Monster Blues Singer/Guitarist Kirk Fletcher Delivers Power and Fire With ‘Hold On’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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Names like Bonamassa, Guy, and Popovic get lots more headlines but Kirk Fletcher belongs right there with them as simply one of the most powerful, fiery guitarists playing now.  His new album, Hold On, unleashes his guitar fury, in a trio configuration of just drums and keyboards. Fletcher also sings but mostly just plays like a demon.  Mahalia Barnes joins him on vocals for the opening “Two Steps Forward’ and Jade McCrae sings the title track.

Although Fletcher feels that this is his first true solo album, it’s technically his fifth as bandleader and solo artist. His eight originals were recorded in Bristol, England with drummer Matt Brown and keyboardist Jonny Henderson. As the trio plays, they traverse blues, jazz, R&B and soul.

After the wah-wah driven opener, Fletcher summons Bill Withers-like soul on “You Need Me.” They then invoke the NOLA feel on a tune with depressing lyrics sung and played over an intensely joyous best as Fletcher trades lines with Henderson’s sparkling piano. Fletcher then gets into a slow, smoldering blues on the eight-minute “The Answer,” singing longingly before launching into an incendiary, spiraling solo. He reaches heavy blues-rock Hendrix territory on “Time’s Ticking” before reining it in a bit in his nod to the great soul/blues guitarist Cornell Dupree on “Dupree.” It recalls those classic recordings of the late Dupree with King Curtis like “Memphis Soul Stew,” as Henderson too, has an extended organ solo.

The album’s most straight-ahead blues track, another eight-minute piece, “Gotta Right” shows off both Fletcher’s vocal power and his ability to play with full-bodied tone in a more traditional Chicago blues style. Some of the notes he hits here are truly chill-inducing. Fletcher is, after all, a four-time BMA nominee. That intensity needs some calm to follow and Fletcher invokes some gospel on the closing title track where he’s joined by McCrea on the vocals, the two of them sounding like a full choir. He pleas for global harmony above the slow, simmering groove.

In addition to his BMA nominations, Fletcher, now based in England, is a 2015 British Blues Award nominee and has played alongside Bonamassa, following his three-year stint as lead guitarist for The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Joe Bonamassa says, “Kirk is hands-down one of the best blues guitarists in the world.” Fletcher proves it on this engaging outing, demonstrating his mastery across several styles.

 

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