Wink Burcham

Wink Burcham is an old soul with a song craft that belies his age.  With a genuine reverence to the past, this Tulsa, OK artist has a knack for writing witty, heartfelt lyrics that immediately pull the listener into his stories, ala John Prine or Townes Van Zandt.  The music easily slips between old-fashioned country, grass-roots folk, and Piedmont-style blues and is an important part of the New Tulsa Sound movement. 

He’s recorded and performed at the legendary Church Studio, once owned by Leon Russell and the home of Shelter Records and was a semi-finalist at the 2013 International Blues Competition in Memphis, TN. He’s shared the stage with artists such as Dan Bern, Pokey LaFarge, Martin Sexton, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, The Gourds, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Jimbo Mathus, Dale Watson, and many others. Wink has steadily toured and built a solid fan base in Europe since 2014, with his latest release, "Cleveland Summer Nights" reaching top 10 on the Euroamericana Charts for 4 months.

His latest release runs the gamut from the sweet, country-tinged nostalgia to melancholy Prine-like pickin’ and wordplay to the humorous, blues-driven, hip-shaking, double-entendres. The aching darkness of “For the Ones We Leave Behind,” highlights Burcham’s soulful vocals, lyrical talents, and versatile musicianship. With a generous nod to the past while both feet remain solidly planted in the present, Burcham writes fresh, relevant tunes for a modern audience that evoke the authenticity and skillful songcraft of an earlier time.

All releases are available from Horton Records and can be found on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, Spotify, etc or at hortonrecords.org or hortonrecords.bandcamp.com. Catch Wink live and be a fan for life. Cheers from Tulsa!

Discography

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Members

  • Wink Burcham
    Pic of Wink Burcham
    Role / Instrument:
    guitar / vocals
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Media

Photographs

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  • Europe 2015 v2
  • Europe 2015
  • This Land
  • Phil Clarkin Photography
  • Release shows
  • Wink Poster
  • wink busking for OKM

