11 May 2018 (released)
29 April 2018
Mike Zito is one of those performers that most people will say “Mike who?” when you mention their name but he has been one of the most prolific and most influential guitarists around for the last couple of decades. With his early work on his own label and then with Electo Groove record label and now with Ruf, he has his own band The Wheel and was a founder member of The Royal Southern Brotherhood alongside Devon Allman & Cyril Neville.
So much for history. Is ‘First Class Life’ any good?
What it does is to present southern Blues with real heart and a lot of soul, some stunning guitar work and playing of the first water. What it doesn’t is to create new paradigms in Blues music but when the music is this much fun and moves you so well you have to ask if that is important.
It is miles away from his last album ‘Make Blues, Not War’ and seems to be a return to his Blues roots.
In many ways it feels like a very personal album with stories about redemption and failure intertwined and a very emotive element in both the music and the lyrics.
“The title track is a nod to where I’ve come from and where I’m at,” explains the songwriter whose promising early career was almost destroyed by addiction. “It’s a rags-to-riches story, and it’s certainly true. I grew up poor in St. Louis, and now I'm travelling the world to sing my songs. In the world of excess America, I may not look ‘rich’, but in my world, I most certainly am. I have a beautiful family, I’m clean and sober, and I get to play music.”
In fact the whole album touches on images from life. This is no lovey-dovey or chest-beating pride show, instead you get numbers such as ‘Old Black Graveyard’ – slow heavy and dripping with atmosphere, “That’s about a forgotten cemetery of poor black Americans that has not been kept up near my home in Beaumont, Texas,” Zito says. “Blind Willie Johnson is buried there. It’s a sure sign of racism in America and how the poor aren’t treated with dignity. That song is a ghost story that those buried there wreak havoc in the night.” – or maybe his promise to his wife that they will be together until their ‘Dying Day, an uptempo Blues with stunning organ underlying his guitar.
Good Blues is not common – there is plenty of very ordinary Blues but very few artists as good as Zito.