King Solomon Hicks
Mascot Label Group/Provogue, 2020
King Solomon Hicks make his discographic debut and publish Harlem with the most important label of mainstream blues which place beside him the producer Kirk Yano, award-winning with Public Enemy and Miles Davis: Mascot Label Group aim high for the boy and this could make us guess the potentiality of an artist who at twenty-four years old is already a guitarist and a singer to keep an eye on.
Growing up in New York, since the title we can deduce the relationship of the artist with the city and the neighborhood in which he studied: in the prestigious Harlem School of Arts inside the influential project Jazzmobile which is also a supporter. Solomon proves since this debut the strength of his musical awareness. However, he did his introduction at 13 years old on the stage of the legendary Cotton Club; maybe for this reason, Harlem is a jazzing blues album in the manner of Robert Clay, where Solomon highlight his vocal abilities and play down the use of the guitar, measuring his power through the mastery of a veteran. He doesn’t need to show off with powerful riffs or solo, because he knows that they are perfectly in his strings and he means to reserve them for the proper moment. His blues is elegant, well educated but not less incisive, he just chooses a different way to reach the heart of the listeners: “A gentleman will walk but never run”.
Sustained by a respectable ensemble, Harlem, with his eleven tracks has got a blues and jazz structure which encloses time by time R&B contaminations, soul and funk, a perfect pairing of different musical styles. The epitome of that are “Every Day I Have the Blues” of BB King revived in a version with funky veins, and the instrumental “My Love Is Alive”, that sees important wind instruments inside the song, with a rhythmic session which dictate the rhythm in a magistral way while Solomon’s guitar infiltrates in the track giving it the spark; “Have Mercy on Me” a gospel with the groove quick and penetrating almost shuffle.
Going forward we can find an interesting and particular track: “What the Devil Loves”, a blues with a drum that plays particularly gloomy (behind the leathers Roger Earl of the Foghat) while the guitar slips soft and make the counterpoint to the voice of Solomon immersing us in a smokey juke joint of the Forties; “Riverside Drive” and “421 South Main”, are two of the instrumental pieces which King Solomon shows his skill as a composer: he respects the structure of classical blues adding a masterly and massive use than the rest of the album of the guitar; he shows us what he can do.
The closure song “Help Me” is surely the best of the album; here the guitar of Solomon plays longer: the rock blues, dirty and bad, has crept in the room and tear apart the elegance breathed until now.
Harlem plays as a good debut, elegant and well managed, but it is affected by the need to not overdo, to present with calm a newcomer with pure talent. The referiment to an artist as Robert Clay, that can help to direct the public toward a certain archetype already know, is too prominent. A little bit of space has been left to the improvisation: should have been dared more. I think, in the end, that shade the tracks doesn’t help Solomon or the band to be listened: the mastery of the touch and the elegance is there and they could have been show more clearly if they manage the definite divide between a song and another.
- I’d Rather Be Blind
- Everyday I Have The Blues
- What the Devil Loves
- 421 South Main
- I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know
- Headed Back to Memphis
- Love Is Alive
- Have Mercy on Me
- Riverside Drive
- It’s Alright
- Help Me