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 Sing 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 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.”