By Mike O’Cull
Blues Music Award-winning guitar master Mike Zito gives us another tour of his talents on his brand new record Resurrection. Set to drop July 16th, 2021 via Gulf Coast Records/Hillside Global, the album was produced by Grammy winner David Z (Prince, Etta James, Billy Idol, BoDeans, Buddy Guy, John Mayall) and contains eight new original songs as well as covers of tunes by J.J. Cale, Willie Dixon, and Eric Clapton. The set is a rebirth of sorts for Zito following the stress of the pandemic and he has used it as an opportunity to remake himself as a musician and an artist. It’s a deep, personal set of music that requires multiple listens to get inside and it rocks from your very first spin. Zito, of course, handles the lead vocal and electric guitar spots here and is backed by a crew of familiars that includes Matthew Johnson (drums), Doug Byrkit (bass), Lewis Stephens (piano, organ), Zach Zito (acoustic guitar), Lisa Andersen (backing vocals), Eric Demmer (saxophone), and Fernando Castillo (trumpet).
Originally from St. Louis, Mike Zito has become one of the most acclaimed contemporary blues musicians working today. He began playing at the age of five and has been going hard ever since. He first released his own music in 2008 and went on to make a string of critically praised albums, has won multiple Blues Music Awards, was a member of the supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood, and saw his album Make Blues Not War debut on the Billboard Blues Album Chart at the top spot. He’s also co-owner of the label Gulf Coast Records and has produced outstanding albums for Samantha Fish, Albert Castiglia, Ally Venable, Jeremiah Johnson, Jimmy Carpenter, and others. Zito is one of those cats who does everything well and always keeps his work authentic and real.
Zito opens Resurrection with a driving take on J.J. Cale’s “I’ll Make Love To You” built on a tough rock beat and topped with excellent guitar and sax work from MZ and Eric Demmer, respectively. It’s definitely more rock than blues and gives the record a modern feel right from the jump. “Don’t Bring Me Down” is Zito’s warning to internet trolls, haters, and trouble-starters to keep their toxic nonsense away from his orbit. It’s a cool, mid-tempo funk rocker with a big groove and a typically-ripping Zito guitar solo. His vocals are gruff and strident and do much to push the urgency of his message.
“In My Blood” is a slower, chilled-out cut with an atmospheric, film noir vibe and the song offers us a taste of Zito’s senses of restraint and phrasing. His guitar tone here is mellow but compelling and he makes each note meaningful and tight. The band follows his lead and chills right along with him, achieving the perfect vibe for this smoky tune. Zito’s take on Eric Clapton’s “Presence Of The Lord” is uplifting, solid, and spotlights MZ’s expressive singing voice. He gets busy on the guitar, too, but it’s his vocal performance that puts this one over. You can tell this song means something to him and he puts every ounce of his soul into it.
Zito and his entire band shine on “Evil” by the legendary Willie Dixon. It’s a hardcore mid-speed blues that’s menacing, minor, and more than lives up to its name. Zito soars on guitar on this one while his band puts down a heavy pocket underneath him. He saves his title song “Resurrection” for the album’s closing spot, which might seem odd but makes perfect sense once you dig the song’s sanctified feel and heartfelt message of love and second chances. The track leaves listeners in a state of grace and peace that’s in short supply these days and it may well be the best tune on the record. Mike Zito is, indeed, everything people say he is and more and the proof is in every song on this set. This is as good as modern blues gets.
Watch “Don’t Bring Me Down”
Pre-order link for Resurrection