Issue 13-5 January 31 2019

Cover photo © 2018 Pierre Kahn


 In This Issue 

Tee Watts has our feature interview with bluesman Kirk Fletcher. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Fiona Boyes, Doran Danoff, Jim Dan Dee, Corey Ledet And His Zydeco Band, Murray Kinsley & Wicked Grin and The Second Cousins.

Our video of the week is Kirk Fletcher

We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!


 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

The Midwest has been locked in weather similar to Antarctica for the last couple of days but now some milder climes are predicted for this weekend. That is just in time for some hot Blues at this weekend’s Winter Blues Fest in Des Moines, Iowa. This one is worth the trek!

On Friday, Feb 1 the feature Woods & Arbuckle, Kevin “BF” Burt, Nick Schnebelen Band, Watermelon Slim, The Jimmy’s and Southern Avenue.

Then on Saturday, Feb 2 they have Tina & Rob, Aaron Earl Short, Heath Alan’s Iowa Blues Expo, Kevin Burt & the Corridor featuring DJ Johnson, Billylee Janey, Craig Erickson, Sam Salomone, T-Bone Giblin, and Eric Madison, Ivy Ford Band, The Soul Searchers, Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones, James Harman featuring Nathan James, Ducharme-Jones Band, Scotty & the Wingtips, Heather Newman Band, Buttercow Blues Band featuring Bob Pace, Matt Woods, and Dwight Dario and then headliners Walter Trout and Eric Gales.

That is an amazing lineup you don’t want to miss. Tickets and information are available at http://cibs.org or by clicking on their ad below in this issue.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser


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 Video Of The Week – Kirk Fletcher 

Kirk Fletcher performing “Two Steps Forward Ten Steps Back” on 1/26/19 at The Slidebar, Fullerton, CA. (Click image to watch!)


 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

fiona boyes cd imageFiona Boyes – Voodoo in the Shadows

Reference Recordings

www.fionaboyes.com

45 minutes

Fiona Boyes is the standard bearer for Australian Blues. A guitarist of unique and distinctive style, she is the spiritual love child of Hubert Sumlin and Ry Cooder. A dramatic and stylized singer, she channels the old school bombast and laissez-faire of Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie with a sprinkling of Wolf grit. In an already highly productive and awarded career, Boyes has hit a prolific period, releasing 3 records in the past 4 years. 2015’s Box & Dice was a razor sharp workout for her titular cigar box electric. 2016’s pastoral unplugged Professin’ The Blues won Blues Blast’s Acoustic Album of the Year and is a dazzlingly intimate portrait. Boyes’ newest, Voodoo in the Shadows, builds off the conceptual success of the previous two albums and delivers a diverse yet highly focused statement about the artist and her muses. Rolling through the Mississippi Delta and trying to make friends on the way, Boyes offers us a glimpse into her travel journal as she sets a high-water mark for how a Blues album can be produced.

As big and upfront as Boyes’ talent is, she is a giving collaborator who ensures her sidemen shine. Drummer Mark Gruden skitters around creating music out of all kinds of things you can bash on. New Orleans’ Johnny Sansone plays nimble harmonica and adds Cajun accordion to one track (funny enough not the song “New Orleans”). The secret weapon here is multi-instrumentalist Tim Neal. A Swiss-army knife of a musician, Neal adds pulsating bass and Hammond B3 primarily. Coupled with sprinklings of piano and even a highly effective bari-sax solo, Neal’s contributions are the perfect counterpoint to Boyes’ deeply emotive performances.

The magic of Voodoo in the Shadows is the daring arrangements. The skeletal opener “Call Their Name” is just guitar and percussion buttressing Fiona’s incantation to the ghosts of real-deal Blues past. The Latin organ trio take on “Dark and Dangerous Love” smolders. Cigar box slide mutates the classically Chicago 12-bar of “I Ain’t Fooling.” The only solo performance “Tell Your Story Walking,” which is a comfortable mode for Boyes, is flipped by the use of the electric baritone resonator instead of a more obvious acoustic guitar. These tracks eschew expectation with arrangements that serve the performances while creating a fresh listen.

