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Photo by Emily Butler.

From all of us at Orange Amplification, we would like to wish all our Grammy nominated Ambassadors good luck for the up and coming awards in January 2021.

Guitar phenom, Marcus King, has been nominated in the Best Americana Album category. The critically acclaimed ‘El Dorado’ establishes King as an innovative songwriter with a soulful voice and blistering solos. Fellow blues innovator, Fantastic Negrito, has been nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album. His timely fourth album, ‘Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?’ is far reaching with hints of many musical genres and plenty of sonic colour. Plus, one of the fastest rising guitar pickers, Billy Strings has been nominated for Best Bluegrass Album with ‘Home’, a fresh exploration of this traditional music genre.

Other Orange Ambassador nominations include producer and guitarist Andrew Watt in the Producer of the Year (Non Classical), Album of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Album categories. He produced, played guitar on and helped write Ozzy Osbourne’s album, ‘Ordinary Man’. Last, but not least, Code Orange, known for their exhilarating, unpredictable live shows have been nominated for Best Metal Performance.

Photo by Donna Winchester

If you were lucky enough to see any or all of the Marcus King “Four of A Kind” live stream shows that ran every Monday from July 13 through August 3 – congratulations, I know you saw some fine music and exceptional guitar playing from one of the most talented young guitar slingers around and a full host of special guests. Due to the Corona virus and the resulting global fallout, we have been starved for live entertainment and our musicians have struggled to find ways to share their passion and creations with fans in a meaningful way. When Marcus and his management approached us here at Orange Amplification with the idea of creating live streaming from a fully equipped soundstage directly to music lovers around the world, we jumped in. These were full production shows with everything except the cheering audience on site. Of course, there were a few of us lucky loiterers, special guests and crew in attendance (and in masks) to witness the exceptional entertainment taking
place before us. I’m pleased and proud to say that Orange took the lead as “presenting sponsor” to help underwrite the events which had the added benefit of raising money for “MusiCares” the charity established in 1989 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to support musicians with health care and currently to directly support their COVID Relief Fund. The shows were broken down as:

Night 1, Monday July 13

Photo by Michael Weintrob

The full presentation of The Marcus King’s recent solo album, the Dan Auerbach produced “El Dorado” along with highlights from 2018’s “Carolina Confessions” album and others including Marcus’ trademark cover of BB King’s classic “Sweet Little Angel”.

Night 2, Monday July 20
“Marcus King and Friends”

Billy Strings
Marcus King Band Bassist Stephen Campbell, by Donna Winchester

A partly acoustic performance with special guests Billy Strings and Maggie Rose. The set started with 3 songs performed by Marcus by himself from “Carolina Confessions” and 2016’s Marcus King Band LP. The second half of the show belonged to Marcus and fellow Nashville guitarist Billy Strings performing thrilling covers of classics including Jimi Hendrix “Highway Child” and a glorious version of the Allman Brothers’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”. This show laid down the marker for what was to come

Night 3, Monday July 27

Brent Hinds by Donna Winchester

“The Marcus King Trio w/ special guest (and fellow Orange Ambassador) Brent Hinds of Mastodon” This was the show I had been waiting to see. Anyone who has witnessed Marcus King live knows he has an incredibly wide-ranging talent in his singing, guitar playing and writing. His shows are usually somewhat restrained affairs as far as really tearing it up on guitar, but we have always known that he can cut loose and play blues, soul, jazz and shred with the best of them. On this night he unleashed a ferocity rarely seen from this extremely tasteful interpreter of song. I was not disappointed. This show was an hour and forty minutes of unrestrained top level guitar power. Marcus seemed possessed by the spirit of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Terry Kath and all the guitar heroes of a childhood spent listening to his father play covers of the 60’s and 70’s rock guitar greats. To close out night 3 Marcus called to the stage his “new friend” Brent Hinds to play 2 songs finishing with a face melting version of Black Sabbaths “Electric Funeral”.

Night 4, Monday, August 3

Photo by Michael Weintrob

The grand finale was an incredible night of music with numerous talented guest artists performing with the band. As Rolling Stone online did a much better review than I could ever hope to put together I’ll let then take it from here….

Marcus King and Friends Give ‘The Last Waltz’ a Timely Update
With a cast of Nashville musicians like Devon Gilfillian and Early James, the singer-guitarist breathes new life into the Band’s warhorse. The Last Waltz is one of the greatest concert movies of all time. It’s also one of the most over-tributed. But Marcus King and a cast of Nashville’s finest breathed new life into the Band’s storied farewell show on Monday night with fresh arrangements and, in some cases, even new lyrics. The leader of the Marcus King Band wrapped up his Four of Kind: Live From Nashville virtual concert series by playing 15 songs from the landmark 1976 gig, along with a group of friendly musicians.

