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Marcus King - El Dorado (Album Review)

Thursday, 23 January 2020 Written by Simon Ramsay

Traversing soul, rock ‘n’ roll, blues, southern rock and country like a dozen legends rolled into one, Marcus King’s debut solo album is an unashamedly vintage slice of Americana that mesmerises courtesy of enchanting sonic beauty, radiant nostalgic warmth and timeless sentiments. That said, can someone from South Carolina please confirm he’s really 23 years old? There’s no way a youngster could produce such a classic-sounding record full of this much heart, soul and hard earned wisdom, is there?

Jesting aside, King isn’t exactly a new kid on the block. ‘El Dorado’ may be the singer, songwriter and guitarist’s first outing away from the band that shares his name, but the precocious gunslinger has actually been a professional musician since the age of 11, following in the footsteps of three generations of King men. Music runs in his blood and all that inherited and acquired knowledge and experience can be heard throughout this quietly confident artistic tour de force.

Where his six-piece group boast a big, ballsy sound, where devil-may-care eclecticism meets wild prolonged jams,  ‘El Dorado’ is predominantly a singer songwriter affair where King’s engaging voice takes centre stage.

Weathered beyond its years, his throaty rasp hits the scorched sweet spot between Rod Stewart and Ray Lamontagne, with the impeccable phrasing of many a soul great thrown in for good measure.  

Blessed with genuine conviction, his delivery allows the songs’ heart-on-sleeve lyrics and  melodies to cast the kind of charming spell that would have made the impossibly romantic Wildflowers & Wine, and equally beguiling Love Song, revered classics if released 60 years ago. Although his band’s untethered sonic journeys are a blast, ‘El Dorado’ stands as the Carolina native’s most focused and consistent offering to date. Alongside the trademark songwriting economy of Black Keys frontman, producer and co-writer Dan Auerbach, King’s aesthetic has found its discipline-instilling, retro soulmate.  

Each song is perfectly sculpted, with every note graciously enhancing the infectious earnestness that bubbles from their emotional core. Whether rainbow-painting with lap steel on country peach Sweet Mariona, dispensing the funky R&B and gospel-drenched heartache of One Day She’s Here or striking contagiously cool key changes during The Well’s scorching solo, a thudding rocker that pits ZZ Top in a high octane drag race against the Black Keys, each instrumental colour is an organic and seamless extension of Marcus’s storytelling.

Given that quality, it’s no surprise King’s collaborators are, to say the least, experienced. Both drummer Gene Chrisman and keyboard player Bobby Wood played on gems like Dusty Springfield’s Son of a Preacher Man and Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds. In conjunction with Marcus’s passion for this music, it’s little wonder Beautiful Stranger, a late night pick up song that nods to Bill Withers, the twanging Waylon Jennings stomp of Too Much Whiskey and cinematic curtain raiser Young Man’s Dream bleed authenticity.

People often scramble around to root albums like this in the here and now, dogmatically using the word ‘modern’ to justify its stylistic choices. ‘El Dorado’ owes nothing to contemporary music.  Returning to the sound of a simpler time when people stopped for longer than a nanosecond to appreciate artistic expression, its stories of hard graft, first love, heartbreak and redemption are shot through with the kind of universal experiences that, irrespective of a person’s date of birth, will always resonate above and beyond any specific era or generation.

The Marcus King Band Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri February 21 2020 - LEEDS Wardrobe
Sat February 22 2020 - GLASGOW Oran Mor
Sun February 23 2020 - DUBLIN Whelans
Tue February 25 2020 - LONDON Electric Ballroom
Wed February 26 2020 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy 3
Thu February 27 2020 - NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms
Fri February 28 2020 - BRISTOL Thekla

Click here to compare & buy The Marcus King Band Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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