Marcus King says he was haunted by the Seventies rock band Free when he was writing his new song “Hard Working Man.” King ain’t lying. The high-octane track explodes with an FM radio chorus, a chunky guitar riff, and enough cowbell to satisfy Christopher Walken. Recorded earlier this year with producer Dan Auerbach for King’s upcoming album Young Blood, “Hard Working Man” sounds as if it arrived in the year 2022 by way of a bitchin’, time-traveling 1970 Camaro.
“I was hearing a lot of Free tracks. Paul Kossoff and Paul Rodgers were really big influences at the time,” King tells Rolling Stone, singling out the band’s doomed guitarist and the future Bad Company singer. “Everywhere I went, I couldn’t avoid Paul Kossoff riffs. It was just deep in my cranium. It was pleasant, but it was eerie at the same time.”
That eeriness came from disconcerting parallels that King saw between him and Kossoff, who died in 1976 from a pulmonary embolism while on a cross-country flight. He was 25 — the same age King was when he wrote and recorded “Hard Working Man” in 2021.
“I was living pretty hard at the time,” King, now 26, tells Rolling Stone (in a statement, he adds that he was “overindulging in everything”). “Paul Kossoff died from drug and alcohol-related issues and I felt it to be some kind of premonition or something along those lines.”
King writes more about his time in the wilderness on Young Blood, a collection of 11 songs that, like his 2020 solo debut El Dorado, was recorded with the Black Keys’ Auerbach at Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville. Due Aug. 26 via Rick Rubin’s American Records/Republic Records, Young Blood features King on guitar, Chris St. Hilaire on drums, and Nick Movshon on bass. Like “Hard Working Man,” it’s the sound of the most muscular of power trios.
“Everything that we do at Easy Eye always happens so naturally and without any hiccups,” King says. “I like to speak about what Dan contributed production-wise, but I think in this case, it’s what he didn’t add to it. He didn’t muddy it up. He just pretty much hit ‘record’ and we just performed it live. And that was the best medicine for this track.”
Young Blood track list:
“It’s Too Late”
“Lie Lie Lie”
“Good and Gone”
“Blood on the Tracks”
“Hard Working Man”
“Blues Worse Than I Ever Had”