Fiona Boyes is a great songwriter. She writes with a straight talk simplicity that belies depth and meaning. A song like “Don’t Leave Your Feet at Home,” (this is the song with that Cajun accordion), is such a clever and fun-loving cry to party. But it never gets hackney or overly obvious, just a genuine call to Dionysus. “With A Little Respect” is a gospel ballad about being spiritual without being a believer. This is yet another unexpected turn that breathes fresh air.

Fiona Boyes Voodoo in the Shadows is an excellent record. Worth multiple listens in part because it is clear and straightforward. The talent in the performances and the interplay of these seasoned musicians playing such stellar material washes over the listener in waves of understanding. One feels like Boyes and crew are right in the room with you, explaining the fundamentals of Blues, life and love.

Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a Bluesman based in Boston who spreads his brand of blues and funk all over New England. Bucky has dedicated himself to experiencing the Blues and learning its history. As a writer, Bucky has been influenced by music critics and social commentators such as Angela Davis, Peter Guralnick, Eric Nisenson, Francis Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr.



 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

doran danoff cd imageDoran Danoff – King of Crown City

Self-Produced, Aug 2018

www.dorandanoff.com

9 songs, 41:16

Wow! That was my first impression after slipping Doran Danoff’s latest self-produced CD, King of Crown City, into my car’s CD player. The funk was strong with this one!

Born in 1981 and growing up in L.A., Danoff is a Nashville-based singer, songwriter, composer and arranger. He’s the son of Yemenite-Israeli folk-pop singer Hedva Amrani, and his musical upbringing was rich in the heritage of his family’s Middle Eastern culture. That, combined with the influence of urban L.A. culture and American popular music, provided an expansive palette for exploration by this self-taught jazz and blues pianist. Danoff began his career playing in local underground bands in the L.A. scene, where he honed his chops across a wide assortment of genres, from classical to soul to R&B to hip-hop. Making his way to New York City, Danoff went on to study Musical Composition at Columbia University, eventually receiving a graduate degree in Composition and Film Scoring from New York University. The combination of his innate musical talent with his extensive study of theory and composition has made for an eclectic, energetic blend of soul and sophistication that is both invigorating and pleasing to even the most jaded listener.

For the material on his 4th CD, Doran had, a few years ago, tracked 6 of the album’s 9 songs live-to-tape in the now-defunct Crown City studios in Pasadena, CA, with his full band and a very tight 3-piece horn section. He never got around to doing anything with these tracks until a few years later, when he shared the raw tracks with a friend who encouraged Danoff to finish them up and get them out into the wild. In the interim, he’d been working on some new songs, and decided to combine all these efforts into an album release. So, after some additional tracking, mixing, and mastering, the result was what we now know as King of Crown City. And a wonderful stew of vintage funk, soul, gospel, R&B, and jazz it has turned out to be!

The musicians are all top-notch, and have put together some astonishingly tight performances. The L.A. band features Danoff on keys and vocals, along with Nick Rosen on bass, Shay Godwin on drums, Zachary Ross on guitar, as well as Tim McKay, Wes Smith, and James Blackwell on horns. The New York band featured on Young Love includes Danoff, Taylor Floreth on drums, Scott Metzger on guitar, and Jay Foote on bass. The Nashville horn section includes Fredrick Weathersby, Stefan Forbus, and Vernon James.

From the funky bass riff that opens the opening track, “So Bad” (co-written with Nashille producer Tony Esterly), it feels a little like James Brown got together with the Family Stone and Prince for an all-out jam at Stax’ Memphis studios. Which is to say, a righteous, soulful, musical blast! With crisp percussion, tight horns, and a catchy chorus, it announces that this record will have some serious funk on it!

The second track, “Amazed,” a song about disillusionment after being hurt by someone close to him, has an ‘Otis Pickett’ (or is that ‘Wilson Redding?’) vibe that took could easily have been produced back in the late sixties.

“Young Love” channels Motown by way of the Philadelphia soul sound of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Fred Wesley, the trombonist of James Brown’s band and Parliament-Funkadelic, once described the signature sound of Philly as “putting the bow tie on funk.” And that definitely applies here, in this tale about trying the navigate the intertwining complexities of youth and love.

“Winning” features crisp drumming, tight horn arrangements, outstandingly rhythmic guitar work, great hooks and a memorable chorus… It feels familiar, in spite of being completely original… one of those songs you’d swear you’ve heard before, but can’t quite place where or when.