Video

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Press

Courtyard Concert Series | Wink Burcham Wink Burcham sings “Cleveland Summer Nights” in the Courtyard and talks about music that's good for the soul. BY JOHN LANGDON Wink Burcham talks about music being therapy; that there’s a song for whatever you’re going through, good or bad. In the title track of his new album, Cleveland Summer Nights, Burcham reminisces on youthful innocence, spending summers with his cousins in Cleveland, Oklahoma, and that going back offers more than just a physical escape. He sings, “Burn the tread right off the wheel/If anybody asks just let ‘em know/I didn’t like the way this city feels/I’m going to Cleveland to find my soul.” We all have a Cleveland, whether it’s an actual place or a feeling of something simple and good. And though we can’t escape down Highway 64 each time we’re feeling at odds with the world around us, a song can bring a piece of Cleveland with it. And that’s often enough. Burcham recently stopped by our Courtyard to play songs from the new record. With Stephen Lee on guitar and Christopher Foster on bass and backing vocals, Burcham led us to a place where things don’t move so fast and the daily drudge is just a fading image in the rear-view. Burcham will celebrate the release of Cleveland Summer Nights at a show on Friday, July 1 at Soul City, starting at 9 p.m. with an opening set by John Fullbright. You can also catch Wink every Tuesday at Mercury Lounge. First song you learned to play: It was either [sings the guitar riff from The Doors' “Love Me Two Times”] or it was [sings the riff from Nirvana's “Come As You Are”]. I don't remember which one was first. I had a neighbor, a little girlfriend of mine in sixth or seventh grade. She knew the whole Nevermind album. She played left handed and I'd just mirror what she did to learn licks, and that opened the doors for sure. My uncles all played country and western music, so it was a quick second. It kind of ran in the family. There was a period where it was like I never wanted to hear another country song. But then you get a little older and realize what it was all about and come back to it. Last song you played on Spotify: Little Feat's version of “I Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow” by Hank Williams. It’s a really rockin’ version of that from ’78 or ’79. Lowell George and his crazy-loud-slide-distortion stuff, just so cool, and his soulful voice. Desert Island Disks: Into the Mystic by Van Morrison, Okie by J.J. Cale, Sneaker by Paul Benjaman. Either that or any kind of Hank Williams Sr. Greatest Hits would be a good one to have, because you’re gonna feel down and lonesome out there on a desert island by yourself. Best show in Tulsa, ever: Steve Pryor at the Dusty Dog. When he was on, it would just pour your soul out. It’d give you goosebumps. Most memorable show you've played: We did a J.J. Cale tribute at Fassler Hall, right after he had passed. It was memorable to me ‘cause it was all these younger guys with the original Tulsa Sound. Jamie Oldaker’s there, Jim Byfield’s there, Jimmy Markham and Pryor, Rocky Frisco, Don White, Steve Hickerson, and Brad James. All these older cats that we all look up to, then me and Paul, Dustin [Pittsley], Jesse [Aycock], and [Jacob] Tovar. But there’s been so many. I remember every single time Tom Skinner called me on stage for Science Project like it was yesterday. I could tell you what song I played, who played with me, who sang harmonies. I could tell you what Tom said to me before I started playing like it happened five minutes ago. Dream Venue: I’d love to play at the Ryman Auditorium [in Nashville]. But also, several years ago I went to a show at the Brady Theater—my friend was working and got me a ticket. It wasn’t necessarily a show I’d go to see; I think it was Seal and Macy Gray. But it was free and I thought, “Macy Gray’s band is funky and I’d like to see them play.” I was completely stone-cold sober, and got kicked out. I’ll never forget the woman who was head of security. I’ll never forget her name. I won’t say it, but I’d love to sell out the Brady Theater one day and find out if she’s working, and if she is, ask her to leave. It left the worst taste in my mouth. I’ve always loved the Brady Theater and loved seeing shows there, and I remember thinking, “Man, if this was a John Prine show that I payed to get into, they’d be taking me away in handcuffs ‘cause I wouldn’t be leaving.” So Ryman and Brady. An influence outside of music: My father is a big influence on me. He’s here today. We’re best buds, ya know? I feel fortunate to have him. I’m 34 now, and by the time my dad was 30, his dad had passed. We talk about that all the time. He couldn’t call him up and talk about day-to-day struggles. I’m fortunate enough that if I wanna call and talk or vent, I can call dad up and talk about the day. It’s good therapy, to be able to talk to your dad about stuff. Cleveland Summer Nights: We recorded it live. Went to Fellowship Hall Sound in Little Rock, AR, and Jason Weinheimer, the engineer over there, just set up all the mics and we just played it like we play a show. Recorded live to two-inch tape. We did “Wide River to Cross” by Buddy Miller, which is a song I learned from Tom Skinner. There’s a couple on there that are like re-recordings that I had put on an acoustic album and I wanted to do full band versions of them as well, and then some brand new stuff. Music is: everything. It’s every trial and tribulation I’ve been through. I can find a song for every moment I’ve been through in my life. Especially on a John Prine record. I think that guy wrote most of my life. I don’t want something to put me in a mindset, I want something that gives me peace of mind. I listen to music that kind of sums up everyday life. Talking about dad that works at the factory and Uncle Marvin who worked at the steel mill. Music for everyday people. Like Woody Guthrie. Music for the common man. That’s the kind of stuff that gives you peace of mind and becomes good therapy for you. Music is therapy. It helps me get through the day. And that’s why I do it: to help other people get through the day.

— The Tulsa Voice (Jun 29, 2016)

