By Martine Ehrenclou
Former lead guitarist for the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Kirk Fletcher is widely considered one of the best blues guitarists in the world. A five-time Blues Music Award and British Blues Award nominee, Fletcher releases My Blues Pathway on September 25th on Cleopatra Records, his sixth solo album that follows the critically acclaimed Hold On (2018).
A knockout mix of blues originals, covers and two co-writes with Robert Cray’s bass player, Richard Cousins, My Blues Pathway by Kirk Fletcher is a musical feast. With Fletcher’s life-long love of the blues, he returns with 10 tracks of sumptuous and soulful guitar, smooth vocals and catchy melodies with groove—all delivered with passion and excellence.
Kirk says, “My Blues Pathway is an album about celebrating the music that got me so excited about playing the blues from the beginning of my career and the musicians that inspired me. My path led me straight back to the Blues.”
And celebration is what you’ll find on My Blues Pathway, by way of honest, authentic blues with Kirk Fletcher’s inimitable stamp. He and the band slide in place from the first note and in the pocket they stay. Fletcher’s vocals are strong and expressive, his guitar playing nothing short of masterful on each and every track.
With Travis Carlton on bass, Jeff Babko on keys, drum duties shared by Lemar Carter and David Kida, Joe Sublett on sax and Mark Pender on trumpet, Fletcher is in good company with top-tier musicians. How could you not have fun with this material? And that shows.
There aren’t many guitarists in Fletcher’s league with his signature soulfulness, finesse, tone and phrasing. One thing’s for sure—he knows how to make his guitar sing. If your hair isn’t standing on end with his first guitar solo on “Ain’t No Cure For The Downhearted” then nothing can wake the dead.
Co-written by Fletcher and Richard Cousins, “No Place To Go” is a soul influenced, up-tempo groove with punchy guitar riffs winding through the song. A stellar horn section provides additional fire for this feel-good tune. Kirk sings, “I had to find my own salvation.” Yours might be in this song and the whole record. Repeated listens of My Blues Pathwaywould surely make this world a better place.
There’s a lightness to Kirk Fletcher’s record, even with songs about love lost such as the Soul/Motown ballad, “Love Is More Than A Word” co-written by Fletcher and Cousins. Buffering the sorrow is a warm breeze of guitar riffs–graceful, moving, uncluttered.
Albert King can be heard through Kirk Fletcher’s hands on “Struggle For Grace,” a classic minor blues. There’s hints of B.B. and Freddie too. Fletcher wanted to leave a legacy to his Blues heroes with this tune. Of this I’m certain—if any one of them heard this song, they would be inspired.
“Rather Fight Than Switch” took me by complete surprise. What a song. What an interpretation of the A.C Reed blues shuffle. Fletcher’s guitar bites. His vocals are strong, confident. And he’s in it with the band, rocking in fine form.
Even with songs about heartbreak, My Blues Pathway is uplifting. Fletcher’s lyrics speak about the human condition, internal conflict and of course, love. “Heart So Heavy” might be about a broken heart but with Fletcher’s soulful vocals and the superb horn section working their magic, the song isn’t heavy but heartening. You can almost feel heat coming off Fletcher’s guitar, fueled by drums and bass locked tight. Smokin’.
“Fattening Frogs for Snakes” (Sonny Boy Williamson) simply cooks. Fletcher created a delightful interpretation of the song. He replaces the harp with stinging guitar licks that bounce with the swing.
My Blues Pathway isn’t just a tribute to the blues and blues masters. It’s a celebration. With catchy songs and Fletcher’s brilliant take on the genre, he created a varied pallet, a multi-textured selection of Blues styles. He even closes the album with an acoustic blues number, “Life Gave Me A Dirty Deal” featuring harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite and Josh Smith on resonator guitar.
Kirk Fletcher Online