blues guitar

For Marcus King, sharing about his music comes with a powerful openness about his mental health struggles and substance abuse.

Photo by Simon Reed

On his latest full-length, Mood Swings, the young guitarist recorded under the sage guidance of studio veteran Rick Rubin. Here, he reflects on his life’s tribulations, and displays a rare fluency and comfort in sharing about his mental health.

The guitarist, singer, and songwriter Marcus King began drinking heavily around age 15, in part because the sorts of venues he was playing in the Southeast considered Pabst Blue Ribbon to be fair pay. “I was like an alley cat,” he recalls via Zoom, describing how these clubs would leave a case of cheap lager out back for their precocious guitar slinger. “Other stuff,” King says, “got introduced a little later.”

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With his idiosyncratic style and spare Tele-driven setup, the inventive guitarist twists roots music on his new groove-centric album, Get It!

Rick Holmstrom says he spends “a lot of time not listening to guitar. I like trying to imagine the guitar taking the place of saxophone, Ahmad Jamal’s piano, or Mose Allison’s piano. Like Billie Holiday, who does those weird little micro bends that the great singers do—how can you get a feeling like that on the guitar?”

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Laur Joamets on Led Zeppelin's "Travelling Riverside Blues" | Hooked

The slick, 6-string gunslinger reveals that Robert Johnson's slide-guitar classic unlocked open tunings and an electric cover introduced him to Jimmy Page's "haunting, psychedelic sound."

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