“Lady Be Good” is a mid-tempo New Orleans-style rocker, and tells a story is about a World War II plane, The Lady Be Good, which disappeared without a trace on its first combat mission during the war, only to be accidentally discovered more than a decade later in the Libyan desert.

The piano-driven minor-keyed “Dr. Solution” continues with the New Orleans influence, and has almost a vaudeville character to it, with a dash of Professor Longhair and Mac Rebennak (a.k.a. Dr John) thrown in for good measure.

“Gertrude’s Blues” is a straight-ahead 50s-style rocker of the type you might associate with Brian Setzer.

“Queen of Hearts” draws its theme from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and the risk of going too deep into your own imagination. It features some very tasty guitar work.

The closing track, “Over the Roll,” has a rootsy Americana feel, which lends itself well to the song’s theme that hope and love can help us through the challenging times.

Bottom line? The bands and performances are incredibly tight and will have you tapping your feet from the very first note. Danoff’s songwriting and arranging are top-notch, his songs are lyrically interesting, and his distinctive voice sounds both fresh and yet familiar.

Folks who appreciate bluesy, old-school funk and soul will not be disappointed. In addition to a healthy dose of funk and soul, King of Crown City contains – to my ears, at least – traces of a wide variety of influences, from 50s rock and roll, to old-school R&B, to Broadway musicals, to gospel, to early Van Morrison, and even the Beatles (particularly the McCartney side of things). But no matter how you look at it, if you like funk, soul, and old-school R&B, you need to check out Doran Danoff’s King of Crown City!

Reviewer Dave Orban is a technology marketer by day, musician/artist/educator by night. Since 1998, Orban has fronted The Mojo Gypsies, based in the greater Philadelphia area. http://www.mojogypsies.com



 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

jim dan dee cd imageJim Dan Dee – Jim Dan Dee

www.jimdandee.com

Self-release

11 songs – 38 minutes

Toronto-based Jim Dan Dee released an EP, Five Stiff Shots, back in 2015, but this self-titled release is their debut album. Recorded at RHC Music in Toronto and engineered by Ross Hayes Citrullo, who captured a magnificent sound, it’s a relatively short album, with all 11 songs lasting only 38 minutes. There is no filler or fat however in what is a very enjoyable modern blues-rock album that nestles at the rockier end of the blues-rock spectrum.

The core band comprises James “Jim Dan Dee” Stefanuk on vocals and guitar, Brian McCarthy on bass and backing vocals, Jason “Bobby” Sewerynek on saxophone and Shawn Royal on drums. They are joined by guest artists Jesse Karwat on keyboards and “Sweet” Jules Cordosa on backing vocals.

McCarthy and Royal lay down a series of solid grooves throughout the album, particularly on the slower tracks like “Stand By My Woman”. Stefanuk and Sewerynek share out the lion’s share of the solos between them (Karwat turns in a neat organ solo on “Trying To Get Somewhere”), with Sewerynek also adding fine fills between the vocal lines of songs like “Killer” and “Just Cuz”. Stefanuk is an excellent guitarist with a lot of blues in his playing, but he is also happy play the rock guitar god on tracks like “Walking Shoes”. He is moreover an expressive singer, varying his delivery well. While usually singing in an endearingly ragged baritone (indeed, his performance on the harder rock of “Trying To Get Somewhere” recalls the marvelously frayed roar of Waysted’s Fin Muir), the lovely soul ballad “Just Cuz” sees Stefanuk adopt a surprisingly effective and affecting falsetto.

The majority of tracks lean towards mid-paced rock or 60’s-style soul ballads, although “When You Move Like That There” is based off the old John Lee Hooker “Boom Boom” groove (albeit a very modern blues-rock treatment of the riff). The blues always underpins everything, however, so that even the threatening rock groove of “Killer” is tempered by Stefanuk’s bluesy electric slide guitar.

One of the subtler joys of Jim Dan Dee is Cordosa’s glorious backing vocals. Her voice meshes well with Stefanuk’s, and adds real emotional power to tracks like the gospel-rock opener “Save My Soul” (which also benefits from more searing slide guitar from Stefanuk).

