Monday, August 25, 2008

Michael Burks' Rocking Blues

Arkansas native Michael Burks muscular new Alligator album, “Iron Man,” should readily appeal to fans of modern hard rocking blues. Burks forceful string-bending on his Flying V will appeal to those who like their blues with a heavy dose of hard-rock tinged guitar, but that oversimplifies his forceful playing. Playing the Flying V, some comparisons are inevitable with Albert King, and while King is obviously an influence, Burks is a more active player. His vocals with a welcome downhome flavor in his voice actually evoke King more. The take of Jimmy Johnson’s “Ashes in My Ashtray,” is a particularly welcome performance but little fault can be found with the solid idiomatic originals such as the driving “Love Disease” that opens this set or his soulful blues-ballad “Empty Promises.” His band of keyboardist Wayne Sharp, bassist Don Garrett and drummer Chuck ‘Popcorn’ Louden are a tight and hard-hitting. While this is not the most subtle blues, they avoid heavy-handedness and complement, not overwhelm, Burks singing. Listen to his delivery on “Icepick Through My Heart” that he co-wrote and then dig his nice guitar break, and the album closes with a rocking "Changed Man," set to the Dust My Broom melody which the band swings hard. While Burks' fiery guitar will obviously be a prominent reason for his appeal, his delivery of the songs sets him apart from most of his contemporaries, as evidenced by this fine recording.

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