Mike Zito - Make Blues Not War

How do you make a good Blues album? Good rhythm section, excellent guitar playing and pick some material you can really nail. Blues is so much about the feel, the intensity, the sincerity, you can create a very good blues album redoing classics as an OK singer. But to make a great blues album you should write some amazing original songs, sing like Etta James was your mother and produce it so that it sounds like your best day performing in a perfect space. And with "Make Blues Not War" Mike Zito and Tom Hambridge have done exactly that.

Zito & Hambridge have nailed the classic feel with songs like "Make Blues Not War"and"Chip off the Block." They have blasted out the guitar with monster-playing on tunes like "Highway Mama" featuring a reborn Walter Trout, and they have streched the musical boundaries with "Redbird." And — oh yeah they know from whence they came with a great cover of Luther Allison's "Bad News is Coming."

Tom Hambridge has produced some incredible artists but he has never done a better job than he does on "Make Blues Not War." Every instrument is right where it is supposed to be within a great mix. The drums and bass are clear but not overpowering, leaving room for Zito's Voice and guitar to deliver their magic. Hambridge gets writing credit on 10 of 12 songs. I think this is not only because Tom can write songs, I think it is because everyone involved in this recording understood that he created a canvas that let their individual brushstrokes sweep and breathe. Hambridge, on drums and Tommy MacDonald on bass are like a granite fondation for Mike to build on. Strong, tasty but never overpowering. Kevin McKendree plays keyboards that fit perfectly — and the man can solo. They all blend together like they have done this for years...I suspect that is because they are really talented.

I first heard Mike when he played with Royal Southern Brotherhood. Then he became Mike Zito and the Wheel and I thought this man had really found his groove. Well Mike has gone higher and I am not sure where his peak is. His playing cuts from classic to innovative — to over-the-top with the kind of ease that only true artists achieve. He never loses sight of where he came from, but he is still looking up the road. His vocals are tough, honest and soulful. He has range and power. He and Mike Ledbetter may be two of the best young male blues singers touring today. "Road Dog" is eveything a blues vocal should be...sad, soulful and compelling.

Ultimately that's why I like this recording so much. It has all the joy and the sadness. It touches me and makes me want to listen to it again...thanks Mike!

— Artie Bucco


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