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Courtyard Concert Series | Wink Burcham

Wink Burcham sings “Cleveland Summer Nights” in the Courtyard and talks about music that's good for the soul.

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 SpotifyLittle 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 NightsWe 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.

Don't want to leave the Courtyard just yet? Watch Branjae and the Filthy Animals play "Tiny Chords."