It’s such a privilege that next week we have the truly exceptional blues guitarist, Kirk Fletcher coming to Farnham Maltings. Don’t worry; you’ll be excused for not knowing exactly who he is as he has only just moved away from The Fabulous Thunderbirds to take centre stage with his supreme talent. Read on to find out more on his gospel roots in Southern California, starting off performing in Church every week from the age of 8 to now performing on a European tour with his very own band.

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 is also the frontman of his own Kirk Fletcher Band, having released three studio albums and a live album. A fourth studio album is currently in the works.

Early years

Kirk first picked up a guitar at age eight, playing alongside his older brother Walter in their father’s church. It wasn’t just a gospel influence that Walter shared with Kirk, but an appreciation of many musical styles from Jimi Hendrix to Steely Dan. One of the most important lessons Kirk received from his brother was about having great guitar tone, something Kirk is known for today.

One day he found himself in a small L.A. guitar shop, Music Works, which ultimately became his second home after meeting Jeff Rivera, Robben Ford’s guitar tech. “We started hanging out and I would help load gear, change strings and just be a fly on the wall to some of the most amazing music I’ve ever heard,” Kirk remembers.

The sound of Robben’s guitar will ring in my head forever. This was a very important musical time for me because I had nothing to do but play guitar.”

Kirk’s blues

It was in the next few years that Kirk’s full introduction to traditional blues occurred. He started seeking out other musicians who shared this same understanding – enter Al Blake, lead singer and harp player for the Hollywood Fats Band. After hosting dinner every Sunday, Al would offer Kirk early 20th Century blues records as dessert. He also helped establish connections to other famous West Coast blues artists like Junior Watson and Richard “Lynwood Slim” Duran. So followed Kirk’s first gigs as a blues guitarist and eventually the recording of his first album I’m Here & I’m Gone for the JSP label out of England.

Al Blake would also introduce Kirk to Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, who invited him into his then-project, Kim Wilson’s Blues Revue. Wilson brought Fletcher further into the blues family from California to Texas and then out touring the world. One highlight during this time was at Antone’s Night Club 25th Anniversary Week in Austin, Texas, which gave Kirk the opportunity to perform with his blues heroes Pinetop Perkins, James Cotton and Hubert Sumlin. Wilson also tapped Kirk to play on his Grammy-nominated Smokin’ Joint live album. Shortly thereafter a call to collaborate came from blues legend Charlie Musselwhite, confirming that Kirk was becoming one of the most in-demand blues guitarists on the scene.

“This is where I really developed my own sound and Charlie was cool with me being me,” recalls Kirk. It also brought about his second solo recording titled Shades of Blue for Delta Groove Music. Timing couldn’t have been better to explore these shades of blues as Kirk collaborated a who’s who of blues players on the project, including singers Kim Wilson, Janiva Magness and Finis Tasby. Little did Kirk know that the timing would also line up for an open guitar slot with The Fabulous Thunderbirds around the same time.

His turn

So began three years on the road with the Thunderbirds. Kirk contributed to the Thunderbirds’ Paint It On album and time spent with many famous blues artists along the way, including a brief stint with the late Doyle Bramhall Sr. and a few guest appearances playing for Cindi Lauper, Michelle Branch and a world tour with Italian mega-star Eros Ramazzotti.

His third album entitled My Turn released on the Eclecto Groove label was his boldest statement yet, it was also Kirk’s first vocal performance. It allowed him to grow and explore as a musician and songwriter steeped in tradition yet unafraid to break new ground. Since then he has been singing and leading his own Kirk Fletcher Band.  He self-released live album Burning Blues was recorded live at the famous Baked Potato in Studio City. Currently he is writing and recording his next studio album.

Tickets are still available for Kirk’s gig here on Fri 30 September and can be booked here.

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