Michael Burks

Iron Man

This disc, the third recording for Alligator by Michael Burks, has nothing to do with the movie of the same name. The title refers to the powerfully built guitarist’s penchant for playing 2 1/2-to three-hour-long sets. The 51-year-old Burks is backed here by his own band—Wayne Sharp, organ and piano; Don Garrett, bass; and Chuck “Popcorn” Louden, drums—the guys who’ve been on the road with him for the past few years. Burks, who wrote or co-wrote seven of the 12 songs here, is a consummate singer whose soulful vocals illuminate the pains and pleasures inherent in his music. Not for him the trite warhorses favored by so many others; the blues is the human condition in 12 bars, and Burks gets right down to the bone with songs that reveal just how hard it is to be on the road night after night and maintain a relationship. “Ashes in My Ashtray” (“and I don’t even smoke … I believe to my soul there’s another man sleeping in my bed”) is one of several that deals with the theme of fidelity … or the lack of it. The titles themselves speak volumes: e.g., “Icepick Through My Heart,” “Empty Promises,” “Salty Tears”—times are tough and through it all Burks indicates he will prevail.