I reviewed Wink Burcham's previous recording, a compilation of his first two studio albums, on this site last year and was absolutely captivated by the quality of his music, ultimately making the recording one of my favourite albums of 2015. In fact it came to mind that last year's review, on which I didn't mention any songs individually, could in many ways be superimposed onto the review of this new recording. Then, after further listening sessions it struck me that if 'Cleveland Summer Nights' warrants any kind of rethink it would have to be that the incredible quality of his earlier music has actually increased by at least a 'notch' on this tremendous album that will most certainly be vying for the upper echelons of many 2016 'Albums of the year' lists. Wink is a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, an area that has been producing talented musicians for a very long time, the first ones that I was aware of being the late great J.J. Cale and Elvin Bishop. There are even more modern day artists from the area who are making people sit up and take notice such as the wonderful Carter Sampson, John Moreland (maker of my album of the year 2014), The Paul Benjamin Band, Jacob Tovar and the Saddle Tramps, Dan Martin and Wink himself, along with numerous others, as well as being home to some excellent indie labels such as Horton Records; fairly obviously a thriving roots music scene. As with his previous recordings, the thirteen songs on Winks new album all create a powerful and varied impact with his vocals being the glue that binds everything together. There is a mix of blues, country and folk although no genre is dominant; it is more a case of Wink's natural style having plenty of each and the blend being so good that whilst styles may be recognizable on individual songs they are not overwhelmingly so. The albums opening song, Case of the blues, is a case in point with its easy going blues feel, excellent guitar sound and lovely warm expressive vocals from Wink, alongside a chunky bass and percussion. In some ways it is a song that epitomizes the laid back 'Tulsa sound,' musically if not lyrically and yet it is more a blend of blues with any number of disparate elements that are brought together to form a virtually indefinable genre. The title song Cleveland Summer Nights, is an absolutely gorgeous ballad that includes steel guitar alongside some excellent guitar playing with Winks expressive vocal perfectly evoking a laid back story. In so many ways it is an almost classic modernization of country balladry. There is another tempo change on Hallelujah (gonna rest my soul), a swampy funky tale with solid percussion and deep bass allied to the 'Tony Joe White' swampiness and the addition of brass that, rather than spoiling things, emphasizes the diversity that can be found within the wide boundaries of 'country music.' Whilst there is a warmer melodicism to Winks vocals, I'll never leave the honky tonks in so many ways provides a thread that goes back to the classic honky tonk recordings of Hank Williams and some of the greats of the late 1940s and early 50s, both in style and quality. His vocals are as usual excellent as is the instrumentation, particularly the steel guitar on this modern day honky song. A pervasive dark sadness hangs over For the ones we leave behind another excellent song, and one on which the darkness is emphasized by the arrangement, which at the same time has a beauty and a warmth that again adds variety to a tremendous album. Cowboy heroes and old folk songs is another gorgeous country song, this one approaching a mid tempo that has a little western swing in it. It is a composition that Wink has returned to on several occasions with the song having been the title track of 2015s compilation and could almost be referred to as a classic 'country and western' song. Cale Tyson and Sturgill Simpson are justifiably said to be the new stars of the edgier side of 'real country music.' Why no one has spoken about Wink Burcham in the same way completely beats me. He is certainly their equal and given the profile that his tremendous recordings, particularly this one, deserve I'm pretty sure that anyone hearing him will agree.

— American Roots UK (Jul 1, 2016)

This tremendous, thirteen song album of classy song writing, warm evocative vocals and excellent playing is actually a compilation of tracks from Wink's previous two albums, 'Comfortable shoes' and his debut 'Irene Vennie.' The idea behind it is to break him in the UK and the rest of Europe, something that should be a piece of cake judging from the quality of everything on this disc and indeed, those first two albums. This Tulsa native plays an edgy brand of country, folk and blues, all performed with a tremendous depth of soulfulness and plenty of variety, with a seamless blending and any one of the various genres to the fore but not stylistically exclusive. He is the possessor of a vocal style that hasn't really been bettered in the broad roots music field, varying from an easy going warmth to a raw deep intensity dependant on the songs requirements. Whilst he doesn't possess the classic country voice of a Cale Tyson or Sturgill Simpson, the quality of songs and vocals are a match for those two but with more variety in song styles and his appealing vocal timbre. His song writing has a descriptive grittiness that roots the stories in the real world, drawing sympathy and in most cases an understanding from the listener that just a few others are able to achieve. Atmospherically those stories range from slow and moody to deep and dark then to a speedy mid tempo and on to a lovely lightness but always with a versatility and stylistic fluidity that sets him apart from most of his peers. Any comparisons are, at best, tenuous but fellow Tulsa native, the late great J.J. Cale comes to mind as far as ploughing his own musical furrow goes, as does the also late great Gene Clark. There is a much larger stylistic area covered by Wink Burcham than by Cale but the strong individuality is there for all to hear. Whilst other than in terms of quality there are few similarities to Clark he does inhabit a similar generically ambiguous area to him albeit with more of a country, and sometimes blues, leaning. His vocals are warm, but there is a distinct and appealing edge to whatever he sings, with his voice being the glue that binds the diverse styles together, something that signals a talent for whom there are few if any limits to what he can and does attempt; all so far successful, at least artistically. My advice would be to buy his first two albums, both of which are readily available because I guarantee that if you buy this excellent 'compilation' your next purchases will be that first pair. Like me you can then bask in the glory of having discovered a rare talent!

— American Roots UK (May 27, 2015)