Cleopatra Blues 2020
Unhurriedly moving towards spotlight, American artist finds a super-trouper stance uncomfortable.
“Play with my sweet guitar tone,” sings Kirk Fletcher on his fifth studio opus, updating A.C. Reed’s “I’d Rather Fight Than Switch” to reflect his own instrumental leanings – and the tone he flaunts here is honeyed indeed, and stinging too when there’s a need to drive sadness home. Laid down before lockdown and other plagues darkened artistic horizons, this album has a lot of soul-searching about it, the 45-year-old looking back on his chosen genre’s trailblazers and casting an inquisitive glance forward, as pieces such as “No Place To Go” and “Place In This World” roll midlife-crisis milestones so that they gather no moss. Which is why, perhaps, the otherwise-captivating record’s only, if major, flaw will be the strangely unemotional, but rich, vocals – something marring even the most accomplished tracks on offer.
While there’s a blinding sheen to the disco bounce of opener “Ain’t No Cure For The Downhearted” where Jeff Babko’s ivories polish Fletcher’s six-string grit, the acoustic finale of “Life Gave Me A Dirty Deal” – a Juke Boy Bonner perennial, harnessed by Charlie Musselwhite’s harp – should turn the mood around and stress Kirk’s perseverance, yet “Love Is More Than A Word” unfolds, over the course of seven minutes, a shimmering, brass-smeared balladry the American’s a master of. Not that he’s in a hurry to sing on “Heart So Heavy” whose intro solo is worth the price of admission, and the soft rumble of his reading of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Fattening Frogs For Snakes” feels nice as well, although the crunchy original “D Is For Denny” – anchored by Travis Carlton’s bass – wordlessly steals the glory from the rest of the numbers.
There’s a feeling that restoring balance in his delivery – and life – is the key to Kirk Fletcher’s ultimate success, which means it’s only a matter of time before he shines in full.