new release Archive

A tUnE-yArDs Extra

I recently engaged Merrill Garbus of Oakland-based indie group tUnE-yArDs; our conversation was the basis of my recent feature in SF Weekly. But a few of the topics we discussed didn’t make their way into that feature. Here, then, are highlights from the rest of our interview. – bk What are your current thoughts regarding

Different by Design: tUnE-yArDs Get Comfortable Being (a little) Less Weird

When Merrill Garbus made Bird-Brains – the 2009 debut recording from her Oakland-based project tUnE-yArDs – part of what earned the album critical plaudits was its quirky, offbeat character. Eleven years and five albums later, tUnE-yArDs returns with Sketchy. And at this point in her career, Garbus and her primary collaborator, bassist Nate Brenner, feel

Tower of Power: Towering Achievement, Powerful Homecoming

Tower of Power celebrates a half century of funk & soul with new live CD+DVD recorded in Oakland When Emilio “Mimi” Castillo launched Tower of Power with fellow sax player Stephen “Doc” Kupka, he never imagined that the Oakland-born soul-funk-r&b group would still be going strong 50 years later. And while members of the lively

Album Review: Alabama Slim — The Parlor

When key rock musicians acknowledged their debt to blues figures in the 1960s, many of those bluesmen found themselves with a new and younger audience. Their belated wider recognition came just in time, as many were well into their middle years or beyond. Now, a half century later, most all of the blues giants have

Album Review: Selwyn Birchwood – Living in a Burning House

Even before the shrink wrap is off Selwyn Birchwood’s third album, it’s telegraphed that the package represents a more serious offering than what has come before. From its title to the photo of the steely-eyed guitarist, Living in a Burning House establishes a vibe miles away from the youthful, smiling Birchwood of his 2014 major-label

Kirk Fletcher’s Pathway to (and Through) the Blues, Part Five

Continued from Part Four … Fletcher celebrated his 45th birthday in December 2020; that’s still relatively young to be taking a look back at one’s life journey. But in some ways – though he clearly has many years ahead of him – that’s what My Blues Pathway represents. The ten-track release on Cleopatra Blues stands

Kirk Fletcher’s Pathway to (and Through) the Blues, Part Four

Continued from Part Three … I’m Here & I’m Gone was Fletcher’s attempt at making what he calls “a sort of business card, so I could get gigs.” Looking back on that record, he believes that he wasn’t quite ready to make an album. “I can hear my youth and my love for blues, but

Kirk Fletcher’s Pathway to (and Through) the Blues, Part Three

Continued from Part Two … When Fletcher was 13, an affiliated congregation invited him to play guitar with their youth choir. He recalls thinking, “Okay, someone wants me to come join something else. It’s not just at the church where my parents and everybody I know is.” He looks back on that opportunity as an

Kirk Fletcher’s Pathway to (and Through) the Blues, Part Two

Continued from Part One … Even as he grew to adulthood and launched a career as a professional musician, Fletcher would remain in California – not in Compton, though – for many years. When he wasn’t touring, he could be found back in the Los Angeles area; his daughter was born and grew up there.

Kirk Fletcher’s Pathway to (and Through) the Blues, Part One

An edited version of this feature was published previously in Living Blues. Frequent Blues Music Awards nominee Kirk “Eli” Fletcher is known as a lead guitarist, but he considers himself a “born accompanist.” That perspective is in large part the product of his musical roots, playing electric guitar in gospel church services led by his