Legend-in-the-making Husky Burnette storms out of the studio
On more than one occasion I have referred to Husky Burnette as one of the hardest working men in show business (I’m not the only one either.) At first glance it seems like a throwaway line, a re-purposing of James Brown’s famous nickname that has become rather cliché.
I don’t actually know if Burnette is THE hardest working man or not, but he is easily one of the hardest working musicians I have ever known, and I’ve known plenty.
That earns a great deal of respect in my book, particularly at a time when it seems like there’s a whole generation of genuinely talented musicians whose exceptional ability is exceeded only by their ability to whine about virtually every single aspect of the music business.
I’ve got news for you kids, it doesn’t matter if you’re the greatest guitar player to ever come out of Whitwell—if you aren’t committed to busting your ass non-stop, you aren’t going to survive.
Burnette is a survivor.
Crisscrossing the country, gigging non-stop, and writing whenever there’s a scrap of paper handy, Burnette has honed his considerable skills to a razor’s edge and the proof is in his latest release, Ain’t Nothin’ but a Revival!
The eleven track album is scheduled for release this Friday at Chattanooga’s Brew and Cue and somehow Burnette has managed to outdo himself yet again.
The first track, “Best I Can”, opens with a nasty riff that for tone and hook could be Billy Gibbons at the height of his prowess. If you’re one of those unfortunate souls who only knows Billy from ZZ Top’s radio hits, do your homework. He was the young man Jimi Hendrix predicted would be “the next great guitar player.” He’s currently ranked number 33 out of the top 100 guitar players of all time and Husky Burnette has his number. The whole tune is a scorcher.
“Kick Rocks” is the next tune and doesn’t let up on the intensity in the least. To the contrary, an absolutely wailing harmonica throws gasoline on the blaze leaving us to wonder yet again, “Why the hell isn’t Burnette already famous?”
The album follows up with “36 Degrees,” a sweet, thoughtful ballad that builds to an anthem-like crescendo and demonstrates just some of the diversity of the talent on this disc.
“Pay by the Hour” is a sleazy, slinky little tune that once again demonstrates wicked mastery of the harp. A little Tom Waits, a little Dr. John, the tune reeks of the back alleys of New Orleans and the particular brand of fauna found there (although the subject matter is actually quite universal.)
“Chicken Grease” is an unexpected treasure on the album. Again, another song that reminds me of Waits inasmuch as it has an experimental feel, comprised of nothing but Burnette’s vocals and a percussion track that sounds like found items (including what sounds for all the world like a really big hunk of iron to me…) Dirge-like, it is like a cross between a chain-gang work song and some swampy, voodoo ritual.
“Dog Me Down” features a blistering duet between Burntte and Bethany Kidd that, despite my having given up smoking years ago, makes me feel like I ought to have a cigarette when it’s all done. Powerful, primal stuff.
For all of his own technical prowess and virtuosity, Burnette is smart enough to have assembled an all-star team to realize this particular vision. In addition to regular members Yattie Westfield and O’Neal Dover, both highly respected musicians, this album features guest shots from J.D. Wilkes (of the Legendary Shack Shakers) on harmonica, Andy Gibson (who performs with Hank 3) on lap steel, and the aforementioned Bethany Kidd (Chattanooga diva) on vocals. Gibson engineered the album while local powerhouse performer GA Brown mastered the tracks.
Beginning to end, the album is simply a masterpiece. Perhaps the simplest and most honest thing I can say about Burnette in general and this album in particular is this: I used to love the blues, but it’s a genre that has been done to death and you have to wade through a sea of mediocrity to find anything really interesting anymore.
Burnette and company have made me love the blues again. This album is hot, these cats are phenomenal, and I will say yet again, they’re going to be famous.
The album will be available this Friday and is a must-have.
Cover photo of Husky Burnette in this week's issue is by Tams M. Higgins, www.facebook.com/AlchemistsArtisans