It’s cold, wet, and shitty outside. If I was still training, I would have sucked it up and headed out for my normal Tuesday afternoon fartlek but – I’m not. So, instead, I’m applying for my visa to “Screwthatistan” and staying indoors with some records and enjoying a bonus day off from running/cycling. I will likely go to the gym later on and reattempt this fartlek on, say, Thursday instead but, right now, I’m keeping warm and dry. Fuck it. In lieu of this decision, my first listening pleasure is the eponymous Kingfish album.
‘Kingfish’ is the self-titled first album by the rock band Kingfish recorded and released in 1976. It is not to be confused with the band’s 4th album, which is also called ‘Kingfish’ released 9 years later in 1985. Just sayin’. While Deadheads will likely know this already, the band lineup happened to included Grateful Dead rhythm guitarist Bob Weir who was active as a member from 1974 to 1976, and left the group shortly after this album’s release (other members Matthew Kelly on guitar and harmonica, Dave Torbert on bass, Robbie Hoddinott on guitar, and Chris Herold on drums). This album features the two tunes ‘Lazy Lightnin’‘ and ‘Supplication‘, a jazzy song combination that quickly found its way into the Grateful Dead live repertoire.
Essentially, Kingfish (the band) embodied the very essence of a successful and popular bar band. Something I’m sure Weir enjoyed as a welcome change from the hassles of regular touring nationwide in front of thousands of avid fans each and every night. In fact, this album was written and recorded at a time of introspective change and a pause in the Dead’s demanding touring schedule and further partner’s Weir’s talent with songwriter John Barlow to make sure “the music never stops”.
There’s a very strong song selection beyond the popular aforementioned Dead tunes, like ‘Jump for Joy‘, ‘Wild Northland‘, the smugglers send-up ‘Goodby Yer Honor‘, and ‘Asia Minor‘ which definitely has tones that would go to be fully realized on the future Dead album ‘Blues for Allah‘. ‘Big Iron‘ is the quintessential gunslinger song originally written by Marty Robbins (who also, as it happened, penned the other Dead classic ‘El Paso‘) and Weir Weir pulls it off with the same tongue in cheek, no holds barred, two-fisted bravada, as ‘Me and My Uncle‘. Epic. ‘Hypnotize‘ might have well been right out of the Dead’s playbook leaving one to wonder why it never actually made any of their live set lists through the years.
It’s a brilliant studio album, and if you have an above average stereo to play it on (which I do) you can hear all the specific nuisances associated with a great production – a little blues mixed with a twinge of psychedelia and campfire harmonica.
Definitely an ideal rainy day album.