Venturing beyond the genre he’s most known for and delivering a riveting travelogue, THE BLUES BAND veteran uncovers another type of roots.
Gary Fletcher has two kinds of driver in him, rolled into one. When he’s behind the wheel of a racing car, he’s fast if not furious; when he’s playing in a music group, there’s an unhurried cool to his delivery. A vehicle of the latter sort, “River Keeps Flowing” offers a different adventure, though, with the British blues mainstay in a conversationalist mode, channeling the spirit of Americana through a series of songs that are high on sincerity and low on stylistic fat, and wrapping it all in pseudo-concept for enhanced cohesiveness.
Still, instrumental mood-setters “Intro” and “Outro” aside, the only common denominator for Fletcher’s originals would be the intimate tone of his voice and lyrics, warm yet eerie and lodging themselves in the listener’s psyche from the nocturnal lace of “No Shadow On The Wall” on, until “You Can, You Can” turns the drift into a robust, life-affirming flow. This cut’s chug and the piano ripple of “You Just Can’t Know” may contrast the vast “Hearsay” whose sparse, fiddle-kissed pining echoes the Dust Bowl era, but Gary doesn’t shy away from rocking here. Also abetted by Alan Glen’s harmonica, Fletcher’s infectious slider propels “Don’t You Come Creeping” to a finger-popping take on the Mississippi idiom, while “How Do You Live?” reimagines “I Just Want To Make Love to You” for our non-apologetic times.
Hopelessly romantic in the almost-orchestral “I Couldn’t Be Asking” – whence the titular phrase came – and determined in “Something’s Got To Change” which is brazen and boisterous, Fletcher never minces words when the future has to be captured in a tuneful trap. On the contrary, delving into the past with the help of Paul Jones’ journeying harp, “Jacob Burkle” – where biblical motifs mix with topical message – must represent the album’s most immaculate trip towards a twangy country-and-western, but the transparent “It’s Just Feel” will rival it in the philosophical, and bittersweet, stakes: the result of decades-long experience.
Forty years down the line from his debut with a certain blues band, Gary turns in an immense work – all on his own terms.