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Christone “Kingfish” Ingram @ The Parker

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram @ The Parker

By Ray Anton | Photos Tom Craig

There is a shooting star in the world of blues guitar, and his name is Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. South Florida was fortunate enough to get a stop on the 662 Juke Joint Tour on February 18 at The Parker in Fort Lauderdale. Ingram grew up in a musical family that performed in church in the city of Clarksdale, Mississippi, a town many claim as the birthplace of the blues. Several legends, such as John Lee Hooker, Junior Parker, Ike Turner, Eddie Boyd, Sam Cooke and Muddy Waters hailed from Clarksdale. Ingram began his journey playing drums at the age of 6. He moved over to bass at 11, and then not too long after, the guitar. That’s when Ingram soaked up everyone from Robert Johnson and Lightning Hopkins to B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and Prince, all while developing his own style. One of his early guitar teachers, Bill “Howl-N-Mad” Perry, gave him the nickname “Kingfish” after a character on The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show. He progressed quickly, and was soon playing at Clarksdale’s famous Ground Zero Blues Club. By 16, he was turning heads and winning awards. Three years later, he released his first album, Kingfish, which went to the top of the charts and won many accolades. He was able to headline his own tour before the pandemic. Ingram is currently on tour supporting his second release, 662, which is the area code of the northern Mississippi area he grew up. The area code, like him, was born in 1999.

I had heard plenty about the artist and seen many of his videos, so I was looking forward to seeing him live last month in South Florida. There was no opening act. Just the young man and his talented 4-piece band. As the clock went a few minutes past 8:00, the house lights came down, and three musicians strolled onto the stage to their awaiting instruments. Keyboardist Deshawn “DiVibes” Alexander got the show started with a soulful intro.

Ingram then walked out to a warm ovation with his signature purple Fender Telecaster and started playing “She Calls Me Kingfish.” Bassist Paul Ryan and drummer Chris Black laid down a groovy foundation for Ingram’s intense blues runs. As they played through “Fresh Out,” “Another Life Goes By” and a cover of “Empty Promises,” Ingram was masterful in his use of dynamic range. He would slow the song down and continually drop the volume to where you could almost hear a pin drop, creating an anticipation you could almost taste. Then he’d build the tunes back up again so it felt like an explosion.

During the next song, “Too Young to Remember,” Ingram decided he wanted to get closer to the audience, so he walked down the stairs and across the front row. Then he made his way several rows up into the crowd without missing a beat on his guitar. He slowly wandered back onstage and finished the song to thunderous applause. The other band members walked off stage as Ingram performed “Something in the Dirt” by himself. It was quite a spiritual moment.

The guys returned to perform “Already Gone.” During “Not Gonna Lie,” Ingram invited a local teenager to join them onstage. The young man strapped on his lap steel guitar and started trading blues licks with Ingram, call and response style. It was definitely a crowd-pleaser. The band closed the set with “Outside This Town,” followed by the title track to his second album, 662. After almost 90 minutes of solid, soulful and sometimes blistering blues, the foursome walked off to a standing ovation.

As the crowd begged for an encore, the guys walked back onstage. Alexander’s keyboard intro to “Long Distance Woman” had elements of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgetting” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.” The finale of the night was the song made famous by Jimi Hendrix, “Hey Joe.” Towards the end of the song, Ingram broke out his cell phone and snapped a picture of the cheering crowd. Ingram took the guitar off his shoulders and placed it on the floor, full volume still going. He waved goodbye and gave gratitude to his audience members. The rest of the guys continued playing for a little while longer, Ingram‘s guitar did not go silent until bassist Paul Ryan turned off the guitar amp.

It’s good to see a young player so fully absorbed in the blues, and seemingly willing to carry the torch of the younger generation from the legends like Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and other veterans. If you’re a fan of the blues, you definitely need to see this young man.

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