Carolina Confessions The Marcus King Band
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- 1Where I'm Headed04:53
- 2Goodbye Carolina06:15
- 48 a.m.03:38
- 5How Long05:21
- 6Autumn Rains04:01
- 8Side Door04:24
- 10Welcome ’Round Here04:21
Info for Carolina Confessions
“Forgive me for I have sinned,” Marcus King implores, on the gorgeous, contemplative “Confessions,” an essential track from The Marcus King Band’s third full-length album, Carolina Confessions. “The pain that I put you through is killing me inside/Thought if I could make you leave/Then you would see/I ain’t worth a damn anyway.” This highly revealing moment from the multi-talented, confident 22-year old artist gets to the heart of the album’s fundamental themes, guilt and the quest for absolution.
Carolina Confessions is confirmation of a preternaturally mature artist coming into his own; it’s a sprawling, scintillating work that affirms King as one of today’s most engaging, singular songwriters. He may be young, but King’s eloquent songs, expressive guitar playing, and ecstatically soulful singing mark this gifted, thoughtful young prodigy as a force to be reckoned with.
King has been writing songs, performing onstage for half his lifetime and fronting his own groups for nearly a decade. Since he was a teenager, he’s been trading licks with famous fans and mentors Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks whenever their paths have crossed. Haynes was so blown away by the then-19-year-old’s artistic precocity that he signed King to his Evil Teen label, released the band’s debut album, Soul Insight, in 2015 and produced the band’s self-titled follow-up a year later.
Produced and mixed by Grammy Award-winner Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, John Prine, Jason Isbell) and recorded at Nashville’s iconic RCA Studio A, Carolina Confessions finds King and his five bandmates—drummer Jack Ryan, bass player Stephen Campbell, trumpeter/trombonist Justin Johnson, sax player Dean Mitchell and keyboard player DeShawn “D-Vibes” Alexander—taking a major leap as an expansive and dexterous musical unit.
“We immediately hit it off with Dave because of the way he works,” says King. “There’s six of us, and we have our own arbitration process; he was really understanding of the fact that this is a band. His production style is not so hands-on, and we’d all seen what a good producer does—and more importantly what he doesn’t do—from working with Warren on the last record. We went into the studio straight off the road, and I didn’t have an opportunity to even send a cellphone recording of the songs that I’d finished. So, we made it a point to start with those songs and build them from the ground up. That kept it very fresh.”
King penned all the material himself, except the swaggering “How Long,” which he co-wrote with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and veteran songsmith Pat McLaughlin. “Every tune on this record is based around a central theme, which is that none of us are blameless at the end of a relationship,” King points out. “Basically, Carolina Confessions is about me leaving my home town, explaining why I would do that, and why I felt like it was taken from me—just sharing in some of the blame of why a relationship didn’t work.”
Separation, from loved ones or one’s dreams, is another strand running throughout the new album. “Hear the sound of my highway/I get stoned as I pray/Think I’ll just fade away / who’s gonna care?”, he sings on “Where I’m Headed.” But the downcast lyric is belied by the uplift of the music, which conjures the ache of loss and the comfort of family. In the lilting “Homesick,” the song’s narrator has turned his car around and can hardly wait for his odyssey to be over: “So damn tired of this ride/Turn the headlights off let the moonlight guide/Lord it’s gonna guide me back home.”
“Welcome ’Round Here,” which opens with a mournful slide guitar before the band slams the track into overdrive, was triggered by the Trump travel ban, instituted right after the election. “It really pissed me off,” says King, “and that was the immediate inspiration. But then I started thinking about the kids who leave their homes in the South, because there’s a lot of intolerance—family members who don’t accept their own children, what they want to be in their lives and who they really are. That’s what this song is really about, so I wanted to give it the flavor of the mountains, of home.” In the lyric, an elder dismissively demands, “Let me live my life/Way that I was raised/Boy I recommend you do the same.”
Some tracks were massaged into shape through an incremental process of trial and error, including the essential album closer “Goodbye Carolina.” King recalls, “I’d written it about a really dear friend of mine who had committed suicide, so there’s a deeper meaning, and I realized the happy-sounding major key vibe of the verses weren’t working. So, the next day I explained that to Dave, and then I went back out and recut the verses myself, and we gained that melancholy vibe I was searching for.
The album’s cover image—a photograph of a ramshackle confessional, with its screen door swung open, sitting surreally amid the kudzu—is suffused with Southern Gothic mystery, straddling redemption and damnation. It’s a striking visual metaphor for the spiritual struggle so vividly portrayed in the songs of Carolina Confessions. “My mother was Catholic, and my grandmother on my mother’s side was Catholic,” says King. “I wasn’t raised Catholic, but the idea of confessing your sins was always really powerful to me.”
King is a Blue Ridge Mountain boy, born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. A fourth-generation musician, he traces his lineage back to his fiddle-playing great grandfather, while his grandfather was a fiddler and guitarist. His dad is Marvin King, is a singer/guitarist who has toured nationally since the ‘70’s with various artists as well as his own group, Marvin King and Blue Revival.
There’s a deeply felt sense of familial responsibility. “I guess to some degree it does feel like I’m carrying a torch and trying to rekindle some of that flame and that energy that my grandfather had and my father also has. My father is still my favorite guitar player and my biggest influence, but also my biggest supporter. So, more than anything, I’m trying to make him proud.” It’s fitting that his primary guitar on the album is a ’62 Gibson 345 that belonged to his granddad. “My grandfather’s light shined so bright through his eyes; he was just so happy to play,” Marcus recalls.
