Reviewed April 2001

michael burks
make it rain
Alligator Records, ALCD 4878
photo by: Paul Natkin

hit the ground running; got a way with women; beggin' business; what can a man do?; mean old
lady; everybody's got their hand out; thank god for fools; make it rain; heartless; don't let it be a
dream; pack it up; voodoo spell

Alligator Records is one of those labels that seem to get a fair share of blues artists who are
ready for the big time. Michael Burks qualifies. "Blues is a deceptively simple musical form.
Learning to play is fairly easy. Learning to play right is decidedly another matter. And to sing the
blues right … well, you've just got to have that mojo inside of you." Michael Burks plays and
sings with an intensity that burns.
Michael's father and grandfather were both blues musicians, and his dad, Frederick, put a
guitar in Michael's hands when he was just two years old. He made his nightclub debut when he
was just six! Michael and his older brother tore through renditions of "Hideaway" and "Frosty,"
and the audience was thrilled. "They called me 'little midget,' because they couldn't believe I was
just six years old."
T-Bone Walker, B.B. & Albert King, Albert Collins and Freddie King were the favorite artists
Michael learned to cover, and while Michael was in his teens, the Burks family built their own
juke joint where he fronted his own band and played behind many of the touring chitlin circuit
By 1994, he was ready to seriously pursue a career in music. That led to gigs at clubs and
festivals, and soon Michael was honored by the Blues Foundation with its Albert King Award.
And Michael plays a Gibson Flying V guitar!
Alligator came knocking on Michael's door. Teamed up with veteran musicians like guitarist Vasti
Jackson, of C.J. Chenier & Katie Webster fame, bassist Dave Smith (Luther Allison, Buddy Guy,
Jonny Lang, Carl Weathersby, Debbie Davies), Steve Potts, drums (Lonnie Brooks, Otis Clay,
Coco Montoya, Otis Rush), Saxophonist Jim Spake (Johnny Adams, Bernard Allison, Pat Boyak,
Smokin' Joe Kubek, Walter Trout, Smokey Wilson), Burks has a superb release.
While only three of the tunes are written by Burks, they clearly show his ability to write, and with
such an early effort, I know he'll be getting bigger and better.
Listening to Michael with his Flying V, you can hear his roots, you can feel his roots.