“I was born at the turn of the century/Lucky to be born at all/Grew up way down in Mississippi/When I heard Robert Johnson call.”
— Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, “Before I’m Old”
There is little about Christone “Kingfish” Ingram’s music that belies his youth: He’s just 20.
A Mississippi blues phenom mentored by Buddy Guy, Ingram released his debut album in May to wide acclaim from blues fans whose genre stars tend to be octogenarians. Kingfish hit every top slot a blues album could: number-one on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums and Heatseekers charts, as well as on Roots Music Report’s Blues Album chart.
While Rolling Stone magazine called Ingram “the future of the blues,” he isn’t trying to reinvent the genre so much as carry the torch for the genre’s elders. From the first few chords on opener “Outside of This Town,” his prowess with guitar licks and blues grooves is on full display. But what’s more surprising is his voice — equal parts honey and gravel — as he narrates his songs’ stories with the authority of someone who’s been living in the Deep South for a lot longer than two decades.
On “Fresh Out,” Guy shows up to trade guitar and vocal solos with his young protégé. Keb’ Mo’ plays backing guitar on several tracks, and Billy Branch adds harmonica on “If You Love Me.”
Guitar isn’t the only instrument Kingfish has mastered: He started playing drums and bass at age 6. And while he’s known for traditional blues, his fans come from many genres. Funk icon Bootsy Collins and grunge rocker Dave Grohl have both promoted the blues singer’s YouTube videos through social media posts. Additionally, his NPR “Tiny Desk” concert with ’80s rap legend Rakim, as well as his cameo appearances on the second season of Netflix’s Luke Cage, have introduced him to a wider swath of audiences.
You can witness Ingram’s stunning skill on guitar and blues storytelling at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, at Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery (2791 Agua Fría St.). Tickets for the 21+ show are $22, $25 day of show; 505-886-1251, tumblerootbreweryanddistillery.com.