The Blues may be one of the oldest forms of American music, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t vital, modern, and exciting blues artists on the scene today. In the premiere of The Blues Fix I have the chance to talk to one such artist, guitarist Kirk Fletcher. Kirk has played with Joe Bonamassa and The Fabulous Thunderbirds and is about to release his latest solo record My Blues Pathway.
Please press the PLAY icon below to hear my conversation with Kirk Fletcher:
Kirk Fletcher released his first solo record in 1999, over the next 20+ years he would alternate between playing with other musicians, such as Joe Bonamassa and Kim Wilson, both in Kim’s solo band and as a member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and his solo career. all of that experience comes to a head with his new release, My Blues Pathway is a portrait of a confident, capable artist at the height of his powers.
Photo: Rick Gould
The record is a mix of Fletcher’s original compositions and purposely chosen covers of lesser-known songs from lesser-known artists. Fletcher points out that picking the right songs to cover is almost as difficult as writing your own song. For My Blues Pathway, he looked for songs with a lyrical content that meant something to him. His version of AC Reed’s “I’d Rather Fight Than Switch” sums up his love of the blues, while his aching take on Juke Boy Bonner’s “Life Gave Me A Dirty Deal” shows that sometimes the people that are smiling are hiding their pain inside. The track also features smoldering harmonica from one of Fletcher’s former collaborators, the legendary Charlie Musslewhite. The original material, led by the first single “No Place To Go”, stand just as strong and serve as a perfect canvas for Fletcher and his band, including Travis Carlton on bass, Lemar Carter and David Kida on drums, Jeff Babko on keyboards and Joe Sublett and Mark Pender on saxophone and trumpet.
Fletcher has certainly taken influence from his collaborators over the years. His time with Joe Bonamassa showed him that blues music can still be played on the biggest stages in the country while playing alongside Kim Wilson gave him that combination of Chicago and Texas blues that worked its way into the fabric of My Blues Pathway. The record sees the Chicago-style horns sitting right alongside the hot Strat sounds that embody Texas blues. Fletcher felt he was ready on this record to go back to the Strat sound that led him to the blues to begin with.
“No Place To Go”
A unique aspect of this record is that Fletcher handles all the vocals himself. He says that early in his career he never gave much thought to singing, his goal was to be the best accompanist and guitar player he could be. As time went on, he began singing more out of necessity…if he wanted to tour regularly and write and perform his own music it would be easier if he didn’t have to rely on someone else to be the frontman. The move paid off as the record is filled with strong vocal performances to match Fletcher’s flawless guitar work.
In our conversation, I asked Kirk if he was nervous about releasing new music without the ability to tour behind it. He was quick to point out that the world needs new music now, people are home and searching for music to listen to so now is a perfect time to put this record out. My Blues Pathway isn’t the only new music coming from Fletcher, he also contributes guitar to a version of the Otis Rush classic “I Can’t Quit You, Baby” to an upcoming record of blues covers by William Shatner.
“Some Other Day, Some Other Time” w/ Joe Bonamassa
My Blues Pathway is just that, it shows the road Kirk Fletcher took to get where he is. From covers originals, there is a thread through the lyrics that shows a history of the blues while the music is a mix of classic blues styles done in a modern tone and sound.
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