At first glance, nothing in the cover photo for Duane Sikes' debut EP seems amiss.
The Paducah native stands in a field in Morley, Mo., holding a glass mosaic guitar and looking into the distance. The leaden sky in the background serves as the only indication that a few minutes after the photo was taken, Sikes had to take shelter from a tornado.
The tornado that hit Morley at 1:18 p.m. on Nov. 17 was part of the same storm system that struck Brookport, Ill. - less than 10 miles from Sikes' home - later that day.
"Every time I look at the CD cover now, I'm reminded of that storm," he said.
The musician said he didn't lose any of his friends from Brookport, but the devastation from the EF-3 tornado in the community touched him. After driving through Washington, Ill. - also ravaged by a tornado on Nov. 17 - he decided he needed to do something to help local tornado victims.
"I'm driving around (Washington) at nighttime; there are spotlights on these houses that are just ripped in half. And tears are flowing down my face, and I'm thinking, 'Lives are changed,'" Sikes said.
Sikes, who works as a publishing consultant and also runs a chimney sweep business, said he couldn't donate much from his own pocket to the relief efforts. Instead, he decided to give $1 from each copy of his EP, "Divine," to the American Red Cross' Brookport, Ill., Tornado Relief Fund.
"I wanted to bless folks, but not only with the music that was given to me," Sikes said. "I wanted to reach out to them in another way, as well."
"Divine" contains six tracks of original worship music. Sikes said his songs differ from other music in the genre because they carry the influence of pop music from the 1960s and '70s.
"I wanted it to be something different," he said. "It seems like so many songs (on the radio) are just cut from the same tree ... it's almost monotonous."
Sikes' interest in music began at an early age. Along with older brothers Doug and Dave, he began picking out chords on the guitar when he was about 12.
"When we were little kids, we would act like we were the Beatles or Elvis," he said. "My mom had tons of gospel albums, and we grew up playing in church."
Sikes never took a formal guitar lesson, but immersed himself in the music of such acts as the Beatles, The Byrds and Paul Simon. Sikes also cites Christian artists Phil Keaggy and Joe Beck among his influences.
Now 46, Sikes said he has no illusions that he'll be able to quit his day job and pursue a career in music. Bringing in money from gospel music is no small feat, he said, and he and wife Tammy have four children to support.
"I just want the music out there," Sikes said. "The main thing is, if one or two people enjoy it and are blessed, then it was worth it for me. Whether I break even or not ... I want to make sure it (the album) does something for someone."
"Divine" costs $8 and is available online at duanesikes.com. Individual tracks will soon be available for purchase on iTunes.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.
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