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Michael Burks - Iron Man

Alligator Records

Michael Burks is a force to be reckoned with, both as a musician and a man. He makes rock-influenced blues music and does it with the kind of force and physical presence not seen in these parts since the last time Albert King played Chicago. Burks is the same kind of big, powerful man that King was and, like King, his physical presence is clearly felt in his music.

Burks puts every ounce of his being into his guitar and plays thick, muscular lines over his bands’ churning grooves. Iron Man is his third release for the Alligator label and it is the first one recorded with Burks’ road band, rather than with a group of session players, and the immediacy of musicians who have rocked the house countless times with these songs makes all the difference. Band and leader both know each other so well that the interplay is almost telepathic and the listener really gets a feel for what this stuff must sound like live.

The title of the album is taken from Burks’ nickname and it seems to fit. He is legendary for long, physically draining performances and equally long cross-country drives behind the wheel of his tour van getting his band from gig to gig. One gets the sense that Burks is one of the true believers, still under the spell of what the music can do, for his own life and for his fans.

The songs on Iron Man freely mix blues and rock sounds and are modern in their drive and energy, rather than modern in a jazz-influenced way, and still contain the heart-and-soul pentatonic content that defines the sound of the blues. “Love Disease” is reminiscent of Albert King’s “Phone Booth” without being derivative and “Salty Tears” is everything that is good about the 21st Century blues scene. Burks is all about feel over flash and his heartfelt blues will win over anyone with even a casual interest in this music.

By Mike O'Cull

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