Widely considered to be one of the most gifted, vibrant guitarists of the current Blues era, the California soul sensation continues to grow from strength to strength, with his husky, resonant vocals and flamboyant guitar work earning him widespread critical acclaim. Electing the historic FAME studios as a recording location for his 7th and latest studio album, the five-time Blues Music Award-nominee announces himself on the grandest of stages, crafting a poignantly indulging record with the backing of a colossal all-star line-up, of which contains some of the genre’s most celebrated musicians.
As his most personal and expressive body of work to date, Heartache by the Pound confronts both grief and sorrow using Blues’ distinct healing properties, whose eloquent radiance emanates passion and soul in ways unachievable through other genres. Opening with the swanky grooves and inspired horns on “Shine A Light On Love”, Kirk immediately welcomes this newfound introspection, with the potent lyric; “I wear my heart upon my sleeve” foreshadowing the passionate and sentimental songwriting which is soon to follow. Having set the evocative tone for the album, Kirk proceeds to ignite the tracklist with his fiery, spirited performances, conveyed through enticing vocal performances and the sheer conviction of each sophisticated guitar riff. These qualities allow him to expertly construct the ambience of the tracks, such as the minimalist Blues shuffle beat implemented to reinforce the solitude of “Night By Myself”, or the delicate synth layering, and amorous slide guitar which skilfully emulate the harsh breeze of a Summer’s evening on “The Night’s Calling For You”.
Letting down his emotional guard, while utilizing every ounce of his musical expertise, Kirk delineates the excruciating pain of heartbreak through minor adaptations within his vocal tonalities, as well as subtle additions within the instrumentation. Heartache by the Pound certainly lives up to its title, with Kirk’s immersive presence capturing every element of heartbreak, from the sombre “easy to be lost, hard to be found” lyrics on the title track, right down to the disconsolate isolation of “I Can’t Find No Love”, whose agonising, wheeping guitar solo places great emphasis on the feelings of sorrow. The paradoxical “Afraid To Die, Too Scared To Live” further enhances this sense of dejection, with the huskily sang chorus emphasizing the conflicts inside a tortured mind.
But for every ounce of pain, Heartache by the Pound equally offers a glimmer of hope, with Kirk’s spirited resilience serving as a rebellious charge against the stubborn traits of heartache. This is felt most prominently on the visceral “Wrapped Up, Tangled Up In The Blues”, a track hinged on a symbolic metaphor which reinforces the healing properties of Blues music, as Kirk reaches deep into his soul, belting out the defiant lyrics; “I can’t lose”. This sense of resilience can also be found towards the back end of the album, with the welcomed change of pace on “Wildcat Tamer” and grand crescendo of the closing “Hope For Us” finding life through its dense instrumentation, shredding guitar solo and crashing symbols – all of which combine to conclude the album in epic form.
Remaining in tune with his emotions, Kirk Fletcher confronts heartbreak head-on, with his adept musicianship and evocative lyrics capturing some of life’s darker emotions. But through animated charisma, empowering guitar work, and uplifting backing vocals, Heartache by the Pound re-emerges on the other side, with Kirk’s passion and undying love for Blues music as prominent as it’s ever been.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Afraid to Die, Too Scared To Live
– Heartache By The Pound
– The Night’s Calling For You
– Wrapped Up, Tangled Up In The Blues
– Hope For Us
The Big Hit
– Hope For Us