There is not a huge amount of background information provided in the press release that accompanied the album nor on the website, but all 11 songs appear to be self-penned (or, at least, they were not previously familiar to this reviewer). They are however uniformly well-structured, with a mature grasp of dynamics as the band moves easily from a whisper to a roar on tracks like “Treat Me Right” or on the vocal and drum breakdown in “Save My Soul”.

Jim Dan Dee isn’t a blues album, except in the broadest possible sense. Rather it is a soul-rock-roots album with a lot of blues sensibilities. Think of Colin James’ rockier moments or George Thorogood singing “pretty songs”. It is however a very exciting, very enjoyable release that suggests a bright future for Jim Dan Dee.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.



 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

corey ledet cd imageCorey Ledet And His Zydeco Band – Accordion Dragon

www.coreyledet.com

11 songs time-40:22

Corey Ledet ties in his love of the martial arts with his music christening himself as an Accordion Dragon, dragon being a positive term from Asian culture professing that you are a master of your art. On this his 10th CD, Corey and his chums present a solid program in the Zydeco tradition with Corey leading the way via his proficiency on the “squeeze box”. His cracker jack band provide the necessary oomph to prop up Corey’s playing and singing. As is the case in Zydeco as a rule lyrics assume a secondary position to the largely dance music. Although the band can slow down the pace with equal skill. Corey realized his dream of adding horns to his sound by including a two piece horn section on this endeavor. All songs are originals mainly by Corey except for collaboration on one song.

The opening “Intro” has Breannah “Yannie” Richard reciting the virtues of a “Dragon”. A lion’s roar emulating a dragon leads into “J’ai Parti Dans La Campagne”, the only song here sung in French. Nothing like a zesty Zydeco dance number to get things going. Upbeat dance tunes are pretty much the bread and butter of a good Zydeco band and these guys surely know how to butter the bread, but I digress. “Dragon’s Boogie” is a moving and grooving instrumental, one of four on this disc. The horns bolster the lightning fast accordion runs of the master dragon. The slower instrumental “Erika Potier’s Waltz” features lovely accordion alongside the prominent melodic bass playing of Axel.

Aside from mainly “I’m Going To Mom Sue to dance the boogaloo”, “Mom Sue” is an instrumental romp until the “Party people in the house” yadda, yadda, yadda shtick near song’s end. The peppy dance floor tune “I Never Meant To Fall In Love” includes “Yannie” on vocals along with Corey. Pretty infectious stuff this song. “Muscle Zydeco” is an accordion-drum workout. Corey goes it alone with his trusty accordion on the bluesy instrumental “Dragon’s Blues”. We have a winna! The guys go out in grand zydeco style on “Push And Pull” a song about his desire to push and pull his “squeeze box” all night long. It’s essentially a excuse for the band to strut their stuff. A rare occasional for Julian Primeaux to execute a skittering guitar solo of sorts as opposed to his usual rhythm guitar duties.

Their ya have it folks, a guaranteed good time zydeco party. Yeah you right!

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.


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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

murry kinsley cd imageMurray Kinsley & Wicked Grin – Murder Creek

www.wickedgrin.ca

Phoenix Records

10 songs time – 48:35

Murray Kinsley & Wicked Grin bring blues-rock from Ottawa, Canada featuring Murray’s blistering guitar skills and gruff vocals. The musicianship is fine, but the lyric writing department is the weak link here. Tired clichés and road sagas galore. Wicked Grin consists of Rod Williams on harmonica, Leigh-Anne Stanton on bass and Bruce Saunders on drums. They are all more than competent on their given instruments. The guests that provide keyboards, horns, percussion and background vocals are of the same caliber. Murray is an inventive and energetic guitar man.

Perhaps the strongest track is the driving “Trouble Coming”, a song that was written in reaction to the Parkland, Florida school shooting that occurred while the band were writing and rehearsing this CD. Rod’s harmonica burns here along with Murray’s slide guitar. Another worthy track is “Take Me Down” were the narrator seeks repentance for his boozing life. The harmonica and guitar playing are outstanding here.

Murray utilizes a nicely textured guitar tone on “So Long, Too Soon”, a tribute to artists that have left us too early. The title song is a murder saga based on a true story with a little artistic license thrown in. Jesse O’Brien contributes rollicking piano to “My Own Way”.

