L.A based bluesman Kirk Fletcher is back and better than ever with his new studio album “Hold On” (2018)

"It’s there even if people don't know it, Blues is soul, so anything soulful has a bit of blues and emotion to it. It's pure at least the true blues is to me."

Kirk Fletcher: Hold On...I'm Back

With his new studio album “Hold On” (2018) Kirk Fletcher is back and better than ever. Having toured the world for years playing with legendary artists and his own band, Kirk’s deeply-rooted musical sensibilities and life experiences have culminated for this fresh, fearless and funky collection of original songs. Kirk Fletcher has a reputation as a bonafide can’t-miss performer. His soulful playing and singing never fails to elicit chills, and his unique approach to blues and roots music is both refreshingly modern and completely authentic. Widely considered one of the best blues guitarists in the world, he has commanded the respect and acclaim of critics, peers and fans across the globe. He is a four-time Blues Music Award and a 2015 British Blues Award nominee and has played with a variety of popular artists, including Joe Bonamassa and a three-year role as lead guitarist of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. He has released three studio albums and a live album.                                  Kirk Fletcher / Photo by Jonathan Ellis

“This is my first real solo record,” Kirk says, referring to his more collaborative previous releases. “This one is me…pure Kirk Fletcher, every note of it!” From the very start of the album, it’s easy to understand what that means. Kirk’s confessional lyrics, inspired singing and soulful arrangements create, for perhaps the first time, a detailed portrait of the man behind the guitar. He also holds a mirror to society, an approach that should be fundamental to all Blues songwriting, yet one that is frustratingly rare to see these days. “Two Steps Forward” is an undeniable, hard-hitting protest anthem that sets the tone for the album and, hopefully, a return to authenticity and originality in contemporary Blues and Rhythm & Blues music to come. “The Answer” and the title track “Hold On” showcase all angles of Kirk’s soulful musicianship with him singing and playing with purpose over beautiful chord changes…shades of Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson and Curtis Mayfield with a perspective and playing style that is distinctively Kirk’s own. “Sad Sad Day” is a fast-tempo’d instant classic that is sure to get listeners dancing. The standout song among the traditional Blues tracks is “Gotta Right,” which captures Kirk at his most connected, grounded and dynamic best. “Dupree” is a funky tribute to one of Kirk’s guitar heroes, the late Cornell Dupree, and it displays yet another side of Kirk’s musicianship in a reverent – yet extremely fun – instrumental groove.

Interview by Michael Limnios / Text by Mat Koehler - Special Thanks: Betsie Brown & Clea Zajc

What do you learn about yourself from the blues culture and what does the blues mean to you?

The blues is life to me because the originators were singing of life experiences. And I somehow could relate to it on some kind of level at a young age. Maybe because of my religious background it seemed closely related. And it just seemed to be pure emotion, and I have searched my whole life for that. Be it happiness, sadness, anger, Love.

What were the reasons that you start the Blues researches? What characterize your sound and songbook?

It started by hearing these great guitar players like BB King, Bobby Bland with Wayne Bennett, SRV, Albert Collins, and many others. And I was always a person to try to dig deeper so I would read who my idols listen to and I would buy those records, like so many others have done. Seeing BB King on TV and getting a chance to see Albert Collins live shaped my early sound and playing. Also my dynamics. Songbook constantly changed from day to day. One day Stevie Ray the next Sonny Boy Williamson. And that always kept it interesting.                  Kirk Fletcher / Photo by Jonathan Ellis

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice has given you?

Every single thing has been important to me, good or bad. Either what to aspire to or what to look out for. The guy at Lamar's records in Long Beach, Al Blake, Jr. Watson, Chris Cain, Kim Wilson, Rusty Zinn, Lynwood Slim, James Cotton, Hubert Sumlin, and it would be a hundred more tomorrow! hahaha! Arthur Adams telling me to join BMI was huge!! That is one that comes to mind. Friends telling me to start singing, even if it did take me forever to start.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us? 

There are so many to name, but joining Charlie Musselwhite’s band, and joining The Kim Wilson Blues band stand out because I was a young guy and I got to experience a lot and I still lived at home so it was no pressure. And also playing with the older generation bluesmen was absolutely a thrill!!

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss being able to hear blues in clubs 7 nights a week and sitting in with your peers and Saturday afternoons at the Blue Cafe. I hope that it will come around and more live music clubs will come back and my fear is that it won't.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That I got to play with BB King and Albert Collins.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Jazz and continue to Rock, Soul and Gospel music?                                    Kirk Fletcher / Photo by Rick Gould

The Song, The history, Soul...

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from the Antone’s 25th Anniversary Week, TX?

Ted Harvey's (drummer for hound Dog Taylor) blowing his whistle to get everyone on stage was so funny and awesome at the same time! Seeing Kim Wilson stop and listen to James Cotton play with me, and laugh with me. And a great picture I have of me and James Cotton. And me getting to play with Hubert Sumlin.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications?

It’s there even if people don't know it, Blues is soul, so anything soulful has a bit of blues and emotion to it. It's pure at least the true blues is to me.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..? 

I would want to go to the Bobby Blue Bland session's for "Dreamer", and hear BB King live during the mid-sixties. Catch a week at the Fillmore East or West, Chicago in the mid to late sixties. The list can keep going!!

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