethic, touring relentlessly with a dynamic sound that combines searing old-school Southern soul with thrilling blues-based fret work.
“I love Marcus [King] as an artist,” country star Zac Brown told Billboard, when discussing King’s guest spot on his new song, “Stubborn Pride.” “I think he’s going to be one of the best guitar players that’s ever lived.”
Music has always been an integral part of King’s life. He grew up in South Carolina, a fourth-generation musician, who was playing in his father Marvin King’s blues band as a pre-teen. He studied the traditional masters, like B.B. King, and largely carried the blues torch on his debut album, “Soul Insight,” but ultimately King decided to pursue a broader sound.
To make his latest effort, “El Dorado,” an album billed as his solo debut under his own name, sans band, King took direction from another hero, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. With Auerbach at the production helm, King was connected with a cast of veteran Nashville session players and made his most well-rounded set of songs to date. Full-throttle rockers like “The Well” mingle with mellow, front-porch meditations (“Sweet Mariona”) and heartache ballads (“Break), while the hypnotic groove of “Turn It Up” offers a funky romp into the sounds of the Mississippi Hill Country.
King is known for live, loose jamming, but on his most recent record he takes the opportunity to hone tracks and get overtly genre-specific, especially when he conjures Al Green’s soulful tenderness in “Love You” and channels Willie Nelson’s outlaw spirit in the rambling “Too Much Whiskey.” It’s another step forward for a young artist who still has plenty of ground to cover.
King will hit the road for an extended North American tour this winter, performing at the Norva in Norfolk on February 25 and the National in Richmond on February 26.
Photos courtesy of AMFM LLC