2018 BMA “Blues Rock Artist of the Year” Mike Zito brings the “First Class Life” Tour, in support of his recently-released Ruf Records album of the same name, to Memphis on December 10th with a a performance at the Memphis VFW. Doors will open at 6 p.m.
Year-end honors for First Class Life include a Top 10 Rockin’ Blues Tunes of 2018 nod from Rock And Blues Muse, for Zito’s “Mama Don’t Like No Wah-Wah,” writing the track is “Blues and funky fun with some outstanding guitar playing.”
The prolific guitarist-vocalist was part of the 2018 Blues Caravan this past Summer along with fellow guitarists Bernard Allison and Ally Venable, a yearly, high-profile tour presented by German-based blues label, Ruf Records.
Zito won Blues Rock Artist of the Year this past May at the 2018 Blues Music Awards in Memphis, the ‘Grammys of the Blues.’ Additionally, Zito’s First Class Life reached #1 on the National Roots Music Report Top 50 Blues Albums Chart.
“This is Southern Blues with real heart and a lot of soul, some stunning guitar work and playing of the first order,” wrote Music-News.com in the UK about First Class Life. “Good Blues is not common – there is plenty of very ordinary Blues but very few artists as good as Zito.” NO DEPRESSION raved, “Once again, Zito has delivered the goods, a first-class package with no postage due.”
Ruf has just released “Blue Room,” Zito’s debut album that blew up the 90s blues scene. These songs that announced the touchdown of a major new talent before he became an established solo star and member of the globally-acclaimed Royal Southern Brotherhood.
There may not be a more honest blues-man than Mike Zito, whose fifteenth album ‘First Class Life’ is released May 11 on Ruf Records. The rocking-yet-poignant title track explores his journey from addiction to sobriety and then musical recognition: Zito is a two-time 2017 Blues Music Award nominee. “Second chance at a first class life,” he sings, recalling the hard times. The Texas-based musician smiles and continues, “I grew up poor in St. Louis, and now I’m traveling the world to sing my songs.” Zito’s star has been on the rise of late, both solo and as a member of the Royal Southern Brotherhood, with band-mates Cyril Neville, Devon Allman, Charlie Wooton and Yonrico Scott. Spring of 2018 saw Zito team with noted guitar master (and Ruf Records label-mate) Bernard Allison, on the “Blues Caravan” Tour that performed in Germany, England, Poland, The Netherlands and Belgium.
As is fitting for a man with the word “Blues” tattooed across his picking hand, ‘First Class Life’ focuses squarely on blues with heart and chops to spare, not to mention wit and openness. The punchy “Time For A Change” conjures the tension in the world today while the exquisite Memphis-style song, “The World We Live In,” recalls BB King in its world-weariness. The electrified blues bounce of “Dying Day” finds Zito swearing lifelong allegiance to his wife. “Old Black Graveyard” sets the scene of a blues-man’s’s final resting place and its disrepair, along with some possible supernatural influences, with Zito’s masterful slide guitar flourishes driving it home.
The record’s darker moments are offset by cuts like “Mama Don’t Like No Wah Wah,” the funky crash-bang-wallop gem written with the aforementioned Allison about the late blues legend, Koko Taylor. “Bernard told me about his first gig as a guitarist for Taylor,” laughs Mike. “Koko didn’t like any effects on the guitar, she wanted it to sound natural. When Bernard made an attempt to use an effect on his guitar after playing with her for months, he got caught. ‘Mama don’t like no wah wah’ is what he was told. That’s a song to me!” The two guitar slingers trade off, trying to one up each other atop a funky blues groove, including Allison pulling out his forbidden wah wah pedal. The tongue-in-cheek “Back Problems” is a showcase for Zito’s wit as a songwriter.
In addition to media acclaim and the Blues Music Awards recognition, Zito has earned accolades from his fellow artists. Anders Osborne says, “I love Mike Zito! He’s got that rare kinda voice that resonates in your soul. All his hardships, life experiences and kind heart oozes out of every note he sings. His guitar playing dances delicately between a contemporary blues virtuoso and an old fashion soul man. Mike continues to impress me with his straightforward and honest songwriting. His joy and grace shine through every record he makes. ”
Prior to arriving in Memphis, Zito will be opening December in Topeka, KS, with stops in Omaha and Lincoln, NB before hitting Burlington, IA and Jefferson City, MO. After Memphis, he will be off to Cape Girardeau before closing out the 2018 Tour with concerts in Edwardsville, IL, Tulsa, OK, and The Woodlands, TX.