Make Blues Not War
Mike Zito worked ten years at a downtown St. Louis guitar shop where an older employee taught him an appreciation for The Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton and B.B. King. He released “Blue Room” his first independently produced album in 1997. Follow up albums included 1999’s “America’s Most Wanted”; 2004’s “Slow It Down”; and 2006’s “Superman”.
Zito acknowledges that there were “bumps in the road”; that he previously had bouts with alcoholism. Many of his songs are about redemption and Zito credits much of his recovery to meeting his wife.
Zito came to the attention of Delta Groove’s Randy Chortkoff who was just starting the Eclecto Groove label. Zito’s first internationally distributed album “Today”, co-produced by David Z. and Tony Braunagel, was released in 2008. The follow-up recording “Pearl River” included the title track co-written with Cyril Neville. That song won “Song of The Year” at the 2010 Blues Music Awards. Zito’s 2011 “Greyhound” also received a BMA nomination.
Zito, Neville, and Devon Allman co-founded “The Royal Southern Brotherhood” in 2012; and together they released two studio albums and one live recording resulting in another Blues Music Award. In 2013 Zito formed a new band “The Wheel” and released “Gone to Texas” on the Ruf Records imprint. By 2014 Zito announced he was leaving RSB in order to tour with his own band.
This is Zito’s thirteenth album overall and second studio recording since leaving RSB. His last album was 2015’s “Keep Coming Back”. The band on this new recording includes Zito, guitar and vocals; producer Tom Hambridge, drums; Tommy MacDonald, bass; and Rob McNelley whose credits include both Delbert McClinton and Bob Seger, guitar.
The opening track “Highway Mama” features the screeching guitars of Zito; McNelley and special guest Walter Trout. Zito’s vocal is equally commanding. Keyboardist Kevin McKendree is featured on both piano and B-3. It is the first of five songs written by producer Hambridge and his regular writing partner Richard Fleming. Other songs written by them include “Redbird” with some fantastic drumming from Hambridge; “On The Road”; “Girl Back Home” with great guitar from Zito; and “Chip Off The Block” featuring Zito’s son Zach on guitar “the apple don’t fall far from the tree”.
Zito has written the delta styled title track “Make Blues Not War” with Hambridge. It features Jason Ricci, winner of the 2010 BMA for “Best Instrumentalist – Harmonica”. Ricci appears again on the Rolling Stones sounding “One More Train” co-written by Zito with both Hambridge and Fleming. The trio has also written “Wasted Time”; the humorous “Crazy Legs” and the autobiographical “Road Dog”.
There are also two great covers. “Bad News is Coming” was written and recorded by Luther Allison and is the title track off of Allison’s 1973 Motown Records album.
“Route 90” was written by Clarence J. Garlow, a.k.a. “Bon Ton” Garlow whom also authored the classic “Bon Ton Roulet”. “Route 90” was previously recorded by both Johnny Winter on his 1985 “Serious Business” recording and by Gary Primich on his 1995 album “Mr. Freeze”.
Zito’s guitar work is always great and his vocals are the best they’ve been. Zito states “when you turn off the news and turn on the blues the world is a beautiful place”. This fine blues rock album is sure to win Zito some additional accolades.