In 2019 Tulsa-based singer/songwriter Wink Burcham made his [Sidenote: This is the fourth post in our coverage of the twenty-second annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival. We’ll be alternating our reporting with essays and photo galleries from the sixteenth festival in 2013, so check in often for a mix of old and new Woodyfest goodness.] sixth straight Woodyfest appearance, performing a late-afternoon set on the Bound for Glory stage.
The thirty-eight-year-old Muskogee native looked older and considerably thinner than when I first met him several years ago. I’d been hearing rumors of Burcham going through hard times through the musical grapevine for the past year. But his frequent smiles and relaxed demeanor told another tale, that of a man in his element, momentarily at peace with the world.
It’s been four years since Burcham’s last release, 2016’s Cleveland Summer Nights, and all of the songs he performed during his set were familiar to this writer — I’ve spun them hundreds of times, at home, in the car, and in the office. Highlights included the title track from Cleveland as well as “Lay Your Burden Down,” “Made to Laugh,” and “Liquor Store,” the latter from 2013’s Comfortable Shoes.
I think most people that I know or most of my songwriting heroes have probably written from some sort of experience. And that’s all any of us try to do, from Woody Guthrie to Metallica.
Burcham’s music blends rockabilly, Piedmont blues, country, and western swing. In the tradition of the best country and folk music, the songs all tell stories, mostly tales from the wrong side of the tracks. But they occasionally turn toward the hopeful or at least contented — “The Good Ones” and “Cleveland Summer Nights” being examples of the latter. If you need a laugh, look no further than “Women Do Funny Things to Me,” the final track on Burcham’s latest. If you don’t need a laugh, go listen to the album anyway. You’ll be glad that you did.