By Douglas McLean.
Kirk Fletcher releases his new album on Cleopatra records ,‘My Blues Pathway’, September 25, 2020. The veteran bluesman pays tribute and homage to the music that has inspired his life’s work as a guitarist and writer. The album, comprised of six of his own compositions and four of his favourite blues tunes, is a perfect showcase for Fletcher’s fluid, soulful rhythm and blues sound but moreover, to his remarkable intonation. The control and dexterity of Fletcher’s electric guitar mastery is something that every blues enthusiast will cherish. Kirk can conjure tones as sweet as a Texas sunset, then move effortlessly into a Motown groove. Lyrically and stylistically, Fletcher travels the well-worn ground of lost love and heartbreak, to subtle reflections on modern themes of social concerns and issues, but all receive his unique blues interpretation. The fun and joy that Fletcher and his band had recording this album is evident in every piece.
Fletcher and the band, a quartet of drums, organ, bass and guitar, lay down a steady blues foundation, augmented by a horn section and featured guests. Although Fletcher‘s guitar and singing is central on most of the performances, harmonica star, Charlie Musslewhite, and Josh Smith, playing a National Resophonic guitar, make a special featured guest appearance on Juke Boy Bonner’s ‘Life Gave Me A Dirty Deal’.
My Blues Pathway’ follows on the success of Kirk’s self -released, 2018 album, ‘Hold On’, which was nominated for a Blues Music Award and entered the Billboard Blues Albums chart at number 15. Fletcher’s new album is sure to garner similar awards and attention. Kirk began performing in his early teens around the bars in Los Angeles and the west coast blues scene, and over the years ,has earned himself a reputation as one of the finest blues guitarists recording today. His tenure in such bands as the Mannish Boys, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and as a rhythm guitarist for Joe Bonamassa, provided fertile ground for his development as a versatile and adaptable guitarist in any setting. A true gentleman, with a down to earth personality, Fletcher remains a humble advocate for the power of the blues, in all its formats, reverent of the legends who passed before him and led him on his journey.
The album begins with the trio of powerful songs. ‘Ain’t No Cure for the Downhearted’ is about people who shift the blame for all things in their life to others. Fletcher’s lyrics ask us to think for ourselves and live our life according to our dreams. As a pre-release single, it introduces us to the approach that Kirk intends to take on his solos throughout the album – lean, muscular, fully expressive, and melodic. On ‘No Place To Go’, a horn inflected rhythm and blues tune, co-written with Robert Cray’s long time bass guitarist, Richard Cousins, Fletcher sings that he has to find his own salvation and live his own life. ‘No Place To Go’ features the truly distinctive nature of Kirk’s guitar tone – unadulterated, pure resonance, bending notes and pulling the feeling out of the strings.
‘Love is More Than A Word,’ another co-write which Richard Cousins, inspired by a friend’s talk on marriage, is rich with emotion, surrounded by a huge the Southern Soul Sound of surging horns and prominent beat. Fletcher adds a blistering guitar solo and despite the classic theme of love lost, Fletcher’s grasp of the genre and material provides the track with power and authenticity. The album explores this feeling over several selections on the album. Fletcher in his album notes, adds, “heartbreak is still current” and “is one of the reasons blues music was invented”.
Fletcher chooses four blues songs to honour his heroes on this collection. ‘Fatting Frogs for Snakes’, the Sonny Boy Williamson classic, rocks over a flange-chorus effected rhythm guitar, with a robust sinewy solo at its heart. Kirk includes numbers by AC Reed, Chris Cain, and Juke Boy Bonner. The fact that Kirk has played with many of these bluesman over the course of his development, should not go unnoted, and he is delighted to feature blues legend Charlie Musselwhite, one of his former bosses on the above mentioned, ‘Life Gave Me A Dirty Deal’.
Kirk Fletcher deserves all the accolades and continued respect that his new album, ‘My Blues Pathway’, is bound to bring to his work. Joined by some of the best players in recording - Travis Carlton on bass, Lemar Carter and David Kida on drums, Jeff Babko on keys, Kirk is an exemplary band leader with a style and hard earned guitar sound, fully at his command, to express and articulate the emotional palette of legendary blues.