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Chris Thomas King

Initially known for his audacious fusion of blues and hip-hop, Chris Thomas King reached a whole new audience with the Coen Brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, not only appearing on the award-winning soundtrack but playing a prominent supporting character as well. Despite the much-celebrated, down-to-earth rootsiness of O Brother's music, King had previously been a determined progressive, hoping to reinvigorate the blues as a living African American art with a more contemporary approach and adamantly refusing to treat it as a museum piece whose "authentic" forms needed careful preservation. King eventually modified that approach to a certain degree, attempting to create a more explicit link between blues tradition and the general musical present.

Chris Thomas King (born Chris Thomas on October 14, 1964, Baton Rouge, LA) is the son of respected Louisiana bluesman and club owner Tabby Thomas and thus was surrounded by music from a very young age. He began playing trumpet in sixth grade and learned guitar shortly thereafter, soaking up as much as he could by hanging out at his father's club. Even so, the young Thomas was still affected more by rock (especially Jimi Hendrix), soul, and early rap music; he didn't really settle on the blues until his late teenage years when he accompanied his father on a tour of Europe and found the audiences much larger and more enthusiastic than he'd ever experienced at home. Upon his return to the States, Thomas (as he was still known) recorded a demo tape that landed him a deal with Arhoolie Records. He played all the instruments on his debut album, The Beginning, which appeared in 1986. Thomas supported the record with tour dates in Europe and Texas, and afterwards he relocated to Austin, where he spent the next four years expanding his musical horizons and honing a more contemporary sound.

During that period, Thomas caught on with the Hightone label, for whom he debuted in 1990 with the critically acclaimed Cry of the Prophets. Afterward, Thomas proposed a follow-up project fusing blues guitar with hip-hop beats, rapped lyrics, and DJ scratching. However, parent company Warner -- which distributed Thomas through its Sire imprint -- declined to release the material, having just been burned by the controversy over Ice-T's rap-metal band Body Count. Meanwhile, Hightone wanted Thomas to continue in a more traditional vein and had him re-enter the studio to work on another record; after cutting some material, Thomas abandoned the project due to lack of interest. Over his objections, Hightone eventually released those tracks as Simple in 1993 and despite the unfinished nature of the material, Thomas again received good reviews.

Thomas took his rap-influenced material to Sony, which wasn't sure what to make of it and declined to release it. Frustrated, Thomas moved to London in hopes of finding a more receptive record company; when that didn't happen, he traveled to Copenhagen in 1991 and met a couple of Danish musicians who extensively worked on the project with him. Eventually, British producer John Porter (who worked on Buddy Guy's acclaimed comeback Damn Right, I've Got the Blues) heard the tapes and helped set up a deal with RCA/BMG subsidiary Private Music. Thomas returned to the States after a three-year absence, completing the record in Los Angeles. 21st Century Blues...From da 'Hood was finally released in early 1995 and was predictably met with considerable controversy; some reviews were highly complimentary, but many festival and club promoters refused to book Thomas at all. He did find success on the concert circuit in Europe and upon his return to the U.S., he began billing himself as Chris Thomas King.

King debuted his new moniker on a self-titled album for Scotti Brothers in 1997, delving deeply into the funky, gritty sound of Memphis soul. The follow-up, Red Mud, appeared on Black Top in 1998 and found King returning to the roots of the blues with mostly acoustic, folk-blues-flavored material. By this time, King was regularly playing around Louisiana, often backed by a bassist and DJ. This setup provided the foundation for his next record, 2000's Me, My Guitar and the Blues, which combined most of King's previous interests -- electric and acoustic blues, funky soul, New Orleans R&B, and hip-hop -- into a more integrated whole.