Marcus King doesn’t strive for authenticity, he never had to—it’s busting out of his DNA in every note he plays and every word he sings. This focused, firmly rooted artist isn’t just perpetuating the proud legacy of American rock and soul music; with the musically enthralling, deeply personal, Carolina Confessions, he and his great band are adding their own eloquent chapter to that rich narrative.
The Marcus King Band
Young songwriter Marcus King’s debut album, Soul Insight, out now via Evil Teen Records, displays his stunning command of rock, blues, psychedelia, funk, soul and improvisation — all with a distinctly Southern musical accent. It also brings the 19-year-old a step closer to his musical destiny.
“I guess I knew I was born to play guitar when I was seven,” King says. “That’s when I got my first electric guitar, and while all the other kids were outside playing, I’d be inside on that guitar. When I got in trouble in school, my daddy said I could choose between a spanking and getting my guitar taken away for a week. I took the spanking.”
Soul Insight is the explosive result of that dedication, magnified by another dozen years and more than a thousand nights playing in clubs — initially alongside his father, bluesman Marvin King — since the age of 11, just two years before Marcus formed his own group and stepped into the role of leader.
King’s talents and trajectory have already led his band across the country, and he’s opening shows for the Foo Fighters, Johnny Winter and, of course, Gov’t Mule and its leader, Warren Haynes. King emerged from his native Greenville, South Carolina, and its sister city Asheville, North Carolina, where Haynes was born. King hit Haynes’ radar thanks to the reputation the young artist has earned with his incendiary live performances. In December 2014, King and his band were invited to perform as part of Haynes’ annual Christmas Jam benefit, which occurs in Asheville’s U.S. Cellular Center Arena, the prestigious club the Orange Peel and other rooms around the musician-and-artist-heavy mountain city. A few months before that, the Marcus King Band had recorded Soul Insight at the Compound Studio, just south of Los Angeles in Signal Hill, California.
“Recording the album was a really organic experience,” says King, who also produced Soul Insight. “Whether I wrote the song or, in the case of the instrumentals, we developed them together as a band, we’d played them long enough so we were really comfortable with the material. And we lived at the studio while we were recording, so it was really laid back and comfortable. That let me relax and play my best.”
How good is King’s best? Good enough that Haynes picked up the album for his Evil Teen label and has signed on to produce its follow-up.
The proof of King’s developing virtuosity and vision is in the tracks. Soul Insight opens with “Always,” a riff-driven rocker about a spurned lover that brings King’s big burnished tone to the fore. “Boone” displays King’s acoustic side and reveals his talents as an arranger, opening with his singing slide resonator guitar and voice, and building to an explosive crescendo that echoes the influence of his own guitar heroes, including Haynes and his Allman Brothers Band foil Derek Trucks, and Jimi Hendrix. Soul Insight’s first single and album’s closing song, “I Won’t Be Here,” also echoes the Allman’s in King’s gorgeous, arcing vocal melody and the blend of King’s acoustic and electric guitars as he sings about the bittersweet experience of moving past an old romance into a new relationship.
“Warren and Derek were big influences on me,” King relates, citing the 2003 Allman Brothers’ album Hittin’ the Note and Trucks’ Grammy-winning Already Free as particularly inspiring. “That’s the level I aspire to with my own music,” King adds.
The instrumental “Fraudulent Waffle” channels those aspirations in a daring five-minute journey into the elegant, expansive jam world that was the Allmans’ forte and remains a hallmark of Gov’t Mule. King double tracks his instrument to emulate the Allmans’ signature twin guitar harmonies and then launches into a solo that embraces elements of jazz and blues before an exploratory duet with the album’s organist Alex Abercrombie.
Of course, King’s singing is every bit as potent as the sweet and surly voices of his guitars — a mix of his main Gibson SG, a Les Paul Deluxe and an ES-345 plugged into a pair of Fender Super Reverb amps run in stereo and teased by only one effect: a Tube Screamer overdrive pedal. King’s warm, soaring tenor reflects a variety of soul and blues greats he considers fuel for his songwriting and performing that includes Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Ray Lamontagne and Haynes.
But King’s first musical well was his father, a guitarist and singer whose Marvin King & the Blues Revival remains a staple of the Carolina music scene.
“My father is still my biggest musical hero,” King says. “I’d see him coming home in the early morning hours after gigs when I was a little kid, and I thought my dad had the coolest job ever. I wanted to carry on the lineage. His father played fiddle and guitar, and his grandfather played fiddle. So when he took me to play my first gigs with him when I was about 11, it already felt completely natural.”
“Natural” and “organic” are words King uses often. He puts a premium on writing songs that share his perspective on the world and in letting arrangements come to life in rehearsals and on the stage, evolving as the group plays them.
King says he’s already recorded more than two-dozen varied demos for Soul Insight’s follow-up. “The band’s current line-up is really perfect for me,” King explains. “With a trumpet and trombone we can have a really interesting instrumental color along with the guitar. Having an organ lets me get into the zone of classic jazz and blues. And with a percussionist and a drummer, we can do more elaborate rhythms and explore Latin music. So I have all I need to really take the music anywhere.
“Off stage, I’m a very introverted person,” he continues. “Making music is how I speak my mind and let people see the way I view the world — as a big, rich and colorful place with so much in it and so much to offer. And with Soul Insight, I think me and my band have come out kickin’, showing everybody who wants to listen what I’m all about.”
This album contains no booklet.