Album review: MIKE ZITO & THE WHEEL – Keep Coming Back

The Pete Feenstra Feature – Mike Zito (1 November 2015) by Get Ready To Rock! Radio on Mixcloud

MIKE ZITO & THE WHEEL – Keep Coming Back

Ruf [Release date 06.11.15]

And so after three albums with the award winning Royal Southern Brotherhood super group, Mike Zito returns to his own solo career with an album full of whip cracking roots rock that is rooted in the blues but casts its stylistic net much further afield.

‘Keep Coming Back’ impresses with rock solid songs that are given an extra heft by Mike’s explosive Texas band The Wheel. Mike himself is well to the fore on a dozen tracks that mix ripping slide guitar with a lived in vocal that moves from the celebratory opening title track to the self affirming Americana of ‘Get Busy Living’, one of 3 well crafted co-writes with the weighty Anders Osborne.

‘Keep Coming Back’ is a restatement of Mike own musical principals, which are based on passionate vocals, great playing and deep songs that twist and turn into unforeseen directions.

Where his previous studio album ‘Going To Texas’ was a conceptual metaphor for some major changes in his life – not least the move from his native St. Louis to Texas – ‘Keep Coming Back’ is more of a celebration of his own broad based songwriting style.

He rips things up on the riff led ‘Chin Up’, as he spits out his lyrics with the same fervour as the triple guitar, sax and piano attack on a song that will surely become a live favourite.

The a fore mentioned ‘Get Busy Living’, is a self affirming song, that is given an extra lift by Suzie Simms harmonies.

Given that Zito is also successful producer himself, he’s had the presence of mind to draft in an extra pair of ears in the shape of former Sheryl Crow producer Trina Shoemaker. She highlights the melodies and hooks of songs such as ‘Early In The Morning’, nails the auto biographical sounding ‘I Was Drunk’ and gets a great vocal performance from Zito on the heartfelt ‘What’s On Your Mind’.

But there’s more, as the production hones in on the rhythmic textures, gentle guitar tones, and Mike’s aching vocal on the beguiling ‘Lonely Heart’. It’s a subtle arrangement that makes good use of space to emphasize the tenor of the song.

At times Zito aims for a Springsteen style vocal rush on ‘Girl From Liberty’, before unashamedly rocking out old school style, on ‘Get Out Of Denver’ – a song surely made for a band like this.

He evokes John Fogerty on the swampy ‘Nothin’ But The Truth’, which benefits from an uplifting hook and he explores real feel on the side-led, potent rhythm pattern of the atmospheric ‘Cross The Border’, another Zito song with film soundtrack potential.

And it is this ability to occasionally draw on social realist lyrics allied to a killer groove and a linear slide line that draws the listener in and makes Mike Zito more than your average blues rocker.

He’s musically diverse and lyrically astute by turns, and is brave enough to follow where his creative muse takes him. Listen to the short, sweet and sudden uplifting mid-number guitar break on ‘Cross The Border’, before he slips back into the poignant narrative. It’s catchy stuff and a great example of contemporary bluesy roots-rock which will undoubtedly grow organically after weeks on the road.

He also a generous band leader who gives his combo all the space they need on the New Orleans influenced ‘Bootleg’, which just like a seaside stick of rock has his name stamped all the way through it.

Sax player Jimmy Carpenter leans into one last full blooded solo on the perfect ending to a strong song driven album that after barely 3 plays, imperceptibly shifts from rocking to essential.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00

On Sunday 1 November, he chats to Mike Zito with tracks from the new album.


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