Murray’s skill as a guitarist can’t be denied. His playing has a driving and earnest quality to it. This along with Rod’s blistering harmonica set against a rock steady rhythm section are the saving grace of this CD. Maybe a few choice lesser known covers and some outside writing would make this a stronger outfit. With a little tweaking this crew could produce some really forceful and meaningful material. Here’s wishing them the best.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.



 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

second cousins cd imageThe Second Cousins – Bloody Tears

www.burrobeat.com

Burro Beat

13 songs – 55 minutes

Bloody Tears is the debut album from The Second Cousins, a band composed of some highly experienced musicians in Switzerland. The name of the band comes from the fact that the band’s co-founders, Cla Nett and Kurt Bislin, having played in various different competing Swiss blues bands for many years, were surprised to discover during a conversation one evening that their grandfathers were actually brothers, making them literal second cousins.

Nett and Bislin share the singing and guitar playing duties on Bloody Tears, with muscular support from the rhythm section of Markus Halmer on bass and Bernie Ruch on drums. Beth Wimmer also adds backing vocals to three tracks. The result is a solid set of electric guitar-driven, rocking blues, with 11 originals together with covers of Taj Mahal’s “Done Changed My Way Of Living” and Johnny Littlejohn’s “Bloody Tears”.

The album is primarily based around burly mid-paced shuffles such as the opening Texas-style shuffle of “31st Of July”, or the Elmore James-esque title track, with Nett and Bislin’s overdriven guitars to the fore. “Train Down South” has hints of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s blusier moments, while the lighter side of the band comes out on the entertainingly swinging “I Ain’t Got Enough”. There are tips of the hat to Magic Sam in both the start of “Boogie Fever” (which then heads in a harder R’n’B direction à la early Dr Feelgood) and in “All My Love” riff in “Believe Me”. The pace is slowed only on the grinding “I’m Scared” and “Bound To Go”, while “Mean And Evil” has a slightly funky groove. Two of the more interesting tracks, however, are the slide-driven “Sailed To Dixieland” and the country-esque “Handle With Care”.

Ruch and Halmer lay down a series of solid grooves throughout, and Ruch in particular has some lovely moments. The focus of the album however is very much on the blues-rock guitars of Nett and Bislin. Both men sing with husky, road-worn bellows and their guitar playing is not dissimilar. It is refreshing however to hear blues-rock guitar players exercise some restraint and taste in their note choice (as well the number of notes they play).

Bloody Tears was engineered by Little Konzett at Little Big Beat Studios and Konzett captures a great sound throughout.

It is clear that The Second Cousins are a talented band and no doubt a great act to see live. If there is a criticism of Bloody Tears, however, it is in the uniformly brawny delivery of the songs, which results in a sense of monotony after a few plays, not aided by some overused lyrical themes such as trains leaving stations and mean and evil women mistreating the protagonist all the time. A greater use of dynamics or subtlety would raise the music to a different level, as evidenced by Wimmer’s harmony vocals on “Done Changed My Way Of Living”.

Bloody Tears is definitely worth investigating if you like your blues played hard and loud but it’s difficult to shake the sense that these musicians can produce something more accomplished.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.


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 Featured Interview – Kirk Fletcher 

kirk fletcher photo 1Upon connecting with Kirk Fletcher, I had to let him know that I think his latest release Hold On is fire. The playing is super clean, with no muddled notes or sound. From the opening track, Two Steps all the way through his tribute track to Cornell Dupree to the end of the album. Joe Bonamassa says Fletcher is one of the best guitarists in the world.

The accolades and nominations are pouring in for the guitarist. His stint as lead guitarist of Kim Wilson & The Fabulous Thunderbirds, in addition to his performances with Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin and James Cotton, as well as his collaborations with Charlie Musselwhite and others, have vaulted him to the head of the class of current trend setting Blues and R&B guitarists. In a free ranging discussion with Blues Blast, Kirk expounded on his world of music and career.

“Blues and soul are similar to me, you know? I don’t mean Soul music. I mean being soulful. When I hear Blues that are soulful, I can feel that.” So states Fletcher, the Southern California raised son of a preacher man, who spent a considerable amount of his formative years in Compton.

“You know, I’m actually from Lakewood, California, kind of a suburb, close to Long Beach. I spent a lot of time in Compton though. My father’s church was in Compton and I lived there for a lot of years. People took the Compton part and ran with it. Oh, he’s from Compton!”

