Blues Revue Magazine
By Tom Hyslop
Kirk Fletcher is among the most in-demand guitarists on the scene, with a résume that includes the Los Angeles edition of the Blues Across America series, The Mannish Boys, Charlie Musselwhite, various Kim Wilson projects, the Hollywood Blue Flames, and appearances on a number of other recordings. His 1999 solo début I’m Here And I’m Gone announced the arrival of a distinctive traditional stylist. But clubgoers and interested youTube viewers (and those who listened closely enough to detect echoes of Robben Ford’s style bubbling under the Junior Watson-isms on Shades Of Blue) have heard the guitarist chafe under the limitations of tradition and explore both Hendrix-inspired rock and the fusion styles of Larry Carlton and Ford, and may be asking, “Will the real Kirk Fletcher please stand up?”
With his third solo CD, Fletcher at last expresses on record something close to the full range of his musical interests. The playlist includes several straight blues numbers, including the upbeat, urban “Ain’t No Way,” a take on Jimmy Reed’s “Found Love” spotlighting Fletcher’s inimitable electric guitar phrasing over an acoustic arrangement (and marking his first recorded vocal), and two original instrumentals, the rip-roaring “El Medio Stomp” and the devastating “Blues For Antone,” a slow number that feels like a needle-gun rippling over a molasses-slow groove. The soulful “Way Back Home” is a study in craftsmanship and dynamics, building subtly in intensity behind Paulie Cerra’s melodic saxophone, then quieting and repeating the cycle for Fletcher’s wiry guitar break.
But the arrival of My Turn on Eclecto Groove, rather than the more traditional Delta Groove imprint, signals an adventurous bent, manifested in a cover of Sly Stone’s “Let Me Have It All” that has not only a snake-charming guitar solo and an eye-opening vocal turn from Fletcher, but the legendary James Gadson sitting in on drums. Where Jesse Ed Davis’s “Natural Anthem” pops, swaggers, and soars, the slow, funky title track is super-bad. Sonny Landreth’s “Congo Square” develops brilliantly, driven by Tom Fillman’s drumming and Fletcher’s aggressive guitar. Make what you will of Karen Landau’s not-necessarily-stoned-but-Experienced spoken word contribution, Fletcher and guitarist Michael Landau indulge their deepest Hendrix fantasies on the closer, “Continent’s End.”
Fletcher’s guitar playing has never been better captured on tape: the tones are wonderful and varied; his expressive, quirky, original lines make both musical and emotional sense; and he has the elusive knack of constructing solos that have beginnings, middles, and ends. His impressive singing certainly improves his career prospects by permitting him to claim frontman status, and although My Turn ventures far enough afield to confound blues traditionalists, its expanded scope is destined to bring new listeners to the fold.