During the tail end of last year, I wrote a bit about the rapidly rising, Greenville, SC-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, Marcus King. King is a fourth generation musician, who has followed in his family’s footsteps by becoming a musician and singer/songwriter of note itself. Playing professionally since he was 11, King was discovered after a video of him performing at Norman’s Rare Guitars went viral. Now 23, King has been performing for the past 15 years, establishing himself as a world class guitarist, vocalist and highly sought-after session player.
Since 2015, King has been relentlessly touring with his backing band The Marcus King Band — Jack Ryan (drums), Stephen Campbell (bass), Justin Johnson (trumpet, trombone) and Dean Mitchell (sax, still guitar) — playing 140 dates live shows last year alone. Adding to a breakthrough year, King and his backing band have played on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, made his debut at The Grand Ole Opry — and he opened for Chris Stapleton during his last US arena tour, playing in front of 17,000 people every night.
King’s highly-anticipated , Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut El Dorado sees its official release today through Fantasy Recordings. Now, as you may recall, King’s debut continues his successful (and ongoing) collaboration with Auberach, which began with “How Long,” with the album being co-written with the acclaimed singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer over three days at his Easy Eye Sound studio. And much like JOVM mainstay Yola, King’s album is a contemporary sonic exploration of classic rock, blues, southern R&B and country soul.
“Marcus is known by so many as a phenom guitar player, and rightfully so,” Dan Auerbach says of his time working with Marcus King. “He’s regularly the best player in the room, hands down. I was equally blown away by the way he can sing — so effortless, so soulful, straight to the heart. He’s a naturally gifted writer too, which was clear right away. Everything for him is so innate — that’s why he can always go right to the heart of a song and connect in a deeper way. He’s really one of a king and I’m proud I got to work alongside him on this record.”
Last year, I wrote about three of El Dorado’s singles: the slow-burning, one part Muscle Shoals soul, one part Southern rock, one part R&B, one part classic blues “Wildflowers and Wine,” the Slowhand-era Eric Clapton and Texas Flood-era Stevie Ray Vaughan-like “Say You Will,” and the Curtis Mayfield and 70s Motown-like “One Day She’s Here.” Building upon the growing buzz surrounding him, King recently released a gorgeous, live acoustic session of album single “Beautiful Stranger” with Dan Auerbach. The song as King says in his introduction to the song is a good drinking song and a good love song as it it tells a familiar and seemingly age-old tale: lost and lonely souls in a dimly lit bar, desperately hoping to find that beautiful stranger before last call.
The songs finds King painting what may arguably one of the most empathetic and realistic portraits of loneliness, heartache, regret and desperate, last hopes that I’ve heard in some time. as its centered around a novelistic attention to psychological and emotional detail You can practically picture the song’s narrator with beer and shot, their bourbon, their vodka and tonic lost in their thoughts and hoping for someone to talk to, so they could escape themselves for a little while.