the southern roots of the marcus king band strengthen

The Marcus King Band, From left: Jack Ryan (drums), Dean Mitchell (saxophone), DeShawn Alexander (keyboards), Marcus King (guitar), Stephen Campbell (bass) and Justin Johnson (trumpet/trombone). Photo by David McClister.

Marcus King recalled some advice received in his youth. It came from his father, a noted South Carolina guitarist and the third of four generational representatives of Southern roots music within his family. It might have dealt with music, it might have spoken to something larger, but the younger King took it to heart.

“Growing up in a musical family, I learned certain situations to look out for,” King said. “Find the right people that will do right by you and it can really be a beautiful thing. People like my father, he told me to be on my toes. And that’s a good way to be.”

For King, a stunning blues and soul stylist, guitarist, vocalist and bandleader who at age 22 has a become highly heralded roots music ambassador, that meant surrounding himself with a band that brings to mind the brassy warmth of Muscle Shoals soul, the churchy reverence of Southern gospel and a roaring guitar sound, matched by an equally gritty vocal might, that places him in the higher ranks of a new generation rock and roots movement.

But on his new “Carolina Confessions” album, that meant bringing another A-league player onto his team – producer Dave Cobb, whose seemingly omnipresent role in modern Americana music and more has placed him in the company of such Southern mavericks as Jason Isbell as well as a series of masterful Kentucky-bred artists led by Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson and, more recently, Dillon Carmichael.

“Dave has a really good ear for songwriting and for what is going to play well,” King said. “What Dave keeps in mind is the overall flow of a record. He has these really cool studio tricks that I don’t want to get into too much. I don’t want to give out the secret recipe, but Dave just knows how to work with a band. It’s not about just looking at an artist, myself, with hired guns. He treats us equally as a group, which is how we like it. That’s what we want. He pushed everybody.

“Some members (of the band) liked that more than others, but Dave Cobb and I really hit it off. He’s become a dear friend of mine. He really helped use the studio as another voice on the record.”

Of course, having Cobb’s production home, the famed RCA famed Studio A in Nashville, didn’t hurt in the creation of “Carolina Confessions” (“As soon as we walked in, we felt there were a lot of friendly spirits in the room”). Mostly, though, Cobb helped fulfill King’s mission for the record – to create music that emphasized songwriting over King’s proven forcefulness as a guitarist and singer. In doing so, what emerged was more of an ensemble sound that underscored the tasteful orchestration of hornmen Justin Johnson and Dean Mitchell along with the sleek organ colors of DeShawn Alexander. More than King’s three previous albums and EP discs, “Carolina Confessions” was truly the work of the Marcus King Band, not just King himself.

“I don’t know if it was a conscious decision as much as just an organic happening along with the recording process,” King said. “We wanted to focus a bit more on songwriting and composition. That’s what we wanted on this record to highlight for the band. The other records focused a little bit more on musicianship and just the rawness of the sound. But on this one, we wanted to focus more on the songs. By doing that, I think we showcased the musicianship of the band as a whole. That allowed us to show our strength in working together on a common goal.”

The new album continues the traction created by a very fruitful touring year in 2018 that saw the King Band being invited as a guest for Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Wheel of Soul Tour during the summer. That collaboration almost seemed inevitable, as co-leader and guitarist Derek Trucks, now 39, began gaining national notice, as did King, during his teen years.

“The thing with somebody like Derek isn’t so much about any direct advice he gives. It’s more about the stories he tells. I look at Derek like an older brother. You listen closely enough to these heroes, these legends, talking about their career and you can hear the lessons that are being taught. Those are the kinds of people I’ve always been drawn to.

“I don’t like direct orders being sent my way. That’s never really been my bag. People that I’ve become good friends with, like Derek, those people just have good stories to tell. If you listen close enough, you pick up a lot of life advice and musical advice. It’s all right there.”

The Marcus King Band and Magnolia Boulevard perform at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at Manchester Music Hall, 899 Manchester Music Hall. Tickets: $12, $15. Call 859-537-7321 or go to manchestermusichall.com.



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