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Today is December 3, 2021

Getting his mojo working

Christone Kingfish Ingram

By Steven Ward

Getting his mojo working

Photo by Laura Carbone

The history of the blues is embedded deep in Mississippi’s past.

So, it’s no wonder that the future of the blues has blossomed from the same legendary locale.

According to one legendary account, Mississippi blues icon Robert Johnson went to “The Crossroads” in Clarksdale to make a deal with the devil to sell his soul in exchange for the ability to play his guitar and become the greatest musician in history.

Clarksdale is also the birthplace and home of 22-year-old blues guitarist and singer Christone “Kingfish” Ingram.

A child prodigy who picked up the guitar at 11 after playing bass and drums, Ingram has taken on the role of blues savior. His record company wrote in publicity material that Ingram “has quickly become the defining blues voice of his generation.”

Ask anyone who has witnessed one of Ingram’s live performances, and they will describe the moment when their jaw dropped in awe.

Ingram has recently released his second album, “662” named for the area code of his beloved north Mississippi home.

His debut CD, “Kingfish,” was nominated for a Grammy in 2019.

Ingram has performed with living blues legend Buddy Guy, recorded with funk icon Bootsy Collins and has been interviewed by Sir Elton John on his Apple podcast.

He’s been on the cover of Guitar World and DownBeat magazines and Rolling Stone wrote that “Kingfish is one of the most exciting young guitarists in years, with a sound that encompasses B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and Prince.”

Not bad for a kid who was taught to play guitar at an arts education program at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale.

 

During a break from his current tour, Today in Mississippi had a chance to ask Ingram a few questions.

 

Today in Mississippi: Do you feel like your songwriting has matured or gotten better on the new album?

Kingfish: Yeah. The songs on “662” are more personal, and there’s been some growth — musically, vocally, and with the songwriting. Songwriting is not easy. You want to be original, but sometimes I overthink it.

TIM: You have a song on the new album called, “Another Life Goes By.” Why did you feel like it was important to write that song right now?

K: Actually, the song was written before what happened to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. I wrote the song because blues has always been protest music. It’s our blues of today, and I think it’s mandatory that we talk about it.

TIM: Do Clarksdale and Mississippi play a part in the man you’ve become?

K: Absolutely, Clarksdale is a big factor in who I am. Because of all the people here in the city. The blues. The music. The culture. Everything I’ve been through here.

TIM: Tell me about your favorite blues guitar players and influences.

K: I mean I listen to and love Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Son House, Lighting Hopkins, Freddie King, and Otis Rush. All those guys are influences. I think the best player I ever saw live was a guy called T Model Ford. He was so authentic. There was something about his style. He could be out of tune, but the way he played really touched me.

TIM: You have played all over the world. I’m sure you have had great experiences. But what do you miss about Mississippi when you are on the road in exotic places?

K: The cooking for sure. Food from home. But also, southern hospitality. I miss the people.

TIM: If you were born and raised in, say, Iowa or California, do you think you would be a blues guitar player today?

K: Oh no. No. No disrespect to Iowa or California. But kids wind up doing what they see. It’s about what they are around. And being in Clarksdale, I’ve been around blues music my entire life.

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