NEPA Scene Staff

Blues legend Buddy Guy plays with Kingfish at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on Aug. 19

Blues legend Buddy Guy plays with Kingfish at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on Aug. 19
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From a press release:

Grammy Award-winning blues guitar legend Buddy Guy will return to Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on Friday, Aug. 19 with special guest and fellow Grammy winner Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, a young phenom who Guy described as “the next explosion of the blues.”

Doors at Penn’s Peak (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe) open at 6 p.m., and the music starts at 8 p.m.

Tickets, which are $57 for regular reserved seating and $65 for premium reserved seating, are on sale now via, the Penn’s Peak box office, and Roadies Restaurant and Bar (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe). Box office and Roadies Restaurant ticket sales are walk-up only; no phone orders.

The title of Buddy Guy’s latest album says it all: “The Blues Is Alive and Well.” The iconic blues artist’s 18th solo LP and follow-up to 2015’s “Born to Play Guitar” showcases his raw and unadulterated sound, its 15 tracks a true pleasure for aficionados and genre newcomers alike.

“I got children and grandchildren who didn’t know who I was, but nowadays we can play outdoor concerts and see kids that are 8, 9, 12 years old coming to me and saying, ‘I didn’t know who you was, but I read what Eric Clapton said about you,'” Guy explained when discussing his mindset around the new record.

“I’m always trying to make an album that someone accidentally plays where some kid hears it, picks up a guitar, and helps keep the blues alive.”

And it only takes one listen to “The Blues Is Alive and Well” to realize that his mission has been more than accomplished here. The record arrived on the heels of a spate of high visibility for the 85-year-old performer. At the 2016 Grammys, he picked up a trophy for Best Blues Album, honoring “Born to Play Guitar,” and that same year he hit the road for a U.S. tour opening for Jeff Beck. In addition to bringing the house down for a sold-out performance commemorating the closing of New York City’s B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill, he appeared on David Letterman’s Netflix talk show “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” A truly restless and energetic performer, this album is just another triumph in an already legendary career.

“The Blues Is Alive and Well” began to come together when Tom Hambridge, frequent Guy collaborator and producer, came to the man with a collection of songs he figured would be perfect for a new full-length.

“He’s like some of the older guys I used to play with,” Guy enthused about working with Hambridge.

“When you play with a band for 10 or 12 years, they almost know what you’re gonna do. He’s the type of guy who feels what I’m gonna do. Even in my early Chess Records days, you had Willie Dixon and several other guys affiliated with those hit records, and this kid just has that feel too. He brought the songs in, and hopefully we did a good job.”

The 15 tracks feature pristine production without losing the signature lived-in grit that Guy’s been known for his entire career, from the low-slung riffage of “Bad Day” to the squealing solos of “Somebody Up There.” He sounds every bit as vital and youthful here as he did dating back to his early collaborations with the late Junior Wells, and it’s inspiring to hear a veteran artist laying down the blues with such gusto.

Among the contributors to the album is young gun James Bay, who joined him on the aching “Blue No More,” as well as Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who contributed to the stomping barroom rambler “You Did the Crime.”

“Mick made a comment to me when he heard the song: ‘Is that my voice? I didn’t know it was still that strong,'” Guy recalled.

“Before the late Junior Wells passed away, we did a whole tour with Mick. They exposed us a lot. I owe a lot of things to those guys because they put us in places that we hadn’t been, and they haven’t forgotten that. We got a relationship between us. Whenever they come to town, they stop in the loudest blues club in Chicago and call me, and I’ll go in the kitchen and fix us something. We still have a lot of fun.”

And Jagger’s not the only Rolling Stone to hop on “The Blues Is Alive and Well” – Keith Richards contributed to the warm “Cognac,” as did Jeff Beck.

“Those guys have been my friends before they got famous,” Guy reminisced while discussing rejoining with old friends.

“I went to England and those guys looked at me while I was playing a Stratocaster and said, ‘Don’t you know a Stratocaster can’t play the blues?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ It was a joke because it was a country western instrument before that – it wasn’t supposed to play the blues. We all bought Stratocasters after that.”

And even as Guy pushes forward with his astounding career, he’s careful not to forget his late contemporaries who inspired him along the way.

“I went to sleep yesterday and woke up and all the great blues players are no longer with us. Muddy, Wolf, B.B. – they’re all gone. Before they passed away, when they were in their prime, we used to have a drink and a laugh and talk about how when one of us is gone, the others have to keep it going. I’m trying to do something to keep this music that I love so well alive.”

And with this record, it’s clear that the music – and Guy himself – won’t be going away anytime soon.

Once a generation, a blues artist comes along who not only reminds mainstream audiences how deeply satisfying and emotionally moving the best blues music can be, but shakes the genre to its core. With both eyes on the future and the blues in his blood, 23-year-old guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Christone “Kingfish” Ingram took the music world by storm with the 2019 release of his debut album, “Kingfish.” Sprung from the same earth as so many of the Delta blues masters, he comes bursting out of Clarksdale, Mississippi, just 10 miles from the legendary crossroads of Highways 61 and 49. A student of the Delta’s musical history, he is acutely aware of the musicians and the music that emerged from his corner of the world.