And yes, he did dabble in other genres before settling on the Blues. I asked him about any connections to Hip Hop.

“During that time, I was plugged into it a little bit. I would do like, little guitar parts for people who had beats and stuff. I was in that scene for just a short while. Those were just the times. In the ’90s, everybody played guitar and had a MPC60 and did samples. I didn’t do anything major. I had friends that were really into it. My brother and his friends. I was more into songs; R&B, Blues and Gospel.”

Kirk started following in his brother’s guitar footsteps at age eight, playing in their father’s church. It was a Pentecostal Church of God In Christ, from where many a musician has honed his or her chops. Sly and Freddie Stone, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole and Michelle Shocked have all been members of a COGIC Church at one time or another.

Unfortunately Kirk’s brother passed away some years ago. Before he passed he took young Kirk to an L.A. music store, Guitar Works. It was there he met Robben Ford’s guitar tech, Jeff Rivera.

“Yeah, my buddy Jeff and I are still friends to this day. From the time I was about sixteen. By the time I graduated high school, I was going to Guitar Works every day. I mean, every day! I was also playin’ four and five nights a week in church as well as little side gigs. So I was pretty much a regular guitar player, whatever that is, you know, playin’ lot of music and practicin’ all the time.

“Luckily Jeff, Robben Ford’s guitar tech would hire me as an extra set of hands to help with the setup of everything. I got to see a lot of rehearsals, recording sessions and gigs around L.A. whenever Robben had something. Robben didn’t even know I played until later on. Robben and I are pretty good friend now.”

Another stepping stone in Kirk’s career was Al Blake, lead singer and harmonica player of the Hollywood Fats Band.

“Al Blake is very much responsible for exposing me to a lot of obscure Blues artists. The whole Blues spectrum, really. He showed me how to play in different positions and styles like Country Blues. The differences in styles between for example, the Jimmy Rogers/Muddy Waters style. The Luther Tucker/Robert Lockwood, Jr. style. And the Louis and Dave Myers style. He introduced me to so many other West Coast Blues artists and taught me about the interplay between harmonica and guitar. I could easily identify with the call and response aspect of it which is what we did in my father’s church.

kirk fletcher photo 2“Today when I play, I try to let everything go and let the music take over. It comes from playin’ on the road. I try to be a pretty spiritual person in general without getting too religious. I let that flow through my music. And I’m a fan first. Of B.B. King, Albert King, Luther Tucker, Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Dawkins. So I try to make it exciting for people as they did and do for me . I really try to impart that into my guitar playing.

“The mark of a good night is not how well I played, but actually how much I played for myself, how I got in the moment, even how I mess up. It’s like, I can break through and make something happen in the middle of a gig or something. I think where that started was when I began doing gigs under my own name, playing music that I like. When you are playing for an audience and they can feel it, it’s an earth-shattering moment. When I get to play with my heroes it’s earth-shattering too. When I was younger, being friends with people like Kim Wilson, Rusty Zinn and Billy Flynn was really advantageous. They understood that I was a younger cat and hadn’t had a chance to play with a lot of the older guys. There were like, ‘Cool man, we’ll make it happen.’

“I believe the first time I played with Pinetop was maybe at Antone’s Blues Club in Austin, Texas. It was one of those Blues Anniversaries and Kim made that happen. It was like the Muddy Waters Blues Band and different guitar players would come in and out. That was the kind of thing where the young musicians could play with the older ones. Clifford Antone was always doin’ that in his club. I think that’s where I got to play with Hubert Sumlin and Mojo Beauford in addition to Pinetop the first time.

“Another time I was playing with Rusty Zinn at a Blues Festival that I think was in Wisconsin where I got to play with Pinetop again, one of several times. I talked to him about the old days. He told me how he started out as a guitarist but injured his hand in a knife fight which is why he switched to piano. I also found out that he loved McDonald’s as comfort food!”

As Kirk Fletcher seemed fully comfortable as we talked shop, I decide to take a fun turn with him. I ask him to briefly respond to guitar players I randomly name. Here are his responses:

James Armstrong- “I definitely know who he is.”

James “Super Chikan” Johnson – “Yeah. Absolutely. I just don’t know that much about his musical work and it’s not because he isn’t fantastic. It’s just there aren’t enough hours in a day to study all the great ones sufficiently.”

