There is no doubt that Christone Kingfish Ingram has been at the forefront of his generation blues artists, a status confirmed by his brand new “Live In London” (Alligator) album, which came out, unexpectedly, in september. We had the chance to talk with the Clarskdale native about it and the good things happened since the his previous studio record, “662”, came out, a couple of years ago. “We played in Italy last year,” he says, “I remember the Rome gig, that was great, the harmonica player Sugar Blue came to sit in with us and early in day we had the chance to see some sights”.
The live records came as a surprise and it’s probably going to be another milestone in his career. “Thank you. We put a lot of hard working on it, a lot of rehearsals for different arrangements…but I’m happy it turned out this well. I kind of had the idea, because a lot of fans had been asking for a Live record for some time. So I talked it over with my manager and we thought it was good time, as we had two studio records in the can already, all we had to do was pick a show. That’s when we thought about London, it’s oversea, an historical venue in the UK… we felt it was special. We got some rehearsals together, we changed some things for the songs…We wanted it be a surprise, that’s why it was all so quick”
Did you feel any extra pressure because the gig was being recorded or you did not really think about it?
I would say half and half. Because there are a couple of songs we don’t normally do in our show, like “Rock’n’Roll” and a few others. And by this time I had kind of taken the acoustic part out of my set and we edited back in specifically for this show.
The live record has a lot of different songs, ballads, acoustic songs, blues and upbeat numbers…
Yes, we tried to cover our spaces, you can’t please everybody but it ain’t no harm in trying!
Fender also put out a Kingfish Signature Telecaster and the name of the color is Mississippi Night. You got an instrumental track on the record with that same title.
We needed a name for that slow blues and we just took it from the guitar, it’s a low down blues, just like Mississippi …As for the guitar, I think it took one year and a half to do it but it came out beautifully. I told them what I wanted and what I needed, we had a couple of sit downs meeting and the guitar sounds great. I’m a humbucker guy, I told them what I wanted the guitar to sound, I used a classic ’57 as example, because I do play in church sometime or R&B style songs, I want a guitar that screams but smooth as well.
Your last record won a Grammy, how did that make you feel?
Oh that was definitely unexpected! I did not think the album was gonna win, there were a lot of great artists in that category. But I’m really grateful, I’ve put a lot of heart and soul into it, I think the record has a bunch of different stuff, rock/blues, a little bit of R&B…but all steeped in the blues, you know.
A few people close to you have passed recently, keyboardist Marty Sammon, who was on both of your studio album and also Bill Howl’n Madd Perry, one of your mentors.
Marty was like my dad, man, like you said he played keys on my records and anytime I went on tour with Mr Buddy Guy I would definitely hang a lot with Marty and he would give me advice about life and different stuff. I really do miss him a lot, for sure. And Mr Perry was one of my mentors at the Delta Blues Museum and he gave the nickname Kingfish one night and he gave me many opportunities to get on stage, before anybody knew who I was. I’m grateful for everything he did for my career, he gave me a great start for sure. I truly miss him too. Whenever I never had the chance to speak to him recently but whenever I did see him back in Clarksdale he was all love and very appreciative.
On the Live album you do a Michael Burks song, “Empty Promises”, another departed bluesman.
Yes, Michael Burks was a big influence when I was studying different blues players, he was one of those players I would frequently watch on Youtube. We started to play some of his songs and people loved it, but I’ve never had the chance to meet him (Burks passed away in 2012 ed) I play some other of his songs like “Heartless”, “Count On You”.
This upcoming weekend you’re gonna be the Crossroads Festival in Los Angeles.
It’s really dope! It means your peers, your contemporaries see you as an equal. I’m very grateful that everybody is taking me in and they are giving me this opportunity. My big brother Eric Gales and I will be doing something with Samantha Fish and a couple of others players, it will be a great reunion of some sort.
You toured and played often with people like Buddy Guy or Bobby Rush, do you feel like a kind of passing of the torch, being from a younger generation?
Oh man, if you want to call it that, I’m cool… but these guys are not done yet, they’re still out there and kicking! I’m grateful for them taking me in like a little brother or whatever, being there for me. There’s a responsibility to carry it on, showing people that I’m part of that.
You did a remix of “Another Life Goes By” with Big K.R.I.T. a Mississippi rapper. This song shows how relevant blues can still be, telling the stories of what’s happening in the world today.
Oh most definitely. A lot of people have a simple minded vision of what the blues is, but we have to talk about that, you have to keep that aspect. It’s not just about “having a good time”, “my baby left me” or long guitar solo…it’s way more than that.
You’re already at work for a new studio album?
Definitely. Actually we have some songs in the can, songs from “662” that we didn’t release, others that I’m still working on…a bunch of things for the next studio record. We try to show the growth and the maturity, not just the guitar playing. These days I’m always busy, but it’s a good time, for sure.