In late 2000 came King's breakthrough. For their Deep South retelling of Homer's Odyssey O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coen Brothers cast King in the prominent supporting role of real-life Delta bluesman Tommy Johnson, who claimed to have sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads even before a similar legend spread about Robert Johnson. King also recorded an eerie version of Skip James' "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" for the soundtrack, which became an unexpected multi-platinum sensation over the course of 2001 and won a surprise Grammy for Album of the Year. King also appeared on Down From the Mountain: O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a live album featuring many of the O Brother artists.

All the exposure helped raise King's profile considerably and although he didn't completely stick to a more traditional approach for his next project, it was clear that his recent immersion in early blues was having an impact on his music. Released in 2001, The Legend of Tommy Johnson Act I: Genesis 1900s-1990s was the beginning of a sweeping historical overview in which King hoped to cover as many different blues styles as possible for the benefit of his newfound audience. King returned to acting, portraying Lowell Fulson in the Ray Charles bio pic Ray, started his own record label, 21st Century Blues, and released the funk-laced Why My Guitar Screams & Moans album in 2004. A restructured version of 1998's Red Mud called Red Mud Sessions appeared in 2005 from 21st Century Blues, followed by Rise in 2006. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Live On Beale Street

1. Blues Stock - Introduction

2. I'll Play The Blues For You

3. Blues From Da Hood

4. My Pain, Your Pleasure

5. C'est La Vie

6. L.A. Angel

7. KKKrossroads

x

Track List: Rise

1. What Would Jesus Do?

2. Faith

3. Baptized In Dirty Water

4. Flow Mississippi Flow

5. St. James Infirmary

6. When Magnolias Bloom

7. Big Yellow Taxi

8. Like A Hurricane (Ghost Of Mary Laveau)

9. Deepest Ocean

10. 'Tis The Last Rose Of Summer

11. What A Wonderful World

x

Track List: Red Mud Sessions

1. Red Mud

2. If Itr Ain't One Thang, It's Two

3. Soon This Morning Blues

4. Come On In My Kitchen

5. I'm On Fire

6. Sinking Feeling

7. Alive

8. Dark Cloud

9. Rambling On My Mind

10. Wanna Die With A Smile On My Face

11. Death Letter Blues

12. Raining Angels

x

Track List: Why My Guitar Screams & Moans

1. Starr

3. Kiss

4. Legend

5. Song For Mama

6. King Snake

7. Juke Joint Lover

8. Louisiana Party

9. Come Home Tonight

10. Down

11. Wicked

12. Scream

13. Cracked

x

Track List: The Roots

1. Hard Time Killing Floor

2. Cypress Grove

3. John Law Burned Down The Liquor Sto'

4. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

5. Come On In My Kitchen

6. Watermelon Man

7. Trouble Soon Will Be Over

8. Dark Clouds

9. If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day

10. Death Letter Blues

11. Sinking Feelin'

12. Canned Heat Blues

13. Southern Chicks Blues

14. Rock Island Line

15. Midnight Special

16. Martha*S Blues

17. Cotton Fields

18. CC Rider

19. Raining Angels

x

Track List: Dirty South Hip-Hop Blues (Explicit)

1. Cloning Overture

2. Welcome To Da Jungle

3. Yo Kiss

4. Ghetto Child, You're Not Alone

5. Feel Me

6. Da Thrill Is Gone From Here

7. Tha Real

8. Fruit

9. Mississippi Kkkrosroads

10. Revelations

11. Ghetto Life

12. Hard Time Killing Floor Blues

13. Poetry Of Young Bill

14. 911 Interlude

15. Gonna Take A Miracle

16. Give Me A Chance

17. Dirty South Chicken Heads

18. Southern Chicks Blues

19. Southern Chicks

20. N Word Rap

21. Blank Track

22. Blank Track

x

Track List: Dirty South Hip Hop Blues

1. Cloning Overture

2. Welcom To Da Jungle

3. Yo Kiss

4. Ghetto Child, You're Not Alone

5. Feel Me

6. Da Thrill Is Gone From Here

7. Tha Real

8. Fruit

9. Mississippi KKKrossroads

10. Revelations

11. Ghetto Life

12. Hard Time Killing Floor Blues

13. Poetry Of Young Bill

14. 9/11 Interlude

15. Gonna Take A Miracle

16. Give Me A Chance

17. Dirty South Chicken Heads

18. Southern Chicks Blues

19. Southern Chicks

20. N Word Rap

21. 21st Century Blues (Intro)

