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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Catching The Kingfish….

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By Iain C. Munro, Feature Writer, The Highland Times

So what does a Highland writer do when he finds himself in Glasgow of a Tuesday evening in October with nothing in particular to do?

Well, this was me– off to the smoke for work and my evening meeting cancelled through illness by the other party.

So on to the web – comedy at the Stand?

Mark Owen at the Old Fruitmarket?

Or just the pictures, as they say here in the north.

Nothing really appealed.

But then, lurking on the internet, was a listing for one Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram at the Royal Concert Hall.

Well worth a look with a handle like that I thought- and a quick search showed Mr. Ingram to be a blues guitar player from Mississippi.

This could be alright.

And the Royal Concert Hall? – just round the corner from your writer’s hotel.

A quick visit to the box office set me up for a great seat in the stall and an incentive for an early ‘tea’ in the normal northern fashion.

I’ve always thought that it’s a bit strange attending a concert on your own, and when you know nothing about the artist, it could potentially be even more disastrous.

Never mind, too late now.

I turned up just before lights down, joined the crowd – not full, but not bad either for a Tuesday evening in Glasgow, and then there’s the first of a number of pleasant surprises.

Here was a support band, of which no mention had been made beforehand.

Onto the stage came Liz Jones & Broken Windows, a trio from Edinburgh.

Liz Jones & Broken Windows, Picture by Sapphire Notion Music.

The band was made up of the eponymous Ms Jones (acoustic guitar and vocals), ‘Jiving’ John Bruce on lead and rhythm electric guitar and Suzy Cargill, completing the line up on percussion.

They were superb.

Starting any concert with a J. J. Cale number goes down very well with this music fan and for Liz and the band, it was the start of a great mix of covers and originals.

True professionals, obviously very comfortable with each other, it transpired they too had travelled south to Glasgow that day, having just performed at the Orkney Blues festival.

Ms Jones, with a voice that sounds something like Janis Joplin singing the blues, transported us right into a (suitably smoky and possibly illegal) blues dive somewhere…. somewhere well away from Glasgow on a weekday autumn night.

If this was the opening act, what would the main event be like?

Before we heard from ‘Kingfish’ himself, it was time for a break which allowed pretty much all of the Glaswegian audience to head straight for the bar.

Meanwhile, Liz Jones herself was in the foyer chatting to fans, so time for a quick yap.

They’ve been together as a band for about seven years, had a five star review at this year’s Edinburgh Festival and are struggling to tour for want of a new van.

All I’d say is that if you see these guys on the bill anywhere, please stop by and listen.

If you can help with the van, you’ll be doing the UK blues scene a real favour.

Back in the auditorium, the suitably lubricated crowd was gathering in anticipation.

It seems like I was in a very definite minority of one having 1) never seen Mr Ingram or 2) even really knowing anything about his music (other than an obligatory 30 minute run through online before the concert).

Then the lights dim, the three piece backing band come onstage and with a blues riff building, there’s the definite sound of a blues guitar in the background.

So on comes the main man.

Wireless electric guitar seemingly glued to him, ‘Kingfish’, as his baseball cap states for all to see, is a big man.

Big in stature, a huge presence on stage and with a big voice to match, this Mississippi fella owns the place from the first note.

And he’s only 23.

And that was it – the best blues guitar player I’ve ever seen, with a singing voice to match, Kingfish must have been born with that guitar in his hands.

The band were no slouches either – true pros with the bass player and drummer hailing from Mississippi too and the ‘man on the keys back there’ (with both organ and piano) apparently coming from ‘the mothership’ wherever that might be.

These were the perfectly experienced backup supporting the young genius up front.

Throughout the evening, Kingfish manages to blend the delta blues with a bit of rock’n’roll, some funk, a hint of disco and jazz and even a little of what sounded like reggae to boot.

Playing mainly originals, some very political as would be expected, he showed us his entire repertoire while clearly really enjoying himself too.

Boy, could this man play.

He also managed the right level of audience interaction throughout – something that went down just fine with the Glasgow punters.

This even involved him stopping in the middle of a solo acoustic set to explain to those watching that while their enthusiasm was appreciated, their clapping wasn’t in time – so could they please just leave it to him.

The reply?

A solitary ‘Gaunyersel Big Man’ from the back of the stalls and all was fine.

It’s difficult to describe quite how accomplished this young man is.

Those who know your correspondent will also be aware that I’m not shy of criticising bad musicianship, or even some poor soul who’s nearly there but just not quite, if you know what I mean.

But this show, from Liz Jones, via both bands, and then the Kingfish himself, was impossible to criticise.

If Liz is a latter day Janis, then as a singer I’d say Kingfish is the 21st Century Robert Cray.

Only he’s way, way better.

And as a blues guitar player?

He’s unsurpassed.

Then came the first of two real highlights.

Kingfish joins the audience.

Yes, out he came, guitar in hand, still playing along with the band.

Traversing the gap between the front row of the stalls and the stage, the house lights come up as he wanders up the aisle on one side and then came along the back of the stalls to near where the mixing desk is.

Still playing, he then sat down on some free seats and, eyes closed, rocked us all the way to paradise with the most exquisite of blues guitar solos.

I was privileged to be sitting three rows in front with no-one between us.

Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram could have been playing in my living room.

After a few minutes, up he got and wandered his way down the other aisle and back onto the performing platform, never missing a note or beat.

And neither did his band, marooned on stage throughout, but making sure they did all that was necessary for their young boy to make it back intact.

After an hour and a half of sensational music, and a standing ovation, it was time for an encore.

‘Hey Joe’ (online he says Hendrix was an influence) but it was ‘Hey Joe’ like you’ve never heard before.

With his own unique voice, guitar playing that’s better than Jimi himself could ever have managed, this was a fitting end to a phenomenal evening.

And then he did what 23 year olds across the globe do every day – took his phone out and filmed what was going on around him, including the all-standing audience.

Aah, the man is human after all.

Then he said he’d be out front afterwards to meet and greet until the last fan was happy – what a gent.

I left the Royal Concert Hall on a real high and as I passed through to the exits, saw the queue building to have a chance to meet Kingfish himself.

Having seen this fella up close, I suspect that in the decades to come, Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram will not only continue to live the blues but will also still delight in having some time at the end of each performance to spend with those who’ve realised just exactly what they’ve witnessed, even if he doesn’t realise himself.

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