Mike Zito – Greyhound – Eclecto Groove Records EGRCD512, 50:38 ****:
(Mike Zito – guitar, vocals; Carl Dufrene – bass, vocals; Brady Blade – drums, vocals; Anders Osborne – guitar, vocals)
To sing the blues…you have to pay your dues. Growing up in St. Louis, Mike Zito began a long journey to blues purveyor by working at a record store. Influenced by local stars like Chuck Berry and Bennie Smith, the tough edge of his musical education was underway. After receiving a Van Halen record for his birthday, the ascension to guitar hero status was inevitable. He developed a hard core road sound…and lifestyle. Despite some acclaim with independently produced albums, the grind of touring took an immense toll on Zito, resulting in assorted personal issues. Sobriety and a record deal with Eclecto Groove Records lifted him out of the downward spiral. His debut, Today, was critically acclaimed and featured all-star musicians (Benmont Tench, James “Hutch” Hutchinson) and a top notch producers in David Z. (Prince, Buddy Guy) and Tony Braunagel (Taj Mahal, Eric Burdon). The follow up, Pearl River, boasted guest spots from Cyril Neville, Susan Cowsill, and Lynnewood Slim. The title cut won the Blues Music Award for Song of the Year. Now the “recovered” blues man tours and plays festivals, reaching a wider audience.
Greyhound is the latest release from Zito, with eleven original compositions. Produced by Grammy winning artist Anders Osborne, the project reflects the perspective of a forty year old survivor. The hard edged, autobiographical guitar rocker title cut recounts the singer’s teenage experiences as a disenfranchised teenager. Zito’s soulful vocals and bluesy up tempo guitar riffs express the desolation of earlier years. Basic full throttle rock anchors the band. “Roll On” is a testament to road philosophy (…it’s best to just keep movin, baby roll on…). The Texas/Gulf Coast twang surrounds the arrangements with a confident swagger. Earlier rock influences (Hendrix) are evident on the sultry, intense “Judgment Day”. Zito’s imposing, howling vocal style is unrelenting as the concept of fated consequence is examined. Of course, the redemptive nature of love is articulated in similar fashion on “Until The Day I Die”. This road warrior has been tested, only to persevere.
There are a variety of “nasty” grooves and hooks. “The Southern Side” is a gritty, smoky tune that hits an emotional plea that is testament to singers like Bob Seger. There are a few slower paced numbers. “Motel Blues” sketches troubadour life in organic, acoustic guitar tones. Zito’s plaintive wails bring the album to a late night, contemplative finish on “Please, Please, Please”.
TrackList: Roll On; Greyhound; Judgment Day; Show Me The Way; The Hard Way; Motel Blues; Stay; Until The Day I Die; Hello Midnight; The Southern Side; Please, Please, Please
— Robbie Gerson