Marcus King stirs soul, rock, country on ‘El Dorado’

Pablo Gorondi

AP – Marcus King’s solo debut is an enticing mix of deep soul, rock and country in the best Southern traditions. King, though just 23 years old, has been a professional musician for over a decade and already has three albums with the Marcus King Band.

Produced and co-written by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, El Dorado is a smoothly-paced release, with acoustic-based and mid-tempo soul tunes amid a few fuzzy rockers with cutting guitars and rumbling bass.

King is known for his volcanic vocals and his amazing six-string dexterity. But El Dorado finds King, a South Carolina native now based in Nashville, mostly dialing down the overall volume without sacrificing intensity or feeling.

By putting his songwriting and more nuanced singing at the fore, King expands his guitar hero profile with excellent results.

King’s instrumental prowess is present, but the 12 songs usually have at least two or three other guitarists on hand, including Auerbach himself, steel guitarist Paul Franklin, Nashville stalwart Billy Sandford and Russ Pahl. Songs range from the countryish Young Man’s Dream to the thumping The Well and the tortured soul of One Day She’s Here.

The slight but enjoyable Sweet Mariona precedes the mysterious and yearning Beautiful Stranger, which has an air of Aretha Franklin’s Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.

The faster tracks on the second half are highlighted by more of that swampy fuzz (Say You Will) and a clavinet played by Mike Rojas that lives up to its funky reputation on Say You Will.

Despite this solo venture, King is in the midst of an extended tour with his namesake band. Even this early in the year, El Dorado already stands out as a definite high point of 2020.

‘El Dorado’ by Marcus King. PHOTO: AP