The blues world is still in shock and a state of mourning after the tragic, unexpected passing of blueman Michael "Iron Man" Burks at the age of 54 and today his label announces plans to release his final album Show Of Strength on August 21.
Burks had completed the record and was returning home from a European tour when he collapsed and died at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta on May 6.
Burks' passing comes just as the hard working bluesman was gaining career momentum and traction with a nomination as Guitarist Of The Year at the 2012 Blues Music Awards. He drew accolades beginning with his Alligator debut Make It Rain and the future seemed so very bright for this immensely talented, powerful performer. He wrote or co-wrote five of the 12 songs for what will be his final album, left in tact as Burks and his label planned it prior to his passing.
"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," said Alligator Records president Bruce Igualer. "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."
I never personally encountered Burks in any of my blues travels but I remember the shockwaves that went through the tightknit community as word spread, the sheer disbelief and agony that followed. Burks' many fans and friends would have celebrated news of a new record and still will but this will be different. We'll enjoy the thrill of his great talent but saddened by the knowledge he's no long with us, that this is the end, but Igualer is right that his music and spirit live on and we'll be reminded of how special that gift is.