Christone Kingfish Ingram gives a phenomenal virtuoso blues guitar performance in his first appearance in New Zealand. An young man with a huge talent and heart.
Kingfish was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi around the turn of the century, January 19, 1999. His mother, Princess Pride was a first cousin of country artist Charley Pride. He was a child prodigy with regards to instruments. From drums to bass and then eventually guitar as a pre-teen.
Attended the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale and was taught by musicians who ran the arts and education programmes there.
He was immersed in gospel music as his extended family performed in church.
Clarksdale is a mecca of Americana and was the birthplace of Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker, and Ike Turner amongst others. It is where other legendary musicians established themselves and made the area a touchstone of the blues and rock’n’roll. Son House, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Robert Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Charley Patton.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant went Walking to Clarksdale in their best album since the demise of Led Zeppelin.
Kingfish soaked up all these influences and went on to perform in his teens with the likes of Eric Gale, Buddy Guy and Keb Mo. He got to play in front of Michelle Obama at the White House in 2014.
We can hear that history and art in the ten songs he plays tonight in 110 minutes.
She Calls Me Kingfish and the riffs well up and overflow. The night is set and he sings in similar tones to Buddy Guy.
Fresh Out. Starts with a slow walking blues rhythm. Clean crystalline guitar like classic BB King or even Eric Clapton. I drank up my last bottle of Johnnie Walker Red.
Empty Promises is packed with wails and squalls of guitar which get fast and complex. Resolves with the liquid tones of BB King weeping softly to finish.
Then he apologises for playing too fast.
Jimi Kara, also known as Kara Gordon is another child prodigy and one of the best guitarists in New Zealand, albeit underground and with a cult following.
It is a real treat to hear these two as a double bill tonight.
Kara was good enough to win a coveted scholarship to the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston. The single most influential and important centre for American music in all its diversity and development.
He has played alongside other heavyweight guitarists. He has opened for the likes of Ozzy Osborne and Alice Cooper. He is distinctive and easily recognisable when playing in other bands. Has appeared in country and bluegrass festivals. Equally you may come across him in small boutique venues on Ponsonby Road one evening.
Tonight he is greeting punters at the entrance to the Powerstation. Big guy with Sixties threads, large black hat and a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt. There is a special air about him.
On stage he is a commanding presence, just by standing still and playing a guitar.
Trouble is a song inspired by Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, he tells us. It takes off at great speed with cascading notes and furious licks. It rolls and tumbles. His technique is dazzling and incorporates tapping. Slide accents are matched by the keyboard player.
The names are too hard to catch from the stage, but he has a fast and furious drummer and a solid bottom bass guitarist. The keyboards play in the style that came from Al Kooper on Highway 61 Revisited and progressed to Ian McLagan playing with the Faces.
His playing has overtones of jazz, ragtime and classical music and he could easily stand alongside the likes of a Michael Bloomfield. Or a John McLaughlin, no sweat.
Hurricane he calls a country blues. It’s a fast boogie and similar to what Eric Clapton was playing in the early seventies with Delaney and Bonnie.
Of course, it’s Hendrix time with Little Wing. She’s walking through the clouds/ With a circus mind. Played slightly behind the beat. Nice tonal variations of fast and slow. The bass takes a jazz-inspired solo.
A genuine master guitarist.
Christone Kingfish Ingram
Too Young to Remember is off his last album 662. It is done as an extended and improvised virtuoso piece as he walks through the packed floor. He disappears but the guitar never stops. Appears on the mezzanine, how did he get up there? Close to the rail and he does a bit of playing with his teeth. Reappears back on stage to a theatrical finish.
The audience are appropriately hooked and fully under the spell by now.
Not Gonna Lie is soulful rhythm’n’blues with a nice funk beat. The engine room is powered by Chris Black drums, and Paul Rodgers bass. They take a solo which is more Funkadelic than James Brown. With Brother B (I think) on keyboards, he adds a wah-wah coda which seems cribbed straight out of the Rolling Stones’ Fingerprint File. Mid Seventies Funk Rock.
662 is the title track off his last album. A road song driven by a boogie piano. The engine room keeps it tight and metronomic. There are echoes of Dick Dale in the guitar which Kingfish revs up into overdrive.
There is clamour and cheering for an encore. After an extended silence the keyboard player returns and plays a skirling Eleanor Rigby. In my head I can hear all the lonely people.
Kingfish wails back in with Long Distance Woman. Like a southern tornado he rips the place again. Molten Hendrix riffs. It’s hard to keep a good thing strong. Well, he adds some nasty Link Wray licks just for good measure.
This is a special night for Kingfish. Just finished a big Australian tour and this is his last show, and first time in New Zealand.
So, we get a special version of Hey Joe. Gonna shoot my old lady/ Caught her messing with another man. Then the horror comes down and he gets to reproduce Suicide’s Frankie Teardrop on guitar. Slows it down and salvation comes with some reggae rhythm and a peaceful east-west coda.
One final blast of intergalactic blues and Christone Kingfish Ingram is done!
Rev Orange Peel
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Christone Kingfish Ingram:
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