Show of Strength

The music world suffered an irreplaceable loss last May when bluesman Michael Burks passed away, due to heart failure, at the age of 54. Burks was nicknamed the “Iron Man,” due both to his propensity for playing lengthy, high-powered sets and his sturdy build and intense playing style, so it still seems incredible to realize that he’s gone. Show of Strength is his fourth CD for Alligator and serves, as label honcho Bruce Iglauer put it—“not as a memorial … but as a living, breathing statement … from Michael’s heart and soul.” Four of the songs were written by Burks, with the bluesy “Little Juke Joint,” that commemorates his family’s club out in the Arkansas woods where he got his start, being the most autobiographical. Others deal, yet again, with the eternal struggle to maintain or develop a relationship—e.g., “What Does It Take to Please You?” a bouncy item that catalogs the things he’s done to accomplish this goal, and “Take a Chance on Me, Baby,” on which he spots a woman being mistreated by her man and offers to take a chance on her if she’s willing to reciprocate. The disc closes with Charlie Rich’s “Feel Like Going Home,” a moving song about the end of life that turned out to be eerily prophetic.