Howlin' Wuelf Media
Released on Ruf Records distributed by the In Tune Music Group last month, Make Blues Not War, gets knocked out of the #1 slot on XM Sirius' Rack of Blues by... The Rolling Stones (well, hell!) and but UP to #2 on UK's Roots Music Report. The album hangs on in the Top 10 of Billboard's Blues sales chart trailing The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt and the like (not bad company to keep!)
This is blues guitar gunslinger Mike Zito's second release since leaving the mighty Royal Southern Brotherhood (Cyril Neville, Devon Allman, Yonrico Scott, Charlie Wooton). It has been getting great press coverage and I'm including a small sampling below. It's his 13th album overall and perhaps the most energetic of the bunch. I'm hoping you'll consider covering via feature or album review. Please let me know if you need a DL, CD or stream.
Produced by Tom Hambridge, Make Blues Not War showcases Mike Zito at his most passionate. It's a string of loose, in-the-moment, energetic performances of some of the most pleasurable blues you've heard in a long time.
Pay special attention to the title track. It begins with a brooding, pouting stance, then develops into a smolder and by the end it has become a vocal fire. On the rest of the album, Zito comes across like a guy who just got the keys to a new car called music; he tests and pushes it to the limit and has a blast. You will too.
Greg Victor/ParkBench.live 11/28
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.
Richard Ludmerer/MakingAScene.org 12/13
Royal Southern Brotherhood alumnus Mike Zito has a new record called Make Blues Not War. Despite that cutesy political title, Make Blues Not War is far from some kind of serious political statement. Audiences can rest easy that this is the fun southern tinged blues rock that they have come to expect from Mr. Zito.
This latest set from Zito produced by Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Joe Louis Walker, George Thorogood etc...) kicks off with the rocking "Highway Mama" and also features blues legend Walter Trout on guitar keeping pace with Zito's screaming vocals. The next couple of tracks keep the rocking blues thumping in much the same vein. The title track is a more traditional blues with Mike on slide guitar. The slow blues "Bad News is Coming" features organ and piano, and "One More Train" has some interesting boogie piano work. "Chip Off the Old Block" tells the story of Mike's son who grew up listening to the blues and features him playing guitar with his father. The album closes with boogie piano infused "Route 90," with Zito riffing away like a modern day Chuck Berry.
Make Blues Not War seems like a natural progress from Zito's work with the Royal Southern Brotherhood as well as his other solo material. If you are a Mike Zito fan then this is definitely a record that you will want in your collection.
Lou Lombardi/BlueRockReview.com 12/8
In some ways, Mike Zito's show next week at The Rude Dog Pub will be a homecoming. Although Zito grew up around St. Louis, he used to be a Cape Girardean himself.
But that was a long time ago -- more than a decade -- and the chart-topping bluesman said he was a different person then.
"I was a really bad drug addict," he said. "I mean, it was really bad; I was kind of wreaking havoc."
He left Cape Girardeau in the early 2000s, only to find himself, as they say, at rock bottom.
He described that period of his life on his blog, Bluesman in Recovery.
"Ten years ago, I did not own a guitar. I had pawned them all for drug money," he wrote in 2013. "I did not have a home, could not see my kids ... I was hopeless."
Getting clean, he figured, would mean more than giving up using. It would mean giving up music, too.
"I was so bad off, I thought, 'Well, that's fine. I need to save my life,'" he said.
Somewhere, he said, when he fell for the blues, he also bought into a dangerously misguided mythos -- that for a person to really play the blues, he had to feel the blues. And to really feel the blues, he had to be miserable, using, destitute or all three.
"You know, Stevie Ray Vaughan said the same thing ... but it's so ridiculous. That's such a crazy notion," he said. "But I was 20 years old, and all my heroes died of overdoses."
But that's not the way it works, he found.
"I learned if you're spiritually fit, you can go anywhere," he said. Now, instead of temptation, he said, rocking a bar show helps him stay sober.
"God is good, and life is weird," he blogged.
And if he's returning to Cape Girardeau with a better grasp on life, his accomplishments career-wise have been equally profound.
In November, his newest album, "Make Blues Not War," took the top slot of the Billboard blues chart over records by Joe Bonamassa, Melissa Etheridge and Eric Clapton himself.
