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Issue 1088

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Review

Mike Zito & The Wheel: Songs From The Road (Ruf Records)

Mike Zito Songs From The Road CD cover pic

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6.1

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UK release date 09.09.2014

US guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Mike Zito, today announced his departure from so-called âSupergroup,â Royal Southern Brotherhood after three years.

He will take his own band on the road in November for eight dates in the UK, to promote a brand new live album which will drop on ninth September.

Ruf record label-mate Bart Walker replaces Mike in RSB. (Mike will honour various live shows with RSB in USA and Europe in the next few weeks, before total focus on his solo career.)

Mikeâs new album âSongs From The Road,â is part of the live series from German label Ruf Records, and so far all 10 in the series have been a very nice job. This is certainly no exception. A double CD and DVD offering - a dozen tracks on the CD and 13 songs featured on the DVD, plus bonus footage to include interviews.

St Louis native Mike spent a decade working in a music store as a youngster, and met many of the guitar greats, soaking up lots of different styles of music in his formative years. He began touring the Midwest of America at the age of 18, and since then has played in 20+ countries as guitarist and one of the singers with RSB. Mike has won a clutch of awards and is a sought-after producer too, doing a fine job at the helm of the UKâs own Laurence Jonesâ debut for Ruf Records, âTemptation.â Laurence was just named âYoung Artist Of The Year,â in the 2014 British Blues Awards.

Mikeâs âSongs From The Road,â double disc release captures him and his band live in Texas at the Dosey Doe venue, on January 10th this year to a sold out and âup for itâ crowd. The band is on fire, pumped up by the electric atmosphere the crowd generated that night. Mike admits he was somewhat overwhelmed by the reaction that night during the incendiary set.The Wheel are Jimmy Carpenter on sax and vocals, Scot Sutherland on bass and vocals, Lewis Stephens on piano and organ, Rob Lee on drums and percussion and Mike on guitars and vocals. The ensemble plays as a unit; and not a case of vying for the spotlight to grab the solo. This is a band, they play and sound like a band and this live record nails that fact audibly, writ large.

Mike has had a gritty life so far; as a recovering addict, so one song here has a really emotional and truthful tale to tell. âGreyhound,â the tale of Mikeâs sad descent toward rock bottom when on one day in September 12 years ago, drug addicted Mike stole his Fatherâs credit card and bought a one-way bus ticket to Florida. âI decided Iâd be doing everybody a favour if I just left, got as far away as I could go,â recalls Mike.

The song he co-wrote with RSB colleague Cyril Neville, âPearl River,â for which they won an award, references civil rights campaigner Dick Gregory, and gets a great rendition here. As does the title track from Mikeâs excellent solo album âGone To Texas,â released on the Ruf label last year.

Mike has found his own sound in the 17 years since his debut album, âBlue Room.â He has had some low times with alcoholism and drug abuse, but came through all that and out the other side a better man, a clean and sober man, a loving family man and a talented artist. This album is an excellent testimony to his sheer determination to harness the power, and perhaps even the healing qualities too, of music. Itâs hard driving and at times soothing too, but this stuff is super duper blues rock with a pinch of soul - as honest and as full of energy as it comes. The perfect start to a resumed solo career.

In the same band as a guitarist with the surname of Allman (that's Devon by the way), in RSB maybe sometimes the spotlight was not on Mikeâs innovative fretboard work as much as perhaps it should have been. It will be now and that's great news; as he clearly has a heck of a lot to offer us.
Words SIMON REDLEY

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