Review: Mike Zito – Pearl River

Posted on: Wednesday, Nov 11, 2009



“Pearl River”

(Eclecto Groove Records: EGR CD 508)

Here’s another top-notch release from the good folk at Eclecto Groove Records, the second album on the label from St. Louis native Mike Zito, following up last year’s “Today” – his soulful, gritty vocals and impressive guitar playing again on top form, with the 13 tracks covering lots of bases, from roadhouse blues, some New Orleans flavours and some straight-ahead rockers.

This time around he has some special guests onboard, including Cyril Neville, who co-wrote the title cut, “Pearl River”, as well as Anders Osborne, Reese Wynans, Susan Cowill, Lynwood Slim and Jumpin’ Johnny Sansome, with the rhythm section of Lonnie ‘Popcorn’ Trevino Jr. (bass) and Eric Bolivar (drums).

Again the emphasis is on great songs, mainly self-penned, with fine musicianship, as you would expect given the calibre of the players and singers involved. Zito roars out of the blocks on the killer “Dirty Blonde” – a roadhouse rocker with snarling lead guitar lines and his fine vocals; the following title track, “Pearl River”, is a moody, atmospheric piece, as previously mentioned co-written by Cyril Neville, who contributes a guest vocal, before the funky “Big Mouth” – more superb guitar work on this.

Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Eyesight To The Blind” is taken down to New Orleans – with harmonica from Randy Chortkoff, and Reese Wynans excelling on piano. The pace is taken down for the lovely “One Step At A Time”, an acoustic slice of Americana . . . very reminiscent of classic John Mellencamp, even down to the vocal.

The soulful “39 Days” is a tale of lost love, opening with a hard rocking riff, and another glorious vocal from Mike Zito, underpinned by Reese Wynans on organ this time. The strutting “Shoes Blues” is a duet with Susan Cowsill, leading into the off-the-wall Zito original, “The Dead Of Night”, a sort of polka, with Jumpin’ Johnny Sansome on accordion and complete with another great guitar solo.

Elsewhere the band get funky on Mel London’s “Sugar Sweet” – previously covered by the late, great Freddie King; the blues of “Natural Born Lover” seeing Mike Zito lay down some slide guitar, and a sparkling take on George Smith’s “All Last Night”, with sweet harmonica from Lynwood Slim in tandem with Zito’s guitar.

As with all Eclecto Groove releases, this is another beautiful sounding album, produced by David Z and label boss Randy Chortkoff, and can be added to other fine releases this year from the like of The Soul of John Black and Jason Ricci. This comes highly recommended . . . Mike Zito is the complete package!


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