By Roger Gatchet
It was roughly six years ago that Randy Chortkoff launched his Delta Groove label with Kirk Fletcher’s Shades Of Blue. Like his previous solo debut on JSP, it was a straight-up, no nonsense blues record that showcased Fletcher’s masterful guitar playing—even when his fretwork was somewhat overshadowed by the high-profile vocalists (Janiva Magness, Kim Wilson) that appeared on those earlier releases. While he’s perhaps best known as an in-demand studio guitarist and for his tenure playing in the bands of Charlie Musselwhite and Wilson, with the aptly titled My Turn Fletcher has stepped back into the spotlight as a serious bandleader with a unique vision.
This album marks Fletcher’s vocal debut on the easy Jimmy Reed groove Found Love and the super-funky Let Me Have It All. It’s too bad previous producers didn’t coax Fletcher in front of a vocal mic sooner, because this dude can sing! At times he evokes the subtle intonation and smoky grit of Matt “Guitar” Murphy’s voice, another blues guitarist not known for his vocal prowess although he was a great singer in his own right. Blues For Antone is a deep slow blues instrumental written as a tribute to the late Clifford Antone. Here, even with fingers racing like lightning across the strings of his axe, Fletcher is able to convey a sense of solemnity and respect for his lost friend.
There are fun shuffles (Ain’t No Way, with Paulie Cerra on vocals and sax) and groovy original rockers (Medio Stomp) sprinkled throughout the set list, but it’s tracks like the closing Continents End that really set Fletcher apart from the current pack of up-and-coming blues guitar slingers. It’s a dreamy, stream-of-consciousness rock number complete with spoken word poetry floating beneath massive, earthy guitar tones. Fletcher describes it as “Jimi Hendrix meets Sonic Youth.” This particular tune might not please the diehard blues fans in the audience, but it’s one hell of a ride, and proof that Fletcher is ready to make a big splash on his own.