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.
Marquise Knox recently released his third album, Here I Am, once again recorded at the legendary Blue Heaven Studios in Salina, Kansas. It features Marquise and his band, with a little help from Wayne Sharp of Michael Burk’s band sitting in on B-3 and piano. Nine originals, and three reverent covers of Marquise’s favorite Muddy Waters tunes.
So busy was Allen Toussaint in the wake of his late-2000s revival, he didn't wind up entering a recording studio to begin work on a sequel to his 2009 jazz album, The Bright Mississippi, until 2013 (2013's Songbook consisted of live recordings from 2009). A few solo sessions happened that year, followed by a round with a band and guests in October 2015 and then he died a few weeks later, passing away in Madrid, Spain while on tour. Producer Joe Henry, who helmed The Bright Mississippi, pulled together American Tunes for a posthumous release in the summer of 2016. Tonally, American Tunes isn't much different from its predecessor, yet its elegiac elegance doesn't come from a place of despair: it's a wistful look back at his past and home.