King King, like some of history’s greatest bands, produced some excellent work before people sat up and took notice of them. Reaching For the Light put them on the map a couple of years ago but go back and listen to the two preceding records and there’s an excellent lineage leading up to it.
Whilst Exile & Grace cannot, and should not, be considered a departure, it’s certainly different while still sounding very much like King King. Having previewed lead single and album opener on their recent tour, “She Don’t Gimme No Lovin’” encapsulates everything about the album and indeed, King King, in a four minute escapade. Following on from that is “Heed the Warning” and if the previous song didn’t prove the afore-mentioned point, this will. With all the swagger of Bad Company and early Whitesnake and the confidence of previous touring partners Thunder, King King show they’re not to be pigeon-holed as a blues band.
Without getting political Alan Nimmo has managed to convey his worries on humanity’s future. Alongside that, he’s managed to tell a couple of relatable stories which is what the blues should be about. Constantly wearing his influences on his sleeve when it comes to his guitar playing, there’s a Rolling Stones vibe (ironically Exile on Main St era) to “Long Time Running” if it featured a Hammond organ. Elsewhere there’s a trippy Free sound to “Nobody Knows Your Name” and you could swear blind Nimmo is channelling the ghost of Paul Kossoff. Meanwhile “Tear it All Up” could have come from one of Thunder’s renaissance albums, unsurprising since it was inspired by opening for them at Wembley. Hell, close your eyes and you can picture Danny Bowes throw himself across the stage in his inimitable dad-dancing style.
It’s not all upbeat with “Find Your Way Home” containing some of the most touching lyrics Nimmo has penned to date. And while Nimmo works on guitar, vocals and lyrics, this album proves he’s not the only accomplished musician in the band. Hammond and keyboards provided by Bob Fridzema sit front and centre, at times more pronounced than guitar and provides some excellent melodies for Nimmo to spar with. However, it’s the marching beat from bassist Lindsay Coulson and Wayne Proctor on “Heed the Warning” and the aforementioned “Long Time Running” where they shine best. In no time, you’ll find your foot tapping along with the songs and it shows the entire band at their best.
By the time closing song “I Don’t Wanna Lie” hits, it’s obvious King King have given as much love and attention to this album as previous ones despite their hectic schedule of the last couple of years. As a unit and as individuals, somehow, they’ve managed to up their flawless game. Subsequently, another thought hits, almost in tandem with that one. Either consciously or unconsciously, they’ve created an album where every song can be played live. If this album finds as much favour with fans as it has already with its reviews, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got an “Exile & Grace in full” tour after the initial promotional tours.
King King have capitalised on their recent surge in popularity to create something different for them. By no means have they abandoned the blues but they have gone in a different direction whilst staying true to the core King King sound. With a slightly heavier sound and with blues still very much the priority, they should pick up a wealth of new fans wanting to hear something more retro for a modern ear.
Whilst creating a band on the basis of “build it and they will come”, subtly, they’ve manoeuvred themselves into becoming one of the best blues bands you’ll see. Alongside that, Nimmo has retained his title of being one of the best blues guitarists you’ll see today. Moreover, where Reaching For the Light made people notice King King, Exile & Grace cements their reputation.