Album Review: Marcus King – El Dorado

Marcus King - El Dorado

Over the last three years, Marcus King has risen to stardom in the jam band scene. The 23-year-old guitar prodigy has been touring relentlessly with The Marcus King Band, following in the footsteps of his mentor Warren Haynes and showcasing his chops in high-energy, blues-infused Southern rock. Now, in his first release as a solo artist, King is showing his range on El Dorado, an album that blends together a range of influences, placing an emphasis on soul and R&B. Produced and co-written by The Black KeysDan AuerbachEl Dorado allows King's vocals to shine, while showcasing beautiful arrangements of songs that subvert the expectations that listeners may bring to the album based on familiarity with his work with his touring band.

Marcus King

Opening the album with a serene acoustic guitar melody, King's vocals kick things off with the lyrics, "Left my home when I was 17." The opening track, "Young Man's Dream" reflects on the early stages of his career and the trials and tribulations of getting his start as a young artist. The track closes with the lyrics, "I'm still looking for a young man's dream it seems," a beautiful reflection on the fact that while he's achieved a certain degree of success at such a young age, he is still growing as an artist and chasing even greater aspirations.

King gets back to his roots on track two, a tune that opens with a ripping blues guitar riff and grapples with the struggles of his upbringing and finding a sense of belonging in music. "The cornerstone church tryin' to curse my soul, but the good lord gave me that rock 'n' roll," are apt lyrics, as his skill on the guitar shines on this track, but serves almost as an interlude before the tempo drops again in "Wildflowers & Wine," a gorgeous R&B tune featuring organ and horns under King's vocals.

Whereas the Marcus King Band places a premium on rock 'n' roll emphasizing guitar acrobatics, in this solo debut, King takes more of a contemplative and mellow approach, focusing the album on R&B and soul, interspersed with romantic ballads. Tunes like "One Day She's Here" provide opportunities for King's lyrics to take center stage rather than his guitar, and are complemented by beautiful instrumentation and unexpected arrangements. "One Day She's Here" features rich textures from a string section, along with percussive melodies on xylophone.

Still, there are plenty of opportunities to appreciate King's skill on the guitar, such as with the slide leads on "Sweet Mariona," a beautiful, emotive solo during "Beautiful Stranger," and the more characteristic rockers like "Say You Will."

The beauty of El Dorado comes in the diversity of its songwriting. For those with familiarity with King's previous body of work, they'll be able to latch onto some of the songs that sound like they'll immediately slot into the live repertoire of his band, and expand their horizons with a range of tunes that offer all sorts of genres, like the aforementioned soulful tracks, or the country anthem "Too Much Whiskey." El Dorado has a little something to offer to everyone who gives it a listen and shows the promise of a young, growing artist.

If Marcus King is still looking for a young man's dream, where that search leads him will undoubtedly be something special to behold.

Marcus King - El Dorado (2020)

Marcus Kind

El Dorado

Released: January 17, 2020

Track Listing:

1. Young Man's Dream

2. The Well

3. Wildfflowers & Wine

4. One Day She's Here

5. Sweet Mariona

6. Beautiful Stranger

7. Break

8. Say You WIll

9. Turn It Up

10. Too Much WHiskey

11. Love Song

12. No Pain

About the author
Seth Gordon-Lipkin

Seth Gordon-Lipkin

Seth caught the bug of live music after seeing Elton John play the MCI Center at the age of 10 and has been frequenting DC"s concert venues since moving to our nation's capital in 2006. A dedicated fan of the jam band scene, Seth has logged countless miles attending upwards of 70 Phish shows, dozens of Umphrey's McGee shows, and trips to LOCKN' and Peach festivals. Also an activist, you're likely to spot Seth registering voters with Headcount at DC's local music venues.