Born in 1962, guitarist Chris Thomas King became the last major folk blues discovery of the 20th century when he was discovered in Louisiana in 1979 by a folklorist from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D. C. He was introduced to the world the following year by venerable folk label Arhoolie Records as an authentic folk blues successor to Huddie Ledbetter, Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt and Manse Lipscomb. On Saturday, Aug. 24, blues master Chris Thomas King comes to Maine to perform at the historic Opera House in Boothbay Harbor.
As the darling of blues purists and aficionados, and the last great hope of the waning folk blues revival, which began during the 1960s folk movement, Chris Thomas King shocked the music world in the early 90s when he abandoned all pretenses of primitivism and embraced hip hop modernity and digital aesthetics, turning the blues world upside down.
King moved to Europe in 1993 and went on to write and produced a series of ground breaking recordings including “21st Century Blues” and “My Pain Your Pleasure.” The French, having a penchant for recognizing gifted unsung black American artists, were enthralled by King’s subversive bohemian stance. He was lauded a genius for his transcendent folk art, which he coined twenty-first-century blues.
King returned to the U.S. in 1996 and as fate would have it, King was chosen by the Coen brothers to play the role of itinerant bluesman Tommy Johnson along side George Clooney in the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” in 2000. Larger than life on the silver screen, Chris Thomas King, acoustic guitar in hand, captivated audiences the world over, silencing his critics. His authenticity as a folk blues artist, by any measure, proved to be undeniable. A star of stage and screen was born. King has since sold millions of records and won numerous awards, superseding the success of his folk blues predecessors.
King’s major contributions to the “O Brother, Where Art Thou” phenomenon, along with its follow up album and tour, “Down From The Mountain,” inspired a new generation of musicians including Hozier, Mumford & Sons, and the Lumineers. His songs “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” and “John Law Burned Down the Liquor Sto,’” to name a few, have been covered by numerous artists including legend Buddy Guy.
Thirty years after becoming the last major folk blues discovery of the 20th century, Chris Thomas King, whose career is a coda for the folk blues revival of the 60s, is today, one of the most important artists in the world for having changed the way we think of blues.
Tickets are on sale through the Opera House box office at 86 Townsend Ave., or by calling 633-5159. The box office is open Tuesday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Advance discounted tickets, $20, available only at the box office. Regular tickets are $25 and available online at boothbayoperahouse.com and at the door on the day of the performance. Doors for seating open at 7 p.m., concert at 7:30.