22. 22nd Century Blues

x

Track List: Me, My Guitar And The Blues

1. Why Blues

2. Like Father, Like Son

3. Superstitious Blues

4. Cain

5. Stay Just As You Are

6. Born Under A Bad Sign

7. Gambling Woman

8. Me, My Guitar And The Blues

9. Bourbon Street Blues

10. Stones In My Passway

11. You Are My Heaven

x

Track List: It's A Cold A** World - The Beginning

1. The Blues Is Back

2. Soon This Morning

3. Cheatin' Women Blues

4. Cocaine

5. Mary Jane

6. Take Yo Time

7. Going Home To Louisiana

8. South Side Shuffle

9. You'll Be Sorry, Baby

10. Don't Work Too Hard

x

Track List: Antebellum Postcards

1. I Wanna Be Your Drug Tonight

2. Wayfaring Stranger

3. Rehab (Winehouse Blues)

4. California Letter

5. How Does It Feel

6. Sketches Of Treme

7. Caught In Between

8. I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow

9. Louis Collins

10. Michael Row The Boat Ashore

x

Track List: Bona Fide

1. You Don't Want Me Around

2. Big Rock Candy Mountain

3. These Blues Gon' Tell My Story

4. I'm Done Crying Now

5. Last Go Round

6. Stuck In Greenville

7. Mind Over Matter

8. You Got To Walk That Lonesome Valley

9. Goodbye Chicago

10. The Wind Cries Mary

x

Track List: Snug Harbor Live

1. Everyday I Have The Blues

2. St. James Infirmary

3. Faith

4. Peeping And Hiding

5. I Got A Woman

6. Caldonia

Comments

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thanx for the talent direction! Made my cloudy morning.
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This song is amazing. It is bringing tears to my eyes. TRUE BLUES
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This cat is amazing! True music for real music fans. I would love to just sit and jam with him and talk music for hours!!!
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Have mercy. This is superb!
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I'm Digging this ....oh yea
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smokin
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like it a lot !!!
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yup
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king is king
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oh yeah!!!!
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lol
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first heard of him in O Brother...
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Another "King" of the Blues!
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such a sexy song.
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shoot da bomb diggity bomb
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Sweet
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Yeah This is how it's done!
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gusty sound
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Good soul touching blues thumbs up
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This is good STUFF!!!
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Kick it, Mr. King!
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southwestsi1 0 1
I may be a cow girl, but I KNOW good blues, Chris Thomas King deserves lots of recognition! ~
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I got a funny lookin cigar and I,m drinkin Gray Goose I may be white but I knows what it is Chris thomas king is what its all about

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I'm white... but he's still my biological father.
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This guy puts on a damn good live show.
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love Chris Thomas King
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pauleverhart
AWSOME BROTHERS THIS REAL BLUES ANDEXPLICIT
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phillip.dill s
Love him on "Oh Brother Where Art Thou." I like the wide shot of the crossroads when they first pick him up.
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this is the bomb Mr. King....
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i hear prince in this song..
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Great Hot Tub chill song... With a Cocktail in one hand. A sexy Woman in the other.
Report as inappropriate
good tunes,
Report as inappropriate
barrywells0
It the best... big fan
Report as inappropriate
thevanman552
There you go, Europeans love the blues. I spent four years in Europe and agree they get it. Great stuff... fuse the old with the new, awesome
Report as inappropriate
cwest63
this guy is terrific musician. very good
Report as inappropriate
magruver
I really enjoy his music,, Great song

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