Christone "Kingfish" Ingram
The continuing beauty of albums is that they're stand-alone works, but also map pins foreshadowing an artist's potential journey. Christone "Kingfish" Ingram's 662 works as a blues album—one featuring solid songs, fiery guitar playing, and heart-felt vocals—but also as a musical Waze, hinting where the 22-year-old musician might take his version of the blues.
The thing about 662 is that upon the first few listens, it sounds like a straight-forward blues rock album, with fast boogies and tasty licks. And if Ingram had stopped there, with those types of songs, it would be a fun album. But it's the moments where Ingram deviates from the standard blues formula that make 662 captivating.
"Another Life Goes By" has a soul groove and jazzy overtones, a la B.B. King, but with more sophisticated soloing. The song is smart, but not overly cerebral. The tune swings, with a subtle funk that recalls Seal. The lyrics are topical and explicit: "Nobody's born with hate/ Hate is taught to them / How can you judge someone by the color of their skin." Placed all together, it feels bluesy, but also beyond the genre. In fact, one has to wonder what would happen if Ingram's commentary was a more personal story, even in the guise of a character, rather than sung from the perspective of a detached narrator.
You can see the potential of that kind of first-person, personal songwriting with "Rock & Roll," an album bonus track written by Ingram, Ashley Ray, and Sean McConnell. The anthem grows out of a simple acoustic strum, the song building into downright catchy pop, complete with celestial background singers. Ingram's soulful voice conveys the song's emotions, which he reworked to be about losing his mother. His guitar is up-front, but as charged and emotive as his vocals. Taken all together, it shows a potential mainstream direction for Ingram that's still true to his blues roots.
But then there are tracks like "Long Distance Woman," where Ingram deploys a crunchy guitar sound, vocal distortion, and a riff that sounds downright metal. The slide guitar riff running through the song is reminiscent of Zakk Wylde's southern metal hybrid, but thanks to Ingram's resonant voice, the track remains tethered to the blues. "Not Gonna Lie" is a funky riff that seamlessly slides into "Too Young to Remember," feeling like the classic move on the Red Hot Chili Pepper's Blood Sugar Sex Magik, where "The Power of Equality" flows straight into "If You Have to Ask." Is Ingram paying homage to 90s alt-rock? Who knows. It's a cool move out of a different playbook.
As much fun as 662 is, it's hard not to muse about what his upcoming albums might sound like. Kingfish, Ingram's 2019 debut, gently pushed some genre boundaries and he's wisely showing restraint in gradually expanding his sound, allowing his fans to come along on what's proving to be an exciting ride. It's an enjoyable album to enjoy in the present, but it also provides tantalizing glimpses of an exciting future.