Reviewed by our guest reviewer, Anna McLauchlan
The Marcus King Band is not a band I was familiar with prior to being asked to review their third and latest album, Carolina Confessions. It was mixed and produced at RCA Studio A Nashville, by Grammy winning Dave Cobb who has produced some of my all-time favourite artists including Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Zac Brown Band and Brent Cobb. Expectations were set, and they were set high!
Marcus King is the songwriter, lead vocalist and guitarist for the band who are currently undertaking an impressively thorough European Tour (culminating in 3 UK dates at the end of October in London, Manchester and Glasgow). His voice definitely has soul and his five band mates, including two members on saxophone and trombone, bring literal Soul to the mix.
In my teens I watched The Commitments, and bought into the Dublin South-siders emulating the songs of Wilson Picket as much as everyone else in the early 90s but it didn’t stick. I am, after all, predominantly a Country fan. It’s not that I don’t like brass or soul, I just feel that sound is better suited to a different type of lyric and in this case the sound distracts from some really poignant messages.
The lyrics on Carolina Confessions are moving and personal, the voice is warming and has tones of southern rock that I love to hear in any genre and I absolutely adore a couple of the songs. ‘Autumn Rains’ and ‘Goodbye Carolina’ are raw, powerful and feel stripped back – the brass element certainly is – and the songs benefit from it. It is telling perhaps that on the band’s website, ‘Goodbye Carolina’ is singled out as a song where Cobb’s input made the song what it is. It is a melancholy piece, written following the suicide of a friend of Kings’ and it was Cobb and King together who found the right tone for that song as the original band piece wasn’t the right fit.
It’s these little flashes of beauty in the album that make me feel frustrated by it as a whole. As means of a comparison; I remember the first time I listened to Jekyll and Hyde by the Zac Brown Band feeling really conflicted, it is packed full of great songs but didn’t feel it was a cohesive album. I am fully aware that was the intent behind Jekyll and Hyde, but the jarring nature of jumping from one sound to another is similar to what I felt listening to Carolina Confessions; one moment I would be off in a melancholic dream world, only to be rudely awoken by a blaring trombone the next!
So Carolina Confessions isn’t for me, the Marcus King Band might still be though. I am intrigued enough by those couple of songs to look at their back catalogue and see what other gems might be waiting to be unearthed.