Courtesy: Fantasy Records
Singer-songwriter Marcus is one of the next big names in the music industry. Only 23 years-old, King has done more in his life so far than most people his age. A fourth-generation musician – his grandfather was a country music guitarist and father an active musician — he started performing at the tender age of 11. He has recorded and performed with some of the biggest names in the music industry by the time he became an adult, and has released three full-length studio recordings with The Marcus King Band – Soul Insight, The Marcus King Band and Carolina Confessions. Late last month, he released his solo debut record, El Dorado. The 12-song album has been met largely with praise from audiences and critics alike, and justifiably so, too. The record boasts easily accessible lyrical content centered on the matters of life and love. The LP’s musical content offers just as much to appreciate. The combination of those elements makes for lots for listeners to like. ‘Too Much Whiskey’ is just one of the songs that serves to show how that combined content positively impacts the album. It will be discussed shortly. ‘The Well,’ the album’s lead single is another example of the power of the album’s combined musical and lyrical content. It will be discussed a little later. The same cane be said of the slow blues composition ‘Wildflowers & Wine.’ When these songs are considered along with the likes of ‘Turn It Up,’ ‘Say You Will’ and the subdued ‘Love Song,’ as well as the rest of the album’s works, the album in whole proves a positive debut for King that while maybe not solid gold is still solid in its own right.
Marcus King’s solo debut album El Dorado is a solid start for the singer-songwriter, who has accomplished so much so early in his still young life. Its combined lyrical and musical content gives audiences plenty to appreciate, despite some questionable sequencing. This is proven in part late in the album’s run in the form of ‘Too Much Whiskey.’ The song’s musical arrangement is an old school country music composition that shows clearly, the influence of King’s grandfather, who was himself a country music guitarist. The arrangement easily lends itself to comparisons to the best works of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, just to name a couple of key similarities. It boasts that infectious, old school honky tonk sounds that made country music during the 1970s and 80s. That arrangement alone was enough to make this song one of El Dorado’s best offerings, if not its best work. Of course it is just one part of what makes the song stand out. As noted already, its lyrical content adds its own share of enjoyment to the work’s whole.
King sings in his trademark gritty style in the song’s lead verse, “To much of that old whiskey river/Leaves a young man feeling old/That old love you still remember/Cuts you deep down in your soul. He continues in the song’s second verse, “Lost that girl down in New Orleans/Chasing some old voodoo dream/Levee broke on Whiskey River/Got me trying to swim upstream.” As he reaches the song’s final verse, King sings, “Shotgun Willie on the stereo/Words are speaking right to my heart/If I keep reaching for that bottle/It’s gonna tear my world apart. He adds in the song’s chorus, “Getting tired of going crazy/Headed back to Tennessee/I gotta crawl on out of this river/’Fore it drowns me in the sea.” Quite simply, this is a song about someone dealing with alcohol addiction. The thing is that it is presented lyrically in a fashion that is classic country in every way. That taken into consideration alongside the song’s musical content, which is equally infectious classic country, makes the song in whole the record’s most standout offering and just one of the clear examples of what makes El Dorado such a strong new offering from Marcus King.
It goes without saying that ‘Too Much Whiskey’ is a key addition to Marcus King’s debut album, as has been noted. It is just one of the songs featured in this recording that makes the album so appealing. ‘The Well,’ the LP’s lead single is another way in which El Dorado proves itself a musical treasure in its own right. This song’s musical arrangement is a distinct change of pace from that of ‘Too Much Whiskey.’ This arrangement boasts more of a straight forward blues-based rock sound than any country music influences. This is important to note in that it is another way in which they record’s musical diversity is displayed. There are hints here of influences from Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band just to name a few acts with similar sounds. The dual-layered guitar approach forms the arrangement’s foundation while the drums couple with the bass and King’s vocals to flesh out the arrangement even more. The end result of those lines combined, is an arrangement that is just as enjoyable in its own right as that at the center of ‘Too Much Whiskey.’
