Not falling into a sophomore jinx syndrome has aided Michael Burks in
creating another soulful affair in "I Smell Smoke," his second release for
Without straying too far from his original blueprint, Burks crafts a piece
of work coming off the assembly line from the Albert King factory. Songs of
soul wrapped in searing guitar notes. The title cut lives well up to its
name as organist Ernest Williamson lays rhythmic cushions for Michael's
dexterous chops. Williamson sounds right at home in church as his organ
nurtures a gospel feeling for the pained "Lie To Me." And if you aren't on
the dance floor yet, be prepared as Michael lays down the funk in "One More
Chance." Burks' playing makes all notes count and not wasting space.
While the blues may come from Burks' hands as he caresses notes from his
Flying V, the exposure to gospel and Motown sounds have also influenced
Michael in his artistic direction. Slow soul drips out of "Time I Came In
Out Of The Rain" making the playing more passionate giving instruments ample
room to breath. "Hard Love" features stinging guitar notes coming out of
Albert King music books. The rhythm section pushes Burks into a swamp rock
blues neighborhood of "Miss Mercy."
He is not without humor. Burks lays it on the line and tells his soulmate to
"Let The Door Knob Hit You" and bids adieu with joyous vocals and
razor-edged guitar leads above the band crescendo. "Snake Eggs" is just
Michael and harmonica player Billy Gibson alone. A down-home song with
corny lyrics that's electrified Delta material coming from moonshine hill
country. But the serious side of Burks is not abandoned when he opens his
heart in "Willing To Crawl" that pledges devotion within a framework of
soul, rock and blues architecture.
The work he does for Alligator Records is a blessing no doubt. His live
shows are legend. Both sets clock in at an hour and a half each. Seeing
Michael Burks on stage will silence any skeptics out there in the audience.
And if you don't have his work, you might buy a cd after the first set.
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