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Born in 1962, guitarist Chris Thomas King became the last major folk blues discovery of the 20th Century when he was discovered in Louisiana in 1979 by a folklorist from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. He was introduced to the world the following year by venerable folk label Arhoolie Records as an authentic folk blues successor to Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly), Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt and Manse Lipscomb.
As the darling of blues purists and aficionados, Chris Thomas King shocked the music world in the early ‘90s when he embraced hip hop modernity and digital aesthetics, turning the blues world upside down. King moved to Europe in 1993 and went on to write and produce a series of ground-breaking recordings including “21st Century Blues” and “My Pain Your Pleasure,” which boldly challenged the ideology of “authenticity” as either naive romanticism or an outright bigoted appropriation of his culture.
Celebrated as an expatriate artist, yet alienated from his culture back home, King decided to return to New Orleans in 1996. He initially found it difficult to re-enter the traditional American market, from which he had been exiled, but as fate would have it, King was chosen by Joel and Ethan Coen to play the role of itinerant bluesman Tommy Johnson alongside George Clooney in the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000). Larger than life on the silver screen, Chris Thomas King, acoustic guitar in hand, captivated audiences the world over. The movie soundtrack won “Album of the Year” at both the Grammy Awards and Country Music Awards.
King’s major contributions to the “O Brother, Where Art Thou” phenomenon, along with its follow-up album and tour, “Down From The Mountain,” has inspired a new generation of musicians such as Hozier, Mumford & Sons, and the Lumineers. His songs, such as “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” and “John Law Burned Down the Liquor Sto’,” have been covered by numerous artists, including legend Buddy Guy. King has sold more than 10 million records in the United States.