My Turn

Kirk Fletcher

Eclecto Groove, 2010

http://kirkfletcherband.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/16/2010

I’d barely gotten started on screening the week’s stack o’ submissions for undiscovered nuggets to send out to the writing staff when I hit this one and whammo.  It was literally spinning for less than ten seconds when I said out loud, “This one’s mine.”

Because Kirk Fletcher is the kind of string-bending magician of a blues guitarist who can literally make the instrument sing.  Opener “El Medio Stomp” had me hooked from the first notes as Fletcher evokes the ghost of Stevie Ray Vaughan over a driving roadhouse boogie beat, powering his way through this propulsive number in high style.

Ah, but then “Found Love” starts out slow, with banjo decorating the melody, and the whole mood changes.  It’s a true country blues, with mandolin, too, and adds Fletcher’s smoky voice to the mix of elements, setting you up for yet another mood shift as “Natural Anthem” comes in at track three with a joyous, celebratory instrumental that soars on the wings of Fletcher’s soulful playing. 

And there’s the lesson this album (like many before it) offers -- although the blues is often stereotyped as a downbeat genre, what it really is, is deeply human, capable of delivering any mood you can imagine within the context of a familiar musical framework.  Whether the moment calls for hollering party music, sad lonely music, smooth romantic music, or snappy dance music, the blues can deliver all these and more.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Fletcher’s third solo album and gives the relatively young (35 years old) blues guitarist a chance to flex the muscles built up through a musical apprenticeship that includes touring gigs with Lynwood Slim, Janiva Magness, Charlie Musselwhite and The Fabulous Thunderbirds, as well as two solo albums.  My Turn also benefits from the musical wisdom of veteran sideman Michael Landau, who produced.

As any practitioner will tell you, the blues is also a genre that has a grand tradition of sassy kiss-off songs.  “Ain’t No Way” is a strutting blast of horn section and stinging licks to match a stinging lyric, as Mr. Fletcher tells a certain lady where to get off.  The title cut is a similarly assertive roadhouse blues number with a complex, slightly menacing funk riff and strong Hammond accents from Luke Miller.  An interesting footnote for Larry Carlton fans (for example, yours truly) is that the latter track was co-written by Miller and the great contemporary jazz guitarist’s son Travis Carlton, who also plays a rumbling, steady-on bass guitar on several tracks here. 

The Louisiana ghost story “Congo Square” has a definite Robert Cray feel, a smooth, driving soul-pop number with stiletto solos interspersed between lines of the verses.  “Way Back Home” shuffles in with a romantic lilt and offers up a gorgeous little jazz riff with a very pretty, smoky sax line running over it, capped by a light-up-the-sky solo from Fletcher.  The arrangement really shines here as Fletcher and saxman Paulie Cerra do a little dance over the top of the quiet rhythm section.

The closing trio offer more musical adventures as “Blues For Antone” adds a bit of B.B. King sustain to the mix and “Let Me Have It All” lays on the funk and a flash of screaming lead guitar.  The only off note here is struck by closer “Continent’s End,” a slow-paced, atmospheric rock instrumental.  It doesn’t have the deep groove or bluesy feel of rest of the album, but is smartly crafted – at least, until the second act.  The latter half of the track features an extended spoken word poem over Fletcher’s riffing, a device that could work but doesn’t come off well here in part because of the way the woman doing the spoken word is recorded, with a dry, distant, mechanical tone that’s off-putting.

That single misstep aside, My Turn is a terrific modern blues album, full of sharp, evocative guitar playing, soulful vocals and finger-snapping rhythms.  The best blues music is all about the groove – once you’ve got it, you can use it to create any mood you want, but it all starts with and builds from the essential groove.  And Kirk Fletcher knows that groove like the back of his hand.

Rating: B+

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