Over the last few years Kirk Fletcher has made a serious impression on the blues world – a notoriously hard nut to crack in this day and age.
His emotive guitar playing and soulful vocals, as well as a relentless touring schedule that sees no end in sight has seen him leap above the pack to become one of the most respected instrumentalists of his age. As well as being a bandleader and frontman for his own group, Kirk has ﬁlled the guitar spot as a side man for some of the biggest names in business, including none other than The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Joe Bonamassa.
Born and raised in Bellﬂower, California, Kirk was steeped in the gospel tradition - his father was a Baptist minister and his elder brother Walter played guitar in church. At the tender age of eight he took up the guitar and pretty soon was playing well enough to play to the same congregation.
This year in February, Fletcher returns to Australia in support of his new album Hold On, his fourth solo record and his ﬁrst of entirely original material. The new release covers a lot of different ground, from straight up blues and soul to funky RnB, and showcases Fletcher’s versatility and love of diﬀerent styles without straying too far from what makes blues unique.
Having spent time as a touring guitar player at some of the biggest venues and festivals in the U.S and Europe, Fletcher is at home both as a sideman and frontman, and has built a solid reputation as one of the finest in his field.
The new LP was recorded in Canyon Sound in London over the space of a week, using Jonny Henderson on organ and bass with Matt Brown on drums in what Kirk described as a ‘relaxed atmosphere’. In the blues tradition, the band tracked the entirety of Hold On live in the studio together, with the vocals being the only overdubbed aspect of the record.
“I don’t like to spend a lot of time on something, “Fletcher says over the line from Switzerland, where he’s lived for a number of years. “If it’s not working on the first or second take, we’d move on to the next track.”
A real treat on the album comes courtesy of Australia’s own Mahalia Barnes and Jade Macrae on backing vocals, who Fletcher became acquainted with when they were on the road with Joe Bonamassa.
“Oh man, when those girls sing together it really is something else!” He says with genuine excitement and respect.
Far too often blues and jazz musicians can fall into the trap of standing in the shadows of the greats that came before them, without establishing their own sound or identity. Luckily, Fletcher sidesteps this problem by taking all the music he grew up on and synthesising it into a style that is instantly identifiable and entirely his own. This has as much to do with his almost encyclopedic knowledge of the blues greats that preceded him as it does his soulful voice, which is by turns muscular and sweet while avoiding the histrionics that many others in his genre fall victim to.
When it comes to guitars used on the album, Fletcher is surprisingly minimal, considering the range of tones throughout.
”Oh, I just used two Telecasters. One has standard single coil pickups and one has humbuckers - it’s kind of a Thinline guitar - and I used an old Fender amp.” The old saying is true – all the tone lays in the ﬁngers.
If you’re keen on checking out one of the best in the business show off his craft, there’s no better chance than now to check out Fletcher’s live set. Expect soaring vocals, funky grooves and an undeniably unique level of guitar wizardry when he hits the road with his band this February.