Opening with a slowed-down, especially greasy take on “Up on Cripple Creek,” King and his eight-piece band, including two horn players and background vocalists Maggie Rose and Kate Barnette, made it clear that this wouldn’t be a note-for-note recreation. While some songs were delivered faithfully — Elizabeth Cook’s “Ophelia” was just as twangy and exuberant as Levon Helm’s — many were recast with the performers’ own stories and talents in mind. When King sang “Helpless,” he nodded to his own formative years in Asheville, subbing “North Carolina” for Neil Young’s original “North Ontario.” He shuffled the set list around, too. An angelic reading of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” traditionally an all-star, show-closing sing-along at Last Waltz tributes, came early in the concert, with King’s voice echoing through the cavernous empty rehearsal space. “We’re coming at you from Middle Tennessee, from a nondisclosed location,” King quipped at the start, aware of the unconventional nature of a pandemic concert.

But the most dramatic — and timely — change was to “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” Robbie Robertson’s bitter-Southerner account of the end of the Civil War. Alabama country singer Early James performed it, beginning with a warning that his version would be markedly different, with key lyrics changed to reflect the U.S.’s ongoing reckoning with its Confederate mistake. “I hope we piss off the right people,” he said. “Tonight,” James emphasized in the chorus, “we drive old Dixie down” — a final rebuke of the South’s Lost Cause mythology. In the last verse, he sang
about how Confederate statues and monuments will fall: “Depraved and powered to enslave, I think it’s time we laid hate in its grave/I swear by the earth beneath my feet, monument won’t stand no matter how much concrete.” Joseph Hudak for Rolling Stone Magazine

Write up by Orange’s Pat Foley.

We are super excited to present ‘Marcus King | Four of a Kind | Live from Nashville’. This special series of live shows will be broadcasted over at marcusking.com every Monday at 9pm EST starting the 13th of July, running through to the 3rd of August. Each night will see The Marcus King Band with different guests, such as Mastodon’s Brent Hinds and bluegrass musician Billy Strings.

Proceeds from the shows will benefit MusiCares, and Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief project will match donations, up to a collective total of $10 million. With live music at a halt for the time being and foreseeable future, we are very excited to be able to bring Marcus and friends directly to your living room, and all for a good cause! Get your tickets here.

Our third ‘How I got into playing’ post where we as part of our ‘Learn the Orange Way’ campaign, offer free guitar lessons for all Orange users (more on that here), and share a series of quotes from some of our artists on why how they got into playing.

Marcus King, The Marcus King Band

I first started playing when I was about 3 or 4, and I’ve been playing professionally since I was about 11. I was really inspired by guitar players such as Clapton, Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn from a young age, another early discovery was The Allman Brothers Band, as well as The Marshall Tucker Band and a bunch of other great Southern bands. Later on, I got really intrigued by “the frontman”, and artists such as James Brown, Otis Redding  and Aretha Franklin – anyone who had that certain attitude would really speak to me. What really changed the game for me was when I started studying jazz theory, and discovering Miles Davis and John Coltrane was really life changing to me, a clear game changer.

Steve Bello

I heard Led Zeppelin when I was four years old, thanks to my aunt, not that she was aware of it at the time. My grandfather was a jazz guitarist way back when, so while I liked that there was a guitar player in the house, I wanted to play heavy rock from the start. Grew up listening to Zep, Queen, Aerosmith, Kiss. Started learning guitar at age 9 but didn’t take it seriously until I saw Ritchie Blackmore on MTV smashing his guitar, and seeing videos of Jimi Hendrix lighting his Strat on fire. Both of those moments made me think “I have to play guitar for life!”

Becky Blomfield, Milk Teeth

I grew up surrounded by music and the people playing it, my grandmother played and my dad played the saxophone. It was something I just naturally gravitated towards from a very young age, and it didn’t go away. I think you either have it in you or you dont, and for me it was just something I stuck with.

Since 2016 Orange Amplifiers has had an artist relations office in Nashville, TN. Nashville is known for much more than Country music these days. As the result of a migration from LA, NY and points all over the US (and beyond) by artists like Jack White, Black Keys, and many others, a very thriving local Indie scene has exploded here. Consequently, we see artists of every stripe here in the Nashville Showroom.

In a given month we may have visits from the guys from Catfish and the Bottle Men, Mothership, Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown, Lilly Winwood, Velvet Starlings, Skeleton Krew, Marcus King or Smashing Pumpkins.

Having said all this, we do get our share of straight Country Music artists as well. It’s just sometimes tough to draw the distinction between who is Country, Rock or Americana these days. How does one define a brilliant guitarist like longtime Orange Ambassador Marcus King or Zakk Brown?

