“Heartache by the Pound” is the 7th studio album by Kirk Fletcher, a blues guitarist and singer-songwriter who recorded this album at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama (where Otis Rush and Aretha Franklin once recorded). This well-respected American bluesman spent lockdown in Switzerland, writing new songs remotely in partnership with his longtime friend, the legendary bassist Richard Cousins (The Robert Cray Band, Van Morrison).
As noted in the title for this piece, this is smooth blues, wistful and easy on the ear; blues with more than a hint of the pleasures of summer. Kirk, speaking about the first single, “Afraid to Die: Too scared to Live (a track with some great drum backing from Terrence F. Clark (Robert Cray Band, Joss Stone),” said,
My family is from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and I remember visiting them as a kid. My uncle would play Little Milton and Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland. Everyone felt good. The song has the feeling of a summer barbeque in the South. Blues music comforts you. We all go through heartache, but we have people like myself who make music to help us through.
This is uplifting blues. Listening to it in the middle of an unusually hot English summer with a cool drink, it spirited me away to better times, to friendship, and all that is good when you blend southern blues with soul and a twist of gospel.
The album has a strong musical cast, among which trumpet player Mark Pender (Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul), and saxophonist Joe Sublett (Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band, Bonnie Raitt, Little Feat) ably support the guitar work of Kirk, and this can be seen infused throughout this album.
The album opener, “Shine a Light on Love,” kicks things off, and for anyone in doubt, the track has lovely backing vocal harmonies, smooth musicianship, and plenty of southern swagger.
A personal favourite would be the soulful “The Night’s Calling for You.” It speaks of the yearning for love when the one you desire is not there. You can imagine the road home as the sun begins to set, but the music coming from a late night bar lifts you up.
In contrast, “Wrapped up, Tangled up in the Blues,” is blues in that late night club of old, the drinks flow, the mood is good and the crowd sways to some classic blues guitar.
I was glad to grab this one to review. It had me swaying around the house, and playing air guitar blues. Great songs! That is all that needs to be said!
Out on July 29th, listen to the blues with a smile.
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