The Essential Albert King

Wolf Marshall

There’s more than one way to learn an Albert King lick. In fact, the most popular way doesn’t even seem to involve having ever heard of the legendary Flying V-wielding southpaw. It involves simply copping some of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s famous neck-strangling riffs on his slow-blues tour de force “Texas Flood.” (SRV wore his King influence proudly on that tune.) Of course, the more logical way to learn the King sting is to go straight to the source and try your hand at decoding the blues icon’s solos straight off his albums. But while King’s largely pentatonic-based lines were harmonically simple, capturing their mojo on your own fretboard is tricky. King not only was a lefty, he played “upside down” (with the low-E string closest to the floor), employed a custom tuning, and had one serious case of the blues.

That’s where tireless guitar scholar Wolf Marshall and this clever book/CD package come in. Here, Marshall has not only transcribed several signature King performances for standard tuning, he has—with a King-approved lead guitar tone—re-recorded them on the right channel of the CD. (Pan to the left and you’ll hear a classic King-style backing band complete with horn section laying down authentic rhythm tracks.) In the book, you’ll find every pitch painstakingly notated, and yes, you can expect to see a blizzard of bend marks (this is Albert King we’re talking about, after all). It’s true that just as there is no book that can teach you to master such visceral tasks as downhill skiing, yodeling, or alligator wrestling, there is no instruction manual for the blues. But if you’re halfway smart and aren’t afraid of tablature and notation staves, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how immensely helpful a printed page and a practice disc can be. Hal Leonard. —Jude Gold