Marcus King Gets Assist from Warren Haynes on ‘Due North’

MKB Due North EP.jpg

via Tahoe Onstage

Whew! Marcus King. The man and his band have to be heard, and seen.

King emerged suddenly out of Greenville, South Carolina, as an 18 year-old guitar wunderkind. “Soul Insight,” his debut album of guitar wizardry and awe-inspiring jam band-styled performances, spun heads. Now, just over three years later, the Marcus King Band is relentlessly building upon the kind of universal acclaim most bands never enjoy.

Warren Haynes noticed early on, and got behind them in a big way. Haynes produced last year’s wonderful “The Marcus King Band,” their major label bow featuring original, sophisticated Marcus King Bandsongs with much deeper R&B and soul insight than the debut. King refers to his band’s sound as “soul-influenced, psychedelic Southern rock.”

The first and last parts of that description bear out in the centerpiece of “Due North,” a wide-ranging appetizer of three Haynes-produced tracks left over from the 2016 sessions, capped by a live medley from last winter. By author Toy Caldwell and his Marshall Tucker Band, the Southern rock classic “This Ol’ Cowboy” was Western swing at its Southern-inflected finest. King does his hometown heroes proud, his band bopping decisively on a brass-accented, contemporary jazz version of it. King’s fluid guitar playing recalls both Caldwell and Warren Haynes in its rich tone, and the song offers bright relief following the hard funk and Hendrix-inspired barrage of the opener, “What’s Right.” There, King rightly grates not only the notes swirling out of his guitar, but his sandpapery, Jackie Wilson-soul vocal cords, as well.

“Slip Back” then eases the flow of funky soul before the rambling “Sharry Barry” closes the EP in a conflagration of band interplay. King, bassist Stephen Campbell, drummer Jack Ryan, sax man Dean Mitchell, and trumpeter Justin Johnson work through their own “Sharry Barry,” with slices of Grease Factor’s “Sliced Milk,” Chicago’s “25 Or 6 To 4,” Funkadelic’s “I’ll Stay,” and Billie Holiday’s “Gloomy Sunday” mixed in imaginatively.

It’s quite a ride, and offers an almost overwhelming taste of what’s in store at one of the band’s shows. Although King was brought up playing as a pre-teen in his dad Marvin King’s blues band, “Due North” points directly at the sky being the limit for the Marcus King Band.