Show Of Strength
Show Of Strength is Burks at his peak, exploding with fierce guitar and soul-charged singing, and shot through and through with the immense strength and spirit of this modern-day blues hero.
"Diamond-hard blues rock and powerhouse blues that strike like a hammer blow." - Billboard
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It's almost impossible to believe that this will be the last album from Michael Burks, the Iron Man of the blues. The final mixes had just been completed while he was on a European tour, and they were waiting for him at his home. He never got a chance to hear them; this gentle giant died suddenly of heart failure on May 6, 2012, at the age of 54.
Michael was so proud of this album, his fourth for Alligator. He and I both believed that it would be the one that finally propelled him into the top echelon of blues musicians, where he certainly deserved to be. He had been poised for that position for almost a decade, earning ever-increasing fame with his blistering gigs and soulful recordings. He might have gotten there a lot sooner, but in his 20s he had chosen family over career. He had put away his guitar for years while he raised his beloved daughter Brittney in their southern Arkansas hometown of Camden. It was only when she was a teenager that he returned to his music and hit the long, dues-paying highway toward what passes for stardom in the blues world. From local and regional gigs to national and international club and festival stages, Michael's reputation and fan following was built one sweaty, hours-long gig at a time.
It was in Camden where Michael first honed his music, playing from his very early teens in his family's juke joint, The Bradley Ferry Country Club. He already had a blues bloodline; both his father and grandfather were bluesmen. Michael was very proud of his musical heritage. It wasn't easy to get him to talk about himself, but he could talk all night long about the bluesmen and women he had played with and idolized, and, above all, his first teacher-his father, Frederick Burks.
Working with Michael on four albums, seeing him burn up bandstands across the country, hanging out with him backstage, attending his late-night barbeques at the campground at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas and visiting Michael and his wife Bobbie at their home in North Little Rock, I got to know not only Michael Burks the bluesman, but also Michael Burks the man. I saw firsthand his devotion to his family (he would stop each recording session nightly to phone his wife and his grandchildren), his loyalty to his friends and band members, and his "Iron Man" work ethic (often driving his own van hundreds of miles before unloading his own gear and delivering three or four hours of non-stop music). Michael was not only a top-quality bluesman; he was a top-quality human being.
It was my decision to leave this album as we intended it, not as a memorial to a friend and bluesman gone, but as a living, breathing statement, sent straight from Michael's heart and soul. Although Michael is not here, the music he recorded is indeed his show of his immense strength and spirit. It will live on, confirming forever his status as one of the greatest bluesmen of his generation.
Thanks: I'd like to thank everyone who helped Michael in the course of his career, but the list would be too long. Among the many who deserve to be recognized: Frederick Burks and the whole Burks extended family; Hugh Southard and the entire staff of Blue Mountain Artists; the whole gang of Michael's fans and friends at Alligator Records, especially his close friend Chris Levick; all the musicians who were part of his band over the years, most of all the longtime members (and his dear friends), Wayne Sharp and Chuck "Popcorn" Louden and newest member Terry Grayson; the good folks at the King Biscuit Blues Festival; Sam Veal and Mitch Harbeson of Springing The Blues; Wightman Harris; Jim Gaines; John Hahn; Dr. Tim Wilkin; Larry Carter; Massimo Piccioni; all of Michael's Camden friends and family, including the moonshiners, cab drivers and patrons of The Bradley Ferry Country Club; The Blues Foundation; and above all his beloved family: Bobbie, Brittney, Bryaryiah and Trendon Michael.
Michael Burks Guitars and Vocals
Wayne Sharp Organ, Piano and Background Vocals
Terrence Grayson Bass and Background Vocals
Chuck "Popcorn" Louden Drums and Background Vocals
Roosevelt Purifoy Keyboards on "Feel Like Going Home," additional keyboards on "24 Hour Blues" and "Take A Chance On Me, Baby"
Scott Dirks Harmonica on "Little Juke Joint"
Produced by Michael Burks and Bruce Iglauer
Recorded and mixed by Blaise Barton at Joyride Studios, Chicago, IL
Additional engineering by Brian Leach
Mastered by Collin Jordan and Bruce Iglauer at The Boiler Room, Chicago, IL
Photos by Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve
Packaging design by Kevin Niemiec
Alligator logo designed by Michael Trossman
Michael Burks wished to thank: Bruce and the crew at Alligator; Blue Mountain Artists: the guys at 65 Amps; Dr. Z amps; Tim White Pickups; Voodoo Pickups; EMG Pickups; Guitar Center of Fayetteville, Arkansas; Doug Kauer at Kauer Guitars; Graph Tech Guitar Lab; D & R Strings; Blaise Barton and Brian Leach for engineering this record; Tim Wilkin; Rene Martinez; John Hahn; Myles Rose; The Legendary Blues Cruise staff and Cruisers; Massimo Piccioni of Break Live Music; Sticky Fingers in Little Rock; The DJs at public radio station KABF in Little Rock and all of our friends at radio, magazines, newspapers and venues around the world, and especially our FANS.
Michael also wanted to send a very special "Thank You" to very special people in his life-My Family: Pauline Burks; Bobbie; Brittney; Bre-Bre; Trendon; Travis; Aunt Ida; Sonny (Bono); Samantha; Spooky; James; Mama Pat and Budass. Our Friends: Tina and Larry Carter; Deb and Chuck; Shay and Quicksand; and E. Beck. The Members of Camp Red Devil-they know who I mean. The band: Chuck "Popcorn" Louden, Wayne Sharp and Terry Grayson.
Thanks also to Dave Specter for the use of his "fat" guitar on "What Does It Take To Please You?" and to Rick Estrin for bringing us "Can You Read Between The Lines?"
Chuck Louden thanks: Mike and the guys for the experience of playing with them, and thanks to Mike for sharing the music and being a friend, a big brother and also my boss-it's a rarity to have all that wrapped up in one person. I also want to thank Porkpie Drums and Audix Microphones and Regal Tip Drumsticks. And thanks to Alligator Records for everything you did for Michael and the band along the way during our travels together.
Wayne Sharp thanks: His family and all his friends, and a special "thank you" to Michael for giving me the opportunity to share in the magic and the healing power of playing the blues around the world. May God bless him. Peace.
Terry Grayson says: I just want to say "thanks" to Mike for giving me the chance to play with the band. I've learned a lot in such a short time. Thanks, Mike. You will forever be missed. Love you.