By Dave Resto
Southern rock and soul artists, the Marcus King Band have once again captured the music world’s ear with their sensational new album, Carolina Confessions. Produced by multiple Grammy award-winner, Dave Cobb and released via Fantasy Records, it arrived on October 5th.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist Marcus King is a fourth-generation musician from Greenville, South Carolina. On Carolina Confessions, he and his band – keyboardist Deshawn Alexander, bassist Stephen Campbell, drummer Jack Ryan, saxophonist Dean Mitchell and trumpeter/trombonist, Justin Johnson – create an arresting Southern Gothic mosaic of songs.
The intro to “Confessions” features some beautifully spacious piano and organ playing by Alexander. He is soon joined by the rest of the band and together, they build to a dramatic crescendo before dropping off to establish the song’s unhurried, affecting groove. King’s vocals are raw and emotive as he pleads, “I ain’t worth a damn anyway/But I want you to stay.”
King sings of pursuing his dreams and the resulting separation from loved ones on “Where I’m Headed.” The track opens with his lush acoustic rhythm guitar strumming. The signature line played by the horn section is the backbone of the piece. The song goes out with some exemplary slide guitar work that is both melodic and chaotic. The time King spent playing under the guidance of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks is clearly evident.
Other tracks where King relies predominantly on acoustic rhythm guitar are the haunting “Remember” and the modern Americana “Autumn Rains.”
“Homesick” is another Southern-fried, blue-eyed soul gem. The horns breathe naturally over the gently pulsating bass and drums, while guitar and keyboards tastefully fill in at just the right spots. The tone that King puts out from his grandfather’s ’62 Gibson 345 delivers just the right bite, while retaining a measure of warmth. The chorus, “You’re the only one who makes me homesick/You’re the only one who keeps me honest” tugs at your heart.
“How Long” was co-written with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and songwriter Pat McLaughlin. It has a great bounce that captures elements of The Band (during the horn-soaked choruses) and Ben Harper (during the percussive breakdown).
In “Welcome Round Here” King responds to the politically divisive atmosphere in America. It’s an explosive, psychedelic southern-rocker about intolerance verses acceptance.
MKB empty their pockets and leave everything on the table on the final track, “Goodbye Carolina.” As King finger-picks his acoustic, he plaintively sings that, “Life has a way of writing your story for you and the hero doesn’t always get his girl.” As the band comes in, driven by bass and drums, he fires up his slide guitar. The middle section shifts to gears to feature a mellow, articulate southern-rock guitar solo. The outro is marked by light jazzy piano chords and cymbal accents before the drums become more hectic and aggressive. The horn section repeats a phrase which fades the track, creating a visual in our mind’s eye of King riding away from his home toward uncertainty.
The Marcus King Band reliably fires on all cylinders throughout Carolina Confessions. King is incredibly gifted as a singer, songwriter and musician, while his bandmates work together to deliver the highest caliber of ensemble playing. Together, they’ve woven a seamless tapestry of songs which tell a story of love for the Old South and the sadness of feeling forced to leave it behind. At the age of 22, Marcus King – and the MKB – have written a modern classic.
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