Michael Burks' third release on Alligator Records, Iron Man, is as close to being a live album as you can get from a studio performance. This could be attributed to Burks using his seasoned road band on this date instead of the Memphis studio musicians used previously on Make It Rain and I Smell Smoke. Alongside Burks' searing Flying V strut, Wayne Sharp's greasy Hammond B-3 dominates this set, reveling in soul and rock influences, including a cover version of Free's "Fire and Water," a definite nod to the blues-rock audience Burks has gained over his 30-plus years on the road. While Iron Man is an overall inspired modern electric blues disc, a few missteps hamper the session. "Ashes in My Ashtray," penned by Chicago bluesman Jimmy Johnson, would have made a better instrumental in this particular case, as the lyrics get in the way of an intense Burks guitar performance.
A continuation of the sound established on his Alligator debut, I Smell Smoke is even more impressive than its much-heralded predecessor. While vocally Michael Burks still invites comparison to Albert King, especially on gospel-fried ballads like "Lie to Me" (the Flying V guitar he sports on this album's cover shot further reinforces the similarities between the two artists), his guitar work has become more electrified and confident. With a tone sounding at times like Eric Clapton's psychedelic work in Cream and a rugged four-piece band supporting him, this is a tough, uncompromising contemporary blues/blues-rock/R&B album that doesn't pull punches. Co-produced and mixed by veteran Jim Gaines, the sound is professional but not polished, with Burks' strong persona commanding attention. However, the songs – which are far above average – are as important as the performance. Mostly written by outside sources, Burks avoids the crowd-pleasing covers that populate his live shows, instead digging into obscure tunes such as Latimore's "Let the Doorknob Hit You," delivering them with his gutsy punch.
On May 6th, 2012, Michael Burks was returning from a European tour while his wife, Bobbie, awaited him at home. Michael never arrived; he died on May 6th of heart failure, at a mere 54 years old. It's a tragic and untimely end to a bluesman who was in his prime, as evidenced by the impassioned performance and superior songs on his fourth Alligator studio waxing. Burks' husky build was mirrored in his similarly styled vocals and meaty guitar tone, all of which are in full force throughout these dozen tracks. Like his previous disc, this features his road band whose keyboard player, Wayne Sharp, is a major component of Burks' soulful sound.
After 12 years and over 2500 shows around the world with blues master, Michael Burks on Alligator Records, Wayne Sharp is a recognizable and known blues talent on the international circuit. He's sung and played Hammond B3 organ from Australia to Russia. His last album with Michael Burks, Show of Strength, has garnered four Blues Music Awards nominations for the 2013 April awards. During Wayne's career with Michael Burks, they received 14 Blues Music Awards nominations on a total of four CD's for Alligator Records. Since Michael Burk's untimely passing May 2012, Wayne has opted to do what he has alwarys done… keep playing the blues! On this CD, Wayne's passionate vocals are finally unleashed. So in that spirit, this album represents the rekindling of a dream.