For many recording artists the goal of a full-length album is to follow a theme or concept to guide the material and present a concise and focused statement. For Kirk Fletcher the target was simple as he explains the theme of his new album “It’s about love, a general love for humanity. I wanted to write songs about more than just boys and girls, and maybe give some answers and hope to this crazy time we live in.”
Kirk’s new studio album “Hold On” is his fifth album as a bandleader and solo artist. The eight original tracks were recorded at Canyon Sound in Bristol, England with a classic organ trio format of Fletcher on guitars and vocals alongside drummer Matt Brown and Jonny Henderson on organ, piano and Wurlitzer. The live off-the-floor sound captured by engineer Nick Dover flows with vibrant energy on a set of tunes that crosses genres from smooth R&B to jamming jazz and deep blues, and soul.
The deeply funky and self-searching ‘Two Steps Forward’ opens the set with powerhouse vocalist Mahalia Barnes trading verses with Fletcher, while his guitar rips a wild wah-wah solo that references a few guitar hero riffs, while Henderson delivers gritty Deep Purple-styled Hammond B3. Fletcher then does his best Bill Withers and pleads the case of a lover on the velvety soul track ‘You Need Me.’ The trio then head to New Orleans for a glorious second line infused ramble ‘Sad Sad Day,” demonstrating the magic of the blues; how an intensely sorrowful lyric sang over a joyous beat is one of the most uplifting forms of artistic expression ever created. Fletcher pours his heart out on the epic eight-minute blues suite ‘The Answer,’ delivering a lamenting vocal before letting his emotions fly on another soaring guitar solo. Brown rolls and thunders on a march beat for the turbulent and abrasive heavy blues ‘Time’s Ticking.’ The playful instrumental track, ‘Dupree,’ has the trio showing off their skills and effortless musical telepathy as they seamlessly shift to and fro through an interaction of melody, harmony, and rhythmic themes creating a substantial musical thought, ending with a unified musical punctuation.
The Chicago shuffle, ‘Gotta Right,’ demonstrates Fletcher’s musical roots as a four-time Blues Music Award nominee on the album’s most straight-ahead blues track that features his acclaimed guitar work and new-found vocal power. The Gospel infused title track, ‘Hold On,’ closes the set, with vocalist Jade McCrea supporting Fletcher and his simple plea for global harmony. The new album from Kirk Fletcher showcases a musician and songwriter steeped in tradition yet unafraid to break new ground.
Rick J Bowen
Kirk Fletcher has a reputation as a bona fide can’t-miss performer. His soulful playing and singing never fails to elicit chills, and his unique approach to rhythm & blues music is both refreshingly modern and completely authentic. Widely considered one of the best blues guitarists in the world, he has commanded the respect and acclaim of critics, peers and fans across the globe. He is a four-time Blues Music Award and a 2015 British Blues Award nominee and has played with a variety of popular artists, including Joe Bonamassa and a three-year role as lead guitarist of The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Kirk first picked up a guitar at age eight, playing alongside his older brother Walter in their father’s church. One day with his older brother, Kirk visited a small L.A. guitar shop, Music Works, which ultimately became his second home after meeting Jeff Rivera, Robben Ford’s guitar tech. “We started hanging out and I would help load gear, change strings and just be a fly on the wall to some of the most amazing music I’ve ever heard,” Kirk remembers.
It was in the next few years that Kirk’s full introduction to traditional blues occurred. He started seeking out other musicians who shared this same understanding – enter Al Blake, lead singer and harp player for the Hollywood Fats Band. After hosting dinner every Sunday, Al would offer Kirk early 20th century blues records as dessert. He also helped establish connections to other famous West Coast blues artists like Junior Watson and Richard “Lynwood Slim” Duran. So followed Kirk’s first gigs as a blues guitarist and eventually the recording of his first album “I’m Here & I’m Gone” for the JSP label out of England.
Al Blake would also introduce Kirk to Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Wilson brought Fletcher further into the blues family from California to Texas and then out touring the world. One highlight during this time was at Antone’s Night Club 25th Anniversary Week in Austin, Texas, which gave Kirk the opportunity to perform with his blues heroes Pinetop Perkins, James Cotton and Hubert Sumlin. Wilson also tapped Kirk to play on his Grammy-nominated Smokin’ Joint live album. Shortly thereafter a call to collaborate came from blues legend Charlie Musselwhite, confirming that Kirk was becoming one of the most in-demand blues guitarists on the scene.
So began three years on the road with the Thunderbirds. Kirk contributed to the Thunderbirds’ “Paint It On” album and time spent with many famous blues artists along the way, including a brief stint with the late Doyle Bramhall, Sr. and a few guest appearances playing for Cindi Lauper, Michelle Branch and a world tour with Italian mega-star Eros Ramazzotti. Kirk, more recently, has been part of two projects with close friend Joe Bonamassa – “Muddy Wolf At Red Rocks” and the Grammy nominated “Live At The Greek Theatre.”