“I do think I have an old soul, that I’ve been here before,” he said. “I’m moving forward with one foot in the past.”

“You don’t see too many kids into blues music,” the nascent star continued. “In my town, every kid wants to be a rapper – I wanted to do something no one else was doing.”

And although he grew up near the crossroads where Robert Johnson allegedly cut a deal with the devil, Kingfish insists he didn’t do any of that to make his guitar howl the blues.

“I just practice all the time,” he explained. “That’s the only deal I made, and it’s with myself.”

Recorded in Nashville and produced by two-time Grammy winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, Joe Louis Walker), “Kingfish” showcases Ingram’s blistering, raw, and inspired guitar playing, along with his soulful, deep vocals and songwriting. He tells stories with his solos, channeling the spirits of all the past masters while the music he makes is his own. He co-wrote eight of the album’s 12 tracks.

“A lot of folks know me for my covers,” he noted. “That’s why it’s important for me to release original music.”

The first radio single, “Outside of This Town,” is a fierce statement of purpose – both musically and lyrically – from this rising star. The songs range from autobiographical (“Been Here Before,” “Before I’m Old”) to humorous (“Trouble”), and from white hot (“It Ain’t Right”) to slow and searing (“Love Ain’t My Favorite Thing”). His friend and mentor, Buddy Guy, added vocals and guitar on “Fresh Out,” while another friend, Keb Mo, brought his warm, conversational voice to “Listen” and added his rhythm and resonator guitars to six tracks.

Born to a musical family near Clarksdale, Mississippi on Jan. 19, 1999, Ingram fell in love with music as a small child. There was always music playing around the house. His family sang (and continues to sing) at their family church. His mother, Princess Pride, is first cousin to country music legend Charley Pride. Ingram starting hitting drums at age 6, and at 9, he picked up the bass. Around this time, his mother enrolled him in a program at the Delta Blues Museum. At 11, he got his first guitar and quickly mastered it. The young prodigy soaked up music from Robert Johnson to Lightnin’ Hopkins, from B.B. King to Muddy Waters, from Jimi Hendrix to Prince. Before long, he could play like them all, but all the while he kept developing his own sound and style.

He first stepped on stage at the age of 11 at Clarksdale’s famous Ground Zero Club, playing behind one of his mentors, Mississippi blues icon Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry. Perry gifted the young musician with a new stage name, Kingfish. The young bluesman performed at the White House for Michelle Obama in 2014 as part of a delegation of young blues musicians from the Delta Blues Museum. By age 16, he was turning heads and winning awards, including the 2015 Rising Star Award presented by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

Funk music superstar Bootsy Collins began sharing Kingfish’s YouTube videos – some with millions of views each – online, telling his followers, “This is how a child can influence others.” Rapper The Game did the same. Ingram’s appeal beyond blues was immediate. He appeared on the “Rachael Ray Show” as well as “The Steve Harvey Show.” He was cast in Season 2 of the Marvel Netflix series “Luke Cage” after the lead producer saw one of his videos. Two of his cover songs appear on the show’s soundtrack album, which immediately introduced him to a young audience who had never heard the blues before. Through “Luke Cage,” he also performed in an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert with rap legend Rakim.

Kingfish has shared stages with Buddy Guy, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Robert Randolph, Guitar Shorty, Eric Gales, and many others. He has befriended rock stars, from Nikki Sixx to Dave Grohl. Since graduating high school, he has continued his life on the road. He has performed at festivals around the country, including stops at the Briggs Farm Blues Festival in Nescopeck, the Chicago Blues Festival, the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, the Bonita Blues Festival in Florida, the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, Austin’s Antone’s, and San Francisco’s famed Biscuits & Blues. He has performed in Europe multiple times, including appearances at the Moulin Blues Festival in the Netherlands and the Blues Heaven Festival in Denmark.

In addition to making music and touring the world, Kingfish donates his time and talent to two causes important to him. Through his work with various local Blues in the Schools programs, he visits with students around the country while he’s on tour.

“It’s important to teach kids about blues and music and give them another forum to express themselves.” He’s also an official ambassador for United by Music North America, a program helping people with developmental challenges, such as autism, to express themselves through music. “Treat everybody right and anybody can do anything,” he emphasized.

With his debut album and a major North American tour under his belt, Kingfish is ready to blaze a trail with the blues torch that’s been passed to him. He proved that with his next album, 2021’s “662,” which won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album this year. With his eye-popping guitar playing and his reach-out-and-grab-you-by-the-collar vocals, he delivers each song with unmatched passion and precision. Steeped in the rich, vivid history of the blues, he’s driven by his burning desire to create contemporary music that speaks to his generation and beyond. He is a real life 21st century bluesman who is inspired by the music of Robert Johnson, but dreams of one day collaborating with Kendrick Lamar and soul funk bassist Thundercat.

“My core is blues,” he said, “but it’s important for me to create a sound and style that is uniquely my own. I have a lot to say, so please stay tuned.”

Photo by Jason Riedmiller Photography/NEPA Scene