King Solomon Hicks - Biography
King Solomon Hicks grew up in Harlem "around a lot of great musicians." That certainly shows on HARLEM, an 11-song salute to those roots -- and how the 24-year-old guitarist and singer has turned them into his own fierce and distinctive style over the years.
The set, produced by multiple Grammy Award winner Kirk Yano (Miles Davis, Public Enemy, Mariah Carey), showcases Hicks as a writer, player and interpreter. Originals such as the roadhouse ready "421 South Main," the gospel shuffle of "Have Mercy on Me" and the aching instrumental "Riverside Drive" rub musical elbows with staples such as "Every Day I Have the Blues" and "It's Alright," a Latin-tinged take on Blood, Sweat & Tears' "I Love You More Than You Will Ever Know," a funked-up romp through Gary Wright's "Love is Alive" and a searing rendition of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Help me" that closes the album.
Hicks' playing and singing shine throughout HARLEM, blending reverent familiar with vigorous fresh, the work of an artist deeply rooted in blues birthed decades before him but equally invested in finding his own way of playing it. Yes, every day he sings the blues, but in a manner only Hicks himself can.
"This has been a long time coming," Hicks says of his first major recording, "but I'm really happy with the sound and the way everybody played. This music is where I come from. It's really special to be able to record these songs -- and really important to get 'em right."
Hicks has been steeped in music for as long as he can remember. Harlem, he says, "is not like New Orleans, where music is 24 hours a day -- but it's close." His father and mother played music at home constantly. His mother also took him, as a youth, to local nightspots such as the Lennox Lounge, Saint Nick's and the Cotton Club, where Hicks witnessed performances that made a significant impact on his outlet and ambitions. "When you're around good musicians, it gives you that spark -- 'I want to do what you do. I want to hold my own,'" says Hicks, who started playing guitar when he was six years old. "But being around those types of musicians also taught me to NOT be the fastest guitar player. I wanted to be the one who knew the most riffs and drew on a lot of knowledge so I could play anything, and with anyone."
Hicks and Yano started working on HARLEM two years ago, finishing up during late 2019. "It was just about getting my own sound together," explains Hicks, who was aided by a corps of players that includes members of Soulive, Lettuce, Jack White and Hank William Jr.'s band and others -- including Foghat/Savoy Brown veteran Roger Earl, who plays drums on the smooth, R&B flavored take on Fred Koller's "What the Devil Loves." "I wanted to have a foot in the blues, like coming back home to mama," Hicks says. "But I didn't want it to be traditional. I wanted people to feel like they're in a juke joint, listening to what the blues sounds like in 2019, my own spin on it."
Hicks certainly achieves that on HARLEM, and he's planning on more for the future. As well-traveled as he is Hicks has a long list of places he hasn't played yet that he intends to add to his itinerary. There are also more original songs he plans to release after future forays into the recording studio.
"This is like a first impression," he says of HARLEM. "I want people to know me as a musician first. I'm trying to get my roots planted with the blues fans, and later I'll cross over into some different worlds. There's a lot I want to do -- I'm patient, but at the same time I'm really ready for people to hear my music. Can't wait, actually..."