By Robin Zimmerman
Photos: Michael Lepek, Roman Sobus
photo: Michael Lepek
Christone "Kingfish" Ingram w/ Maggie Rose Band at The Vic, Chicago, 3-27-2022
He performed at both the White House and Red’s famous Juke Joint while he was just a teenager and caught the eye of Buddy Guy not long after that. Now, at the ripe old age of 23, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram recently won a Grammy for the “Best Contemporary Blues” album for his 662 release and has been wowing crowds across the country and around the world as part of his 662 “Juke Joint” tour.
The CD’s title references the area code in Clarksdale, Mississippi where Ingram hails from. And he brought a big old helping of 662 blues to the 773-area code on March 27th as his tour made a stop at Chicago’s Vic Theater. Following this memorable show, Ingram gained a slew of the fans and showed the audience that the future of the blues is in very good hands.
While much has been made about how the blues skews to an older crowd, this was not the case for this show as many Gens X and Gen Z types were there and hanging on to his every note. That’s not to say that the crowd was all young as there were plenty of “typical” blues show goers in attendance as well.
The show even attracted some local blues favorites as drummer Pookie Styx was spotted in the audience. He was there with Alligator recording artist Toronzo Cannon and it was rumored that Cannon would be joining Kingish on stage sometime that night. So, there was a buzz in the old building even before the show began as fans were looking forward to seeing Kingfish, his “mystery” guest and hand-picked supporting act, Maggie Rose.
Back in January, Ingram announced that he would be adding four supporting acts to his entourage, with up-and-coming singer/songwriter Rose slated to appear at the Midwestern and Texas legs of the tour. Like Ingram, Rose is riding a wave of public and critical acclaim as Rolling Stone recently named her album, Have a Seat as one of the best releases of 2021.
Rose was also singled out by NPR’s World Café as a “multi-genre powerhouse” and a “must-see act.” She further cemented her status as one to watch with a recent appearance at “Love Rocks” in New York City where she was on the bill with musical luminaries ranging from Warren Haynes and Mavis Staples to Keith Richards, Larkin Poe, Hozier, and many others.
Maggie Rose/ photo: Michael Lepek
When she came on-stage, Rose was clicking on all cylinders and showcasing her many musical influences including country, roots, and some bluesy R & B music. This isn’t surprising since Have a Seat was recorded at FAME studio in Muscle Shoals with Ben Tanner from Alabama Shakes serving as producer. She drew heavily from Have a Seat and received a rousing response from the crowd.
Rose has also become something of a jam band darling and will be appearing at many festivals including Bonnaroo in June and the Double Decker Festival in Oxford, Mississippi in April. She is also booked at the inaugural Sacred Rose Festival here in Chicago at the end of August.
Maggie Rose Band/photo: Michael Lepek
After Rose’s triumphant performance, the crowd was revved up and ready for Ingram to come on. They soon got their wish as he ambled out clad in distressed jeans and a “Kingfish” shirt like the ones being hawked at the busy merchandise booth.
Ingram didn’t waste any time getting the crowd into the Juke Joint vibe as his first song “She Calls Me Kingfish” featured many Clarksdale references and guitar-licks that would make Muddy, Buddy, Jimi, and others proud.
photo: Roman Sobus
Often described as an “old soul,” it’s obvious that Ingram has studied the blues pioneers before him and has picked up some of their moves and mannerisms. But despite his young age, this phenom has already managed to perfect his own distinct sound and was equally adept with acoustic numbers as well as full-on blues jams.
While the show focused heavily on tunes from 662, Ingram went back to his inaugural album, Kingfish, to play “Fresh Out,” which he originally recorded with one Mr. Buddy Guy. Following this foray, the show took a serious turn as the young man from Mississippi took on social justice with “Another Life Goes By.”
Next up was “Empty Promises,” which featured some incredible riffs and showcased his old-soul vocal chops. Ingram even took a page from Guy’s playbook and brought his axe out among the audience. He eventually made it up to the upper reaches of the Vic and never missed a beat---even with so many attendees jockeying for photo ops!
photo: Michael Lepek
Following these fireworks, Ingram took it down a notch and did a mini acoustic set that included “Too Young to Remember.” As he sang about juke joints, shack parties and whiskey flowing, this young bluesman transported the crowd to the genre’s deep Delta roots.
Ingram is already a savvy bandleader and was soon rejoined with a stellar supporting cast that included Eric Robert on keys, Chris Black on drums and Shawn Allen filling in on bass for Paul Rogers who had a family emergency. The crew did a rocking rendition on “That’s What You Do” before segueing into “Something in the Dirt.” This autobiographical number vividly describes Ingram’s background and how his Clarksdale upbringing shaped his musical heritage.
Kingfish & Toronzo Cannon/ photo: Roman Sobus
Another highlight of the show was when Ingram invited Toronzo Cannon onstage for “Born Under a Bad Sign,” that featured the two Alligator artists “cutting heads” for some fantastic guitar interplay that included riffing on the strings with their teeth. Ingram was also quick to thank Cannon for supporting him throughout his career.
Ingram closed off the night in fine fashion as he did an incredible rendition of “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix that had the crowd enthralled and in awe of what they had just seen. There’s no denying that “Kingfish” Ingram is destined to fill larger halls and be an even bigger draw in the very near future. This young man who was born and bred in the birthplace of the blues has the chops and the charisma to carry the torch for many years to come.