Thirty seconds into watching the Marcus King Band, I feel like I've stepped onto a roller coaster. King's guitar lines are blazing in all directions over the band's train-engine momentum. When they reach a dizzying speed, the tempos drop, and the textures change seamlessly. Then King opens his mouth and a soul singer who'd been contained inside bellows forth. The audience erupts. It's hard not to cheer -- this is a wickedly talented band led by a 20-year-old phenom.
Marcus King knows music instinctively because it's in his blood. Born and raised in Greensville, S.C., he's the son of bluesman Marvin King, who is the son of another regional blues legend. As a teenager, the self-described introvert spent most of his youth in his room with a guitar in hand, writing songs and woodshedding constantly. He describes himself as socially anxious and quiet, though, you would assume none of those things by seeing him onstage. King leads his group like the lion emblazoned on the band's logo.
The Marcus King Band primarily play Southern Rock, of the heavy groove variety. His style of guitar is heavily inspired by the great Southern guitarists, like Duane Allman, Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. The latter produced the band's new self-titled album. Vocally, King emulates the blues and soul singers of the mid 20th Century. If you're strictly a fan of country music, you'll hear some similarities to the style and techniques Chris Stapleton.
No matter how much talent you have, you won't get anywhere if you don't have good songs, but this group has them in spades. For his age, King shows an impressive maturity as a songwriter. With the band, each song takes on a huge sound.
"I've always loved bands with big sounds like Chicago and the Allman Brothers," says King. "The Hammond organ is a must."
The current lineup includes Jack Ryan on drums, Stephen Campbell on bass, Matt Jennings on keys and organ, Dean Mitchell on sax and Justin Johnson on trumpet.
Keep your eyes on this group. They are currently on tour, playing clubs around the country, and will likely become mainstays of the festival circuit in the coming years.
Sounds like: Tedeschi Trucks Band with gritty, soulful vocals a la Chris Stapleton
Required listening: "Ain't Nothing Wrong With That"