Young bluesman carries on his hometown’s tradition

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram brings the blues to Atlanta Symphony Hall on March 11.

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Christone “Kingfish” Ingram brings the blues to Atlanta Symphony Hall on March 11.

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is steeped in the music of Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram opened a lot of eyes with his 2019 debut album, “Kingfish.” Here was someone coming on the scene at the age of 19 who, first of all, showed surprisingly advanced skill as a guitarist, and more importantly had the solid songs to back up the playing.

Ingram’s songs also showed that he was well acquainted with the foundational artists of the blues and the sound artists like Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Buddy Guy created during the post-World War II era — a style that paved the way for the rock music of the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Allman Brothers and a host of acts that have come along since the 1960s. Where many younger blues acts seem to draw from more recent blues-based artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan or Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ingram, who actually was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, which is considered by many to be the birthplace of the blues, sounded like a genuine Delta blues artist.

The accolades for “Kingfish” came flooding in and the album earned a Grammy nomination, while many writers touted Ingram as the next big thing in blues and an artist who would be handed the torch by the likes of Guy (an early supporter of Ingram) and would carry blues forward to the next generations. Ingram seems to be taking the acclaim in stride.

“I tend to believe that my answer to that always changes whenever someone asks me that,” said Ingram, who just turned 23 in January, said in a phone interview. “Like you want to say that ‘Ah man, it doesn’t faze me. It’s not no pressure.’ But once you really think about it, I’m able to say it is pressure a little bit, but I’ve tried hard not to focus on it. You know, once you tend to get wrapped up into all of that and all the hype and everything, it tends to rattle the brain and honestly, I’ve kind of had my share of those. I tend to not think about it so much.”

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Christone "Kingfish" Ingram performs at TD Pavilion at the Mann on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

Credit: Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram performs at TD Pavilion at the Mann on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

Credit: Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP

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Christone "Kingfish" Ingram performs at TD Pavilion at the Mann on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

Credit: Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP

Credit: Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP

The initial hype that surrounded “Kingfish” will probably die down, but with his 2021 follow-up album “662,” the guitarist-singer walks all over any worries about a sophomore slump, showing considerable growth as a songwriter and vocalist, delivering an album that’s notably richer both musically and lyrically.

The career that is unfolding now for Ingram is pretty much what he wanted to pursue since he was a pre-teen kid.

“Well, it started off with my dad. I want to say my dad was the one who would buy me all of the instruments. I think he saw something (in me) early on himself, even though he’s not musically inclined, or anyone on his side of the family is,” Ingram said. “On my mom’s side of the family, that side, they were the reasons why I wanted to play because I would go to church and see them in the quartet (gospel) groups. All of my uncles on their side of the family preached, or preached and played or just sang and played. So I was around them 24-7, and my mom, she was a singer as well. So I would see her sing a lot in churches as a child. So all of that pretty much influenced me to want to become a musician and learn from my Clarksdale history and learn what the city was about.”

As a teenager, he also took classes at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, which furthered not only his playing skills on guitar, but his education into the history of blues and Clarksdale’s place in the genre. As time went on, Ingram also explored other more contemporary artists and genres, which helps explain the wider reach of the songs on “662.” The rock edge was present on “Kingfish,” but it re-emerges even more strongly on the second album, while there are also moments that touch on jazz, funk and soul. Still, his music first and foremost is blues.

As the pandemic unfolded, Ingram spent time practicing guitar and writing songs for “662,” which is named after the area code for the Clarksdale area. As with the “Kingfish” album, he hooked up with producer/songwriter Tom Hambridge, and the two held weekly songwriting sessions via Zoom from May to September before heading into the studio, where the album was pretty much completed in five days.

Ingram is back on tour, playing in a four-piece format with bass, drums and keyboards, and he plans to perform plenty of songs from his two albums.

“We’re just trying to mix in both of the albums because there are some people who still listen to the first one and they really enjoy that one,” he said. “But with this tour, I’m happy I’m at a point now where I can play a whole show and do all of my own stuff. So that’s where we’re at now, putting both records together for one set.”


CONCERT PREVIEW

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

7:30 p.m. March 11. $25-$45. Atlanta Symphony Hall, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000, aso.org.