"Today, as corny as it sounds, with the new album I'm celebrating," he said. "Now is just the right time. I'm back on my own with a blues album out, so when I saw we were going to be going through the Midwest, I said, 'I gotta go back to Cape and play.'"
Especially, he said, at The Rude Dog Pub.
"I've played at The Rude Dog so many times," he said. "It's such a great, fun bar. We've been all over, and there's not a lot of times we get to set up on the floor right by the door like that."
And while he has fans around the country, Zito said Cape Girardeau stands out.
"Everyone's so awesome to me there," he said. "It's really fun to come back and see everybody."
He said the show isn't about taking yourself too seriously.
"Sometimes music doesn't have to be so serious," he said. "Some of the greatest music we listen to is just fun."
The show will start at 8 p.m. Thursday.
"Robert Johnson. Muddy waters said it, too. B.B. King showed the world that blues is good for you," Zito sings on the title track from the new album.
And if anyone should know the positive, transformative power of the blues, it's Zito.
Tyler Graef/Southeast Missourian 12/9
That atmosphere of positivity began at the album sessions, as Mike tracked alongside Grammy Award-winning producer (and co-writer) Tom Hambridge at the Sound Stage Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. "It was so much fun," Zito remembers. "It's a completely live album, where the musicians all set up and we just hit record and went for it. The energy was awesome and sometimes we'd just be laughing so hard because it was all so intense and exciting."
As the momentum gathered, the songs coalesced with an awesome flow, Mike painting in every shade of blue, from the frantic six-string showboating of "Crazy Legs" to the growling slow-burn of "Red Bird" and the smoky slide work on "Girl Back Home." "It was time," he says, "to get back to the blues and playing my guitar. Tom and I had spoken about making a kick ass blues-rock album for years. I like having fun and cutting loose - that's what this album is all about. "Chip Off The Block" was written for my oldest son, Zach Zito, who is the featured guitarist on this track. It's his first introduction into the music world and he did a great job. I couldn't be more proud of him. He graduates college next spring and joins me on tour in summer - I can't wait."
Meanwhile in his lyrics Mike searches for the silver linings in a troubled world. "I love writing songs and sharing deep feelings," he says. Zito describes "Road Dog," the album's wistful slow-blues travelogue as, "the most serious tune on the album. It's about the drama of life on the road. I know it can seem clichéd sometimes, but it's the life I lead. I miss my family, miss my wife, but this is what I do. I always leave."
Mike has spent over two decades on the run. He grew up in a hard-scrabble, blue-collar home in St. Louis, but after an early job at a downtown guitar shop exposed him to heavyweights like B.B. King, the Allmans and Eric Clapton (then the music of Joe Pass, Robert Johnson and Blind Willie Johnson), he set out to establish himself as a working musician. By 1997, Mike had released debut album Blue Room, and seemed to be going places. "The first time you hear yourself," he recalls, "you think, 'Wow, that almost sounds like music!'"
Then came the bumps in the road. By the early 2000's, alcoholism and drug abuse were threatening to rob Zito of his livelihood and talent, a period starkly addressed on the title track from 2011's acclaimed Greyhound album. "I just couldn't stop," he admits. "And a lot of the opportunities that I had back then - they kinda went away."
Thankfully, the epiphany of meeting the woman who would become his beloved wife put Mike back on the right path. In 2012, he found fresh inspiration as a member of the A-list lineup of Royal Southern Brotherhood, then struck out with acclaimed solo albums Gone To Texas (2013) and Keep Coming Back (2015).
"I have many more hurdles to jump and more goals to strive for," he says, "but I'm very pleased and thankful with how I'm developing as an artist." This is powerfully demonstrated on Make Blues Not War, another step forward for this long-suffering disciple of the Blues. "I'm so proud of this new album," says Mike. "It's about the enjoyment I get when I listen to Johnny Winter and Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Luther Allison. Their music makes me happy and reminds why I wanted to play guitar and play the blues. To be free and honest, loud and proud. I hope everyone enjoys listening to this album as much as I enjoyed making it..."
Modern life moves fast. Rolling news. Rapid-fire tweets. A relentless barrage of (mis)information. Make Blues Not War is an album that demands you sign out, log off and turn yourself over instead to the old-fashioned pleasures of great music. "We hear about everything 24/7 now," says Mike Zito. "The news never stops and it's all become propaganda. But when you turn off the news and turn on some blues, the world is a beautiful place. I think music is the cure for all ailments. Always has been. Always will be."