Marcus King with Orange’s Nashville Artist Rep, Pat Foley

Just recently we had a major video shoot take place in the showroom and in the parking lot just outside. It was a full-on roundup of bikers, hot rods, beer, barbeque and loud music. Billy F Gibbons and Orange Ambassador Tim Montana teamed up on the video for their project called the Whisker Brothers. The theme was a celebration of summer days and nights and particularly the joys of a major barbeque cookout and party. Rather unusual and very country.

BBQ and Cars…yeah, that seems about right for a Tim Montana/ZZ Top video shoot

Our regular visitors run the gamut from country session players like Pat Buchanan and Buddy Woodward looking to borrow something special for a session, rockin country bands like The Cadillac 3 or members of Luke Combs Band, full on Rock bands like The Gene Simmonds Band or mega guitarist Orianthi as well as Country singers like Margot Price or Raelyn Nelson. We also regularly provide amps or pedals to some legendary Nashville studios like RCA Studio B, Omni Sound or Ocean Way. Just this week we provided two AD30 amps and  multiple cabs to new Orange Ambassador Adam Lester for the Peter Frampton Tour which should be amazing judging by the rehearsals.

One of the artists we are featuring for Voice of Country Month is a great new Country artist from Rochester, NY named Claudia Hoyser. Claudia and her producer, Tony Gross paid us a visit a while back while in town for the Country Radio Seminar. Claudia loved the Rocker 15 and Tony was enthralled with the Acoustic pre-amp which he has integrated into both their recording and performance rigs.

New Orange Ambassador Claudia Hoyser

We get it all here in Nashville. If you happen to be on the road and passing through Nashville feel free to give us a call and perhaps drop in for a visit.

Orange Amps Nashville: 1310 Clinton Street, Suite 105, Nashville, Tennessee, 37203

There were a lot of whispers within the company about Marcus King before his London Islington Assembly show, a gig where Orange founder and CEO Cliff Cooper embarked on a two hour journey to introduce himself and say hello before the show, and where I had countless phone calls, messages and emails from various colleagues around the globe pre interview, making me aware of how.god.damn.important. this 22 year old guitar prodigy was for the future of music and how they’d send me home on the first flight to Norway (not really…) if I didn’t make a good impression – so no pressure there.. During the interview I found out more about his love for the charismatic frontman, and that he started playing guitar at the age of 3, an age where I personally was still trying to grow a full head of hair. To get back into it, ladies and gentlemen, the ever so clever, Marcus King.

Finding someone like yourself playing this sort of music and playing it as well as you do at 22, really makes me believe there’s hope for future generations. I assume you must have been young when you started playing, may I ask how young?
Marcus King:
I first started playing when I was about 3 or 4, and I’ve been playing professionally since I was about 11.

I’m guessing music’s been a natural part of your upbringing as you come from a strong blues background with your dad being fellow blues man Marvin King. Apart from that, there are such strong elements of soul, funk, and even some latin grooves in your playing, what other types of music did you listen to when growing up and learning to play?
Marcus King:
I was really inspired by guitar players such as Clapton, Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn from a young age, another early discovery was The Allman Brothers Band, as well as The Marshall Tucker Band and a bunch of other great Southern bands. Later on, I got really intrigued by “the frontman”, and artists such as James Brown, Otis Redding  and Aretha Franklin – anyone who had that certain attitude would really speak to me. What really changed the game for me was when I started studying jazz theory, and discovering Miles Davis and John Coltrane was really life changing to me, a clear game changer.

You got your band with you, The Marcus King Band, here tonight – how do you work when you make music, do you write the most of it on your own and bring it to the band, or is it done as a unit?
Marcus King: Most of the songs I write and bring to the band for them to add in their flavour, and that’s what creates a Marcus King Band song, a collaborative effort. To those of you who don’t know, The Marcus King band is:

Drums: Jack Ryan – 6 years in the band
Trumpet: Justin Johnson – 5 years in the band
Bass: Stephen Campbell – 4 years in the band – Uses an AD200
Saxophone: Dean Mitchell – 4 years in the band
Keys: Deshawn “D-Vibes” Alexander – 1 year in the band

Now to put you on the spot in front of founder Cliff Cooper, how have you been finding using Orange on this past tour?
Marcus King: I’ve loved every second of it – I’ve never had a mishap using an Orange, which is one of the things I love the most about them, how dependable they are. Plus, you can play ‘em straight outta the box! Tonight I’ve got a Rockerverb 50, which is my favourite Orange head, and a 4×12 cab. I’ve also always been a reverb guy so when Orange’s Pat Foley in Nashville introduced me to the Rockerverb, I was sold on it. Pat’s great, and he’s become close friends with my dad as well.