Freddie Stone – “Oh man! Know you done…Oh my God! Freddie Stone. I mean that’s like textbook guitar right there. One of the first people to bring that church, changa langa, scratch guitar amalgamation of Black music in Sly & The Family Stone. I listen to them probably every day. Freddie Stone is one of my all time favorite guitar players.”

Jimi Hendrix -” Oh man. Jimi Hendrix. It’s like I’m still learning stuff. It’s a never ending book with him. He’s been there for my whole life and I’m sure his music will rule in my head forever. He touches so many levels. When I was young, it was all about the fantastic guitar work and the sounds being so innovative and fresh, even in the ’80s and ’90s. And now, it’s like the whole package; the songwriting, the way he progressed from the chitlin’ circuit to the world stage. Amazing. So he’s like ground zero for me.”

Keith Richards – “Oh my God. Keith Richards is amazing. I mean his songwriting, his complete ensemble playing, the encyclopedic knowledge of all the music before him. He’s not some drunk, druggy guy. He’s a serious musician, a serious scholar of music. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him.”

kirk fletcher photo 3Shuggie Otis – “Oh man, Shuggie Otis and Sly Stone are people I probably listen to everyday. Shuggie was and is so innovative and ahead of his time. He’s a serious Blues guitar player too. Him and Sly were a lot of the inspiration on my latest record too. Just trying things and taking your own path and not letting anyone tell you what to do. That’s what Shuggie did. He had the chance to let Quincy Jones produce his record, but chose not to. I figured if he could do that, then I better get going. Big inspiration all the way around.”

T-Bone Walker – “Aww man. Textbook. I mean, the guy deserves a lot of credit. The Father of electric guitar. There were people before him, but that single note style and bending laid the groundwork for B.B. King who is probably my favorite all time Blues guitar player. When you think about it T-Bone Walker was like the Black Elvis or Sinatra. I really like those pictures of him playing while doing the splits with Lottie The Body soaring over him.”

The gear discussion also comes up. Kirk reveals his current penchant for experimentation.

“At the moment I’m playin’ a lot of different guitars. It’s kind of a new thing. I’m trying to marry the beautiful Gibson warm sustain tones with others, for various reasons. So right now, I’m either playing a 335, a Les Paul, a Strat or a Tele. In the studio the Tele seems to work really well. I guess it’s kinda the ultimate roots guitar. A lot of my favorite tracks were recorded using a Tele or 335 so, I don’t know. A lot of my friends have played Strats and I don’t like all of them. Next week it will be something different out of those four. Amp wise, if I can, I usually use some kind of Fender reverb. Preferably an old Fender Super Reverb. I still have my Super Reverb’s in L.A.”

These days Kirk lives in Switzerland, but comes into L.A. several times a year. I asked, how he came to live in Switzerland.

“Man, my woman and playin’ a lot. I was already comin’ over here a lot to play and actually met my girlfriend several years ago here. We reconnected a few years ago. The timing was right. My daughter was in college, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ I like it. I go back to L.A. every few months so I’m really kinda back and forth. It does take some getting used to though cuz I miss my friends. The way of life in Switzerland is really cool. With the rail system going to so many countries, gigging and touring is easy.”

As far as the press accolades and heavy praise being heaped upon him, Kirk Fletcher keeps a level head. As January 2019 closes, he is in L.A. doing a few gigs in the wake of his appearance at the NAMM Convention. Then it’s back to Switzerland to get ready to hit the road in Europe followed by Joe Bonamassa’s Blues Cruise.

“Man, I don’t know about all the heaps of praise in the press. It’s nice to be recognized for what you do and I appreciate it. You read some of it and use it to get gigs, to make some sort of living playing music. I’m glad that I’m in a position to be talked about, period. Other than that, I don’t really look at it in a competitive way and I don’t think they mean it that way. I think what they mean is you are a musician that moves people. I think of all my buddies that I would put on that list; Chris Cain, Jr. Watson, the list goes on and on. The more known I get, the more I can talk about all the people I love. Hopefully, it’s a win, win for everybody.”

Visit Kirk’s website at:http://kirkfletcherband.com/.

