It's hard to believe that 2017 will mark 20 years of Mike Zito into the music business. His 1997 debut album Blue Room seems such a distant memory, still, that was an album that sounded so fresh back then as it does now.
Perhaps there are no real secrets about the power of longevity of any of Mike Zito's albums, because every body of work that he produces it comes from the heart and soul of an intelligent, articulated and, most importantly, incredibly talented artist.
These last 5 years have seen Zito reaching a success after another. His 2013's highly acclaimed album Gone To Texas saw him soaring high again in the blues charts worldwide, then came that very inspired and successful music project called Royal Southern Brotherhood until 2015, when the American Blues Hero decided to leave the Brotherhood and dedicate himself to write one of the most poignant and personal album of his music career called Keep Coming Back.
In a spectacular year of blues music releases as 2016 has been, Zito couldn't miss the opportunity to make another of his unique musical statements by releasing his brand new album called Make Blues Not War. This is a record that sees an artist so much at ease with himself and his music that the whole music offers that comes through Mike Zito's new album take a full advantage of the artist's current state of mind, giving to the record a phenomenal leap forward.
Through Make Blues Not War, the American Guitar Maestro takes the listeners to a complete musical journey through all the places where he lived, the music he grew up with and his all-time Music Heroes. His lyrics are sharp and muscular, exactly as it is his guitar and they are a true reflection of the positive moment of the life and career Zito is living right now.
Recorded completely live in Nashville, in true Zito's style, with producer, co-writer and also drummer on the record Tom Hambridge, Make Blues Not War draws a complete circle of Zito's artistry. There is the blues, there's the rock, the boogie, even touches of soul on this sparkling and beautifully constructed record.
Highway Mama, the album's opener, is a clear homage to Freddie King's style with echoes of 70's rock of the early Zeppelin. Zito is absolutely devastating on guitar and so is one of his old fellow music friends and role models Walter Trout, special guest on this song that feels like a runaway train of blues/rock of the finest level.
Make Blues Not War, as previously mentioned, is a statement in music of everything that inspired and still inspire Mike Zito's artistry. There are traces of Stevie Ray Vaughan in Redbird, one of the most fascinating and inspired songs of the whole album. Zito and his thunderous Rhythm Section made by Hambridge on drums and Tommy MacDonald on bass offer a touch of their musical chemistry and extravaganza by totally improvising the closing part of the tune on the spot and lifting the whole tune by an extra notch through the last 90 seconds of the song.
Another fine moment of this really majestic album comes from the record's title-track Make Blues Not War. Zito's heart beats at the same rhythm of this tune, a tune that brings fond memories of the late great Muddy Waters. Having said that, though, the mood, the energy of the tune, umistakebly, musically and lyrically, is all about Zito.
The Guitarist and Singer/Songwriter does not just fully respect his music heroes but also the places in America that so much influenced his eclectic background. There are clear Chicago Blues vibes on tracks like Wasted Time and Chip Off The Block, (the latter seeing also the music debut of Zito's son Zach on guitar), or the raucous boogie sounds of cities like St. Louis (One More Train) and New Orleans (Route 90).
There are two songs of the album deserving a special mention, only because they portray beautifully Zito's scintillating music form and deep understanding of the blues at 360 degrees. Girl Back Home is vintage Zito, through a phenomenal performance on slide guitar on this Americana style tune while Road Dog, a highly emotive blues ballad, sees once again Zito's unique capacity to tell tales of the hard life on the road in a way that very few artist of the current blues generation are able to do.
Make Blues Not War is an album that, despite being recorded with Zito's traditional immediacy, it's executed with high brilliancy by every musician present on the album. Together with Hambridge and MacDonald, Kevin Mckendree on piano, wurlitzer and clavinet does a stellar job throughout the whole album and also Jason Ricci, another special guest of the album, provides a very fine musical support on harmonica on a couple of the songs of the album.
Last but not least, there is Mike Zito's voice. A voice that can be sometimes passionate, hard, raucous but it can also become warm, softer, more gentle, still carrying all the values and cores of a true bluesman through and through like Zito is.
"I am a Road Dog, All I ever do is live", is what Zito sings in one of the finest moments of an excellent record as the new Make Blues Not War is. A record that gives us music lovers the work of an artist at the top of his game and one of Zito's finest hours of his whole career.
Giovanni "Gio" Pilato
Make Blues Not War is out now and it is available via Ruf Records
"Buy a record, support the artists, preserve the future of music"