Michael Burks

Michael Burks
Iron Man

Alligator Records

By Brian D. Holland
May 2008

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With a title that possesses ostentatious significance, Michael Burksí Iron Man is potent blues by a powerful performer. Heís the real deal as a guitar player, vocalist, and composer. Although it may seem as though the ghost of Albert King had taken over his body and jammed a Gibson Flying V into his hands, Burks is quite unique in most respects. Moreover, itís exciting to hear a modern day performer embellish the blues with such enthusiasm and power these days.

The album is a sound and balanced flow of electric blues, both mellow and enthusiastic in style, and Burks certainly doesnít hide the fact that his technique sometimes strays way outside of stringent blues borders and into unashamed rock territory.

The lead guitar in ďLove DiseaseĒ is blazingly afire, and is matched by an authentically powerful singing voice. A solid Gibson guitar tone, yet blistering with treble highs, the V is relentlessly plucked by Burks, imposing scorching empathy throughout. Another trait that persists on the album is the solid rhythm section pushing everything smoothly along. Everyone involved appears to be having a great time while recording these songs.

In ďStrange Feeling,Ē Burks belts out a strong vocal again, this time around a dominant blues riff within a 12-bar arrangement. A potent slide guitar element dominates this one.

“Empty Promises” is a display of his slow blues prowess, one thatís colorful and full of passion. Jimmy Johnsonís “Ashes In My Ashtray” is another in this mode. The level of passion even more distinctive here, you canít help but feel sorry for the songís lyrical character. Itís one of those blues songs in which the story is so dismal that itís humorous. Itís time for this character to move on for sure. Burks gets into another scorching lead solo, showing that a real man eclipses the weak character within the lyrics.

“Donít Waste My Time” is a pleasant R&B melody with an addictive rhythmic flow. Wayne Sharpís Hammond organ adds nicely to it. Though “Quiet Little Town” is a title that might compel listeners to think Ďmellowí, itís actually a rocked up gem. In an effort to better describe the style Burks gets into here, Bob Seger came to mind when I first started listening to it.

The intro to “Changed Man” chugs along like a train barreling down the tracks, making way for a traditional blues melody with a killer guitar solo near the end.

Though Iíve yet to see this man live, from what Iíve heard he really tears it up and brings the house down. Itís easy to grasp that possibility from listening to “Iron Man.” Michael Burks is an aggressive blues performer, and his voice matches the strength he puts forth in his guitar playing. He puts all of himself into his songs.

Though itís his fourth release in the past nine years (his third on Alligator), many blues fans are finally beginning to catch on to him. Iron Man will top many blues charts in 2008.



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