CyberSoulMan Tee Watts is music director at KPFZ 88.1 fm in Lakeport, California. His radio show, The CyberSoulMan Review airs Tuesday afternoons from 3-5 PST. He is road manager for Sugar Pie DeSanto, the last Queen standing from the glory years of Chess Records.

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Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Monthly shows on the second Saturday of each month at Hope and Anchor English Pub on N 2nd St in Loves Park, IL. They are 2/9/18 Mike Wheeler Band, 3/9/19 John Primer, 4/13/19 The Cash Box Kings and 5/11/19 Corey Dennison Band. All shows 8 PM to 11:30 PM.

First and Third Friday’s feature the Blues at the Lyran Society Club on 4th Avenue in Rockford and a great fish fry, too! The schedule is 2/1/19 Sistah Beth Blues, 2/15/19 Recently Paroled, 3/1/19 Hobson’s Choice, 3/15/19 Milwaukee Slim with Billy Flynn, 4/5/19 Dave Fields and 4/19/19 Oscar Wilson and Joel Patterson. No cover, 7 pm to 10 pm.

Chillicothe Public Library District – Chillicothe,IL

Legendary blues artist John Primer and the Real Deal Blues Band will present “The Blues According to John Primer,” a high-energy Chicago blues show, at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, February 10, at Chillicothe Public Library, 430 N. Bradley Ave., Chillicothe, IL 61523. The concert is free (donations appreciated). Attendees are encouraged to stay for a post-concert talk and Q&A with Primer about his musical life and experiences.

John Primer is a legend among blues artists: a two-time Grammy nominee, he helped to build the sound and style of Chicago blues over his decades-long career with his strong traditionalist blues phrasing, seasoned rhythm and blues vocals, and lightning-fast slide guitar techniques. Having played or recorded with a “Who’s Who” of blues greats, Primer’s personal accolades, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, reflect his countless contributions to the history of Chicago blues.

For more information, please visit www.chillipld.org or call 309-274-2719.

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society continues holding two Blues Jams each month. Thanks to Pipa’s Pub, 604 S. Country Fair Dr. in Champaign for hosting these jams held the 2nd Sunday of each month from 4 to 7 pm and the 4th Wednesday of each month from 7 to 10 pm. The host band plays the 1st set and then it’s open to all the jammers in the house.

In February the Blues Deacons will host and Sunday March 10, we welcome back Robert Kimbrough Sr. Robert is the youngest son of Junior Kimbrough and put on an amazing show at the 2018 Prairie Crossroads Blues Fest. Bring your instrument. For more info visit: www.prairiecrossroadsblues.org.

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances held every Monday night at the Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.

Feb 4 – Michael Charles, Feb 11 – David Lumsden’s Hues Of Blues Band, Feb 18 – Emily Burgess, Feb 25 – The Rockin’ Jake Band, Sunday, March 3 – Johnny Rawls plays the 7th Annual Randy Devillez Blues Celebration, March 4 – The Nick Schnebelen Band For more information visit www.icbluesclub.org.

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society proudly announces its February Blues Bash on 10th February, 2019, featuring Lipbone Redding. A one-man band, Lipbone has shared the stage with many of the greats and is sure to entertain. Note that the date has been set back one week so the Super Bowl wouldn’t have to face the competition

The event will be held at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205. Doors at 7:00, music at 8:00, to be followed by an open blues jam. Admission is free for current members with a card and just $5.00 for non-members.

Like last year, we continue to collect non-perishable foods and household supplies for Loaves and Fishes. 1 Can? I Can!

Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau,WI

To celebrate 20 years of the Blues Café, we will be kicking off the weekend by hosting a 20th Anniversary Party, Friday, March 8 at the Rothschild Pavilion (near Wausau, WI). Doors will open at 5:30 pm, with Howard “Guitar” Luedtke getting things started at 6:30 and Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys taking the stage at 8:30.

Friday admission can be bought the night of the event for $5 and is included with all Saturday Blues Café ticket, which will be available to purchase at Friday’s event.

Saturday’s Blues Café lineup includes the Mark Cameron Band at 1 pm, the Ivy Ford Band at 3 pm, the Cash Box Kings at 5 pm, the Danielle Nicole Band at 7 pm, and Ronnie Baker Brooks at 9 pm. Doors will open at noon. We hope you can join us for a weekend of great music, and to celebrate 20 years of good times at the Blues Café. For more information, visit gnbs.org.


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