Kirk Fletcher has a reputation in the blues world as a bonafide can’t-miss performer…he always has a band of world-class musicians, 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.
That said, I couldn’t be more excited “Live at the Baked Potato” is not just representative of a typical Kirk Fletcher show — it is Kirk Fletcher at his absolute best.
As many jazz and blues legends who have re- corded and played at the Baked Potato will attest, there’s an intimate, magical energy to the room. Kirk and his band manage to amplify it with incredible, virtuosic playing and dynamic grooves.
It’s actually hard to believe that this is Kirk’s first official live album considering he’s always tour- ing, but it seems to me that the timing is perfect the range of tunes presented on “Live at the Baked Potato” captures his evolution from the straight-ahead traditional blues of his 1999 de- but to the funk and rock influences of his shoul-da-been-Grammy-nominated latest release “My Turn.” Kirk’s clearly at the top of his game right now, even vocally as his previous records don’t showcase his beautiful, gospel-rooted singing chops as well. And his other voice, his guitar, comes across grounded and powerful whether his attack is sweet and slow or ferocious and fast.
…he has mastered his instrument to the point where he lays back and lets the music flow through him — and as a guitarist and blues fanatic myself, I know it’s rare to be that dialed-in once in your career let alone every time you pick up a guitar like Kirk!
“Live at the Baked Potato” was recorded over two nights with two slightly different band lineups, a trio and a quartet. Staying on is Lemar Carter, one of the most in-demand drummers in the country and you’ll hear why. The trio tracks have another big name in Travis Carlton on bass guitar, whose melodic sensibilities are both bold and brilliant. The quartet features the masterful organ/keys playing of Jeff Babko, almost a legend already in his young career with a musical résumé that would impress Billy Preston, and Calvin Turner appears on bass — another powerhouse player and battery mate of Lemar Carter when on tour with soul-rocker Raphael Saadiq.
Some of the album standouts include Fletcher’s dazzling arrangement of Bob- by Womack’s “I’m In Love” — the guitar intro is a testament to the breadth and depth of Kirk’s musicality and his vocals are sincerely moving, reminiscent of the late Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland.
Kirk also covers Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Lenny” with a reverent and tasteful rendition that feels con- temporary in all the best ways…his solo is dev- astating and channels (or perhaps conjures) SRV himself with searing bends that cry and wail. And Fletcher tributizes two more guitar idols with his dynamic and lush instrumental “Blues for Robben & Larry” with sinewy tones that nod to another Fletcher hero (and friend), Michael Landau.
My personal favorite cut is the closer “Ain’t No Way,” a blues-shuffle clinic if there ever was one. The studio version is a radio favorite but this 8+ minute barn-burner showcases the best of the best of the musicianship on the album and rein- forces Kirk’s status as one of the greatest guitarists in the world…the unflinching rhythm playing is amazing by itself, but his solo on this one made my jaw drop and stay dropped.
It’s a fitting way to end “Live at the Baked Potato” only because like any Kirk Fletcher show, he leaves you wanting more…
luckily now you can just skip back to the beginning and listen again from the start!
Seriously, this is already one of my favorite modern blues records and a necessary (and worthy) addition to the Kirk Fletcher discography…sure to be a future classic live album!
Kirk Fletcher – Live at the Baked Potato
1. Funnybone (Live)
2. Rockwithme (Live)
3. El Medio Stomp (Live)
4. Lenny (Live)
5. I’m in Love (Live)
6. Blues for Kleopatra (Live)
7. Congo Square (Live)
8. Natural Anthem (Live)
9. Found Love (Live)
10. Blues for Robben & Larry (Live)
11. Ain’t No Way (Live)
Website Kirk Fletcher : http://kirkfletcherband.com/