Following his critically-acclaimed eponymous debut, Kingfish, Christone Ingram returns with an album whose content and character similarly reflect its title. If Kingfish were the person, 662 is the place, and the music within reaches beyond the straightforward blues-guitar explosion of the first offering, while simultaneously providing listeners with a more intimate look at the man behind the guitar.
For those still smitten with Kingfish’s last effort, this set includes plenty of the guitar prowess and old-soul playing and writing, which legions of aficionados fell in love with. Ingram shows that he has only sharpened his ability to cut, soar, and amaze with nothing more than a couple of choice guitar licks, or a flurry of emotive runs. The treat on 662 lies in Ingram’s willingness to explore a few more musical styles and step away from his distorted, Les Paul-humbucker crush of sound.
Writing alongside producer Tom Hambridge, Ingram incorporates a few more ambitious structures and chord changes, trying his hand at some soul-infused tunes. He even leaves the electricity behind all together on the acoustic lament “You’re Already Gone.”
The opening trio of “662,” “She Calls Me Kingfish,” and “Long Distance Woman” hews closely to the approach taken on Kingfish—honest blues played to near-perfection. “662” serves as an uptempo autobiography told through a solid shuffle and a wonderful instrumental second half. Ingram throws in a memorable closing line on “She Calls Me Kingfish,” admitting, “If I don’t quit that woman, I believe my fish is cooked.”
“Another Life Goes By” pivots towards soul with Glenn Worf’s thick bass line at times commanding more attention than Kingfish’s guitar. Using this to his benefit, Ingram finds the extra space in the mix to draw the focus to his voice and the song’s timely message. He deftly handles the weighty subject matter, writing and singing directly without preaching or sounding sanctimonious. In mastering this oft-fumbled task, Ingram produces one of the set’s best tracks. “That’s All It Takes” shares this same laid-back feel, introducing some horns and replacing fiery fret-blasts with jazzy inflections. Another winner, the song isn’t flashy or wildly complex, but it is well written and once again showcases Ingram’s evolving voice, in both a literal and figurative sense. Most importantly, it’s a joy to listen to.
“Something In The Dirt” cheekily posits the idea that perhaps the wealth of music emanating from Ingram’s Clarksdale and the greater 662 area-code of North Mississippi is of some organic origin. In a way, this is of course true, but it comes from visionaries like Kingfish who realize, “There’s something in the dirt, and I’m trying to dig it out.”
Although only a bonus track, the previously released “Rock & Roll” closes 662 on a sad but hopeful note. Dedicated to his late mother, Kingfish makes his biggest departure from the blues on a song with hints of gospel and huge amounts of crossover appeal. If audiences wondered whether Ingram might be able to parlay blues rock genius into becoming a household name, this song answers with an emphatic “yes.” And “yes” is really what 662 is about. Can Ingram follow his stunning debut with another solid album? Yes. Can he step out from behind the distortion and fire of his guitar virtuosity to let his voice and his writing mature and evolve. Yes. Can Kingfish expand his catalog across genres to tackle a wider range of styles. Yes.
It is incredibly difficult to follow an album like Kingfish, and 662 might not capture the imagination of some listeners the way its predecessor did, but other listeners (like this author) might find this latest offering far more exciting due to its widened palette and appetite for risk taking. 662 recertifies Kingfish as a young, but quickly maturing artist with immense technical talent and an understanding of music that is deep enough and wide enough to continue to branch out into seemingly any genre.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Another Life Goes By
– That’s All It Takes
– Something In The Dirt
– Rock & Roll
The Big Hit
– Another Life Goes By