The musical arrangement at the heart of ‘The Well’ goes a long way toward making the song appealing to listeners. When it couples with the song’s lyrical content, the two together make even more appealing to said audiences. King sings in the song’s lead verse, “When I was just a youngin’/Bouncin’ on my mama’s knee/Said, “Son, there’s only one thing that sets your soul free/There wasn’t no sleep until the work was done.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Papa was a-preachin’/’Bout the fires of hell/If you want a drink of water/Got to go to the well/The Cornerstone Chuch tried to curse my soul/But the good Lord gave me that rock and roll.” He adds in the song’s third and finale verse, “Let the spirit pull me under/To the bottom of the well/You wanna live forever/But you can never tell/So, one for the money/Two, another show/Three for the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” What audiences get here is what comes across as a story about perhaps King’s upbringing and perhaps a commentary about his division from established religion. It’s a unique approach, to say the least, if in fact that is what is happening here. Keeping that in mind, when it is considered alongside a musical arrangement that is fiery (no pun intended), but not in the fashion that one might think from a song that seemingly takes on the establishment of religion, the whole of the song becomes a work that stands uniquely among others of its ilk. That whole becomes a work that shows again why this album is such an important addition to King’s catalog. It is just one more of the album’s important additions. ‘Wildflowers & Wine’ is yet another example of what makes El Dorado one of the year’s early most notable albums.
‘Wildflowers & Wine’ stands out as its musical arrangement boasts its own unique musical arrangement. This time, King and his fellow musicians opt for a distinct, direct bluesy arrangement that lends itself easily to some of the best works of Mavis Staples and BB King. The gentle, subtle keyboards couple with King’s vocal delivery and the equally subtle percussion element and bass to make the whole a work that takes listeners back to a greater era of music. The effect there is such a positive impact that if only for this element, the song becomes another favorite for listeners.
The musical arrangement at the center of ‘Wildflowers & Wine’ does more than its share to make the song a key addition to El Dorado, and is just one part of what makes the song stand out. Its lyrical content, which comes across as a love song of sorts, adds to its appeal. The song’s subject sings in the song’s lead verse, “Wildflowers and wine/An old scratchy record plays in the background of our lives/We’re still here dancing after all this time/Wildflowers and wine.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “I walk through the fields of evergreen/A golden sun like I’ve never seen/I picked them one at a time/Wildflowers and wine.” He adds in the song’s chorus, “No, I can’t help it/Feeling the way I do/I know you feel it/Feel it the same way, too/No I can’t help it/You’re all I need tonight/You know I mean it/When I look/Look in your eyes.” Again, this is a love song. Fittingly, Valentine’s Day is almost here, so this would make for a fitting mood-setter for any lovers out there as the big day nears. When these deeply emotional lyrics are set alongside the song’s gentle melody, the whole becomes a powerful work in its subtlety and simplicity. When the song in whole is considered along with the other songs discussed here, the likes of ‘Turn It Up,’ ‘Say You Will,’ the subdued ‘Love Song,’ and the rest of the album’s entries, the album in whole proves to be a strong solo debut for King.
While the musical and lyrical content that makes up the body of El Dorado does a lot to make the album a positive new offering from Marcus King, the album is not without at least one negative – its sequencing. Being that slower, more reserved songs outnumber the album’s more upbeat works, there is a lot of that music here. The problem with that is that in examining the album’s sequencing, the album spends a lot more time focused on that slower, more reserved music than its more infectious, energetic work. It would have made more sense to have spaced the album’s slower, reserved music out more than was done here instead of just sequencing those songs one after another for such a long time. Sadly though, that didn’t happen here. To that end, it is a concern that cannot and should not be ignored. Even with that in mind, it is not enough to make the album “unlistenable.” It is just something that hopefully King and those behind the boards will take into consideration when and if he releases another solo effort. Even with this in mind, El Dorado still proves in the long run to be a positive new offering from Marcus King that deserves at least one listen. It is available now.
Marcus King is in the midst of a tour in support of El Dorado. King is scheduled to perform life Feb. 6 in Sacramento, CA as part of the tour. More information on El Dorado is available online now along with all of Marcus King’s tour dates, latest news and more at:
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