Modern music fans looking for that great classic 70s rock sound need look no further than Marcus King’s new blood on Rick Rubin’s American Records for their solution. The eleven retro rocking tracks here tap into all the legends of the past while allowing the young artist to put their own spin on the formula.
Produced by Dan Auerbach and co-written with a host of writers (Desmond Child, Greg Cartwright, Angelo Petraglia), King spins his woolly, electric boogey blues shot at the big time with confidence. The distorted opener “It’s Too Late” gives space for King’s killer guitar work against a muted, blurry background. While Marcus’ guitar has earned him well-deserved praise, King’s vocals are also a major asset on the album; sound like CeeLo Green faced with soul The Allman Brothers.
This Allman influence can be felt directly on the stuttering, badass, hard rock guitar-based blues of “Good and Gone” and the easier rolling “Whisper” while a host of other influences seep into the worn pieces. The stomping “Aim High” and the excellent “Pain” both flirt with the best of early Gov’t Mule with strong vocals, high-flying guitar solos and soulful bass synchronization in the style of a power trio as King plays with Chris St. Hilaire on drums/percussion. and Nick Movshon on bass.
The bayou groove of “Blood on the Tracks” (with Auerbach on mellotron) and “Rescue Me” is reminiscent of a Splashback Clearwater Revival sound, almost copying swamp rock too much, however, both tracks avoid plagiarism via King’s haunting vocals and lyrics about repeating sins, anxiety and pain.
This personal struggle and hurt is all over the lyrics, as the young artist has certainly earned his place in the blues world. “Lie Lie Lie” and “Dark Cloud” both attempt to cover visceral heartache and depression around upbeat, hip-shaking, groovy, rock and roll beats chasing pain behind guitar solos.
King also contributed his anthem/theme song with the single “Hard Working Man” inspired by Free. It features Auerbach on guitar with the melody tailor-made for FM radio glory via its background ooh-and-aah, clean riffs, big drums and catchy chorus. While successful efforts like this will push King to a wider and wider audience, he can also connect directly intimately, open up and let the pain flow like a slide guitar on “Blues Worse Than I Ever Had” as turmoil hits home ending the album on a powerful note.
new blood does not innovate; its purpose is just the opposite. This successfully mixes Marcus King’s arena ambitions and familiar rock tropes with the gritty realism of aching pain that everyone can relate to. The full length should propel King to the desired heights as the hard-working, flamboyant lead guitarist continues.