Generations change hands as the road goes on forever. Marcus King grew up worshipping the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as blues greats that his father played around the house—only for Allman guitarists to later mentor him. Warren Haynes reissued the Marcus King Band’s 2014 debut, Soul Insight, on his Evil Teen label when King was still 19 and then produced the group’s eponymous 2016 second album, which sported Haynes’ ex-Allman foil Derek Trucks on one track. Now only 22, King is riding high on his band’s third album, Carolina Confessions, after a high-profile summer tour with the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
“Being welcomed into that family of musicians was a tremendous honor for me,” the prodigious singer/guitarist says from Greenville, South Carolina, visiting his own family before the Marcus King Band returns to the road, headlining the Sinclair on Nov. 18-19. “It’s still hard to believe it.”
There’s reason to believe. Haynes and Trucks weren’t alone in noticing King’s budding talent for fluid, biting guitar solos and throaty, soulful vocals. And awareness began at home. “My father toured his entire life and knew how strong the passion is, that it’s not something that can really be ignored,” King says of his bluesman dad. “I was blessed to have a family that was understanding of how deep this thing is.”
Both his father and grandfather played guitar, the latter passing along a semi-hollow red Gibson ES-345 that got the youngster going—when he got the chance. King’s father put “Big Red” under lock and key. “Though I was a gigging musician, you still don’t want to put a guitar with that tremendous sentimental value in the hands of a 15-year-old,” King says. “I would play it while I was at home.”
But when King turned 18 and was putting out his first record, his father decided to hand over the guitar. “I took it on the road with me for two years and really just got tired of the paranoia I would have,” he says. “I was taking it to the bathroom with me, and it was in a huge road case because I didn’t want anything to happen to it.” King switched to other 345s, and Gibson is developing his own signature model, due next year.
As the sole guitarist in his band, King deftly mixes lead and rhythm, drawing from high school jazz studies and admiration of the two-handed independence of John Coltrane pianist McCoy Tyner.
But he’s becoming known for more than his six-string prowess. Carolina Confessions finds King honing his songcraft and vocals, mining territory akin to catchy, horn-glazed R&B outfits like St. Paul & the Broken Bones and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats as much as classic Southern rockers. “I’ve grown more comfortable with the fact that I’m a singer and writer,” King says. “I had a vision for this record to be a point for the group to show more of our arrangement skills.”
The Marcus King Band—featuring drummer Jack Ryan, bassist Stephen Campbell, trumpeter/trombonist Justin Johnson, saxophonist Dean Mitchell and keyboardist DeShawn Alexander—recorded the album with producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson). “We come from very similar parts of the world and had a very similar upbringing,” King says of Cobb. “Just talking to each other felt very organic.”
The October release revolves around related concepts. King addresses broken relationships (and accepting one’s role in such) as well as the concept of leaving home, which he does as a musician. “Music is always your first love, so adding a relationship can be hard,” he says. “You’re torn between wanting to be home and waiting to be on the road.”
King acknowledges his social politics differ from others down South (he wrote “Welcome ’Round Here” in response to President Trump’s travel ban) but adds, “I think we can all live together pretty harmoniously.”
His first musical memories came from folk and gospel played on his grandfather’s porch in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and King says, “Even though two of my great aunts may have hated each other, they would sing and read off the same hymnal book, because music just brought people together.” ◆
The Marcus King Band plays the Sinclair on Nov. 18-19.
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