First Class Life
Mike Zito signed with the Delta Groove subsidiary Eclecto Groove in 2008. The album “Today” co-produced by David Z and Tony Braunagel was his first internationally distributed recording. The title track on his follow-up, “Pearl River”, co-written with Cyril Neville, received a 2010 Blues Music Award for “Song of The Year”.
Zito, Neville and Devon Allman formed “The Royal Southern Brotherhood”. They released three albums and received another BMA. In 2014 Zito announced he was leaving the “Brotherhood” in order to tour with his own band. Last year Zito released his thirteenth album overall “Make Blues Not War”. At this year’s awards Zito received his third BMA this time as Rock Blues Artist of The Year. He played the last set at the awards around 11 PM and announced his new album would be released the next day “in about an hour”.
Zito’s experiences producing two albums for Albert Castiglia and co-producing another for Freddie Pate have further seasoned him. On his new album Zito is less the blues rocker and more a Contemporary blues artist. Zito admits that early on, his career was almost destroyed by addiction. He credits his redemption to Delta Groove’s Randy Chortkoff and to meeting his wife.
The Mike Zito Band includes Zito, guitars and vocals; Lewis Stephens, keyboards; Matthew Johnson, drums; and Terry Dry, bass. The album was recorded at Zito’s new MARZ Studio in Nederland, Texas. Zito has written eight new songs and co-written another.
“The title track is a nod to where I’ve come from and where I’m at. It’s a rags-to-riches story, and it’s certainly true. I grew up poor in St. Louis, and now I’m traveling the world to sing my songs. In the world of excess America, I may not look “rich”, but in my world, I most certainly am. I have a beautiful family, I’m clean and sober, and I get to play music”.
The Hendrix sounding “Old Black Graveyard” is “about a forgotten cemetery of poor black Americans that has not been kept up near my home in Beaumont, Texas. Blind Willie Johnson is buried there. It’s a sure sign of racism in America and how the poor aren’t treated with dignity…a ghost story that those buried there, wreak havoc in the night”. There are two really great covers. “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treat Me)” was a single for Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1974; while “Trying To Make A Living” was recorded by Bobby Saxton in 1960 and featured Earl Hooker on guitar.
So far the songs getting the most airplay are the opening track “Mississippi Nights”; and “Mama Don’t Like No Wah Wah” co-written with Bernard Allison. “Bernard told me about his first gig with Koko Taylor. Koko didn’t like any effects on the guitar she….just called them wah wah”.
I certainly identify with “Back Problems”. On “Dying Day”, Zito sings of his love for his wife. Other songs are more topical like “Time For A Change” and “The World We Live In”.
As an artist Zito continues to grow. Today he is more expressive as both a performer and songwriter. The album’s title says it best. Zito is top class.
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