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CD REVIEW

Mike Zito: First Class Life

by Jeff Tamarkin on July 11, 2018

The blues is always at the root of Mike Zito’s music, both in his work with Royal Southern Brotherhood earlier in the decade and the recordings he’s made on his own for more than 10 years. As on 2016’s Make Blues Not War , and Gone to Texas a few years before it, Zito gets down in the trenches for First Class Life (his 15th in all), which he’s calling his most personal recording to date. On these songs, Zito addresses topics that mean something, from his love for his wife (“Dying Day”) to the matter-of-fact “The World We Live In.” But it’s the title track—which charts his dive into addiction and the crawl back out—that hits hardest. It’s often dark and difficult, not your basic 21st-century bar-band blues party-all-night anthem. The music is up-tempo and effervescent, betraying the nakedness of the lyrics: “When I was down, I was down on my knees, but down didn’t stop me from begging please, please, please,” he sings in the first line. There is redemption, in love and in faith, but there isn’t any sanctimony in Zito’s telling of it, and there are good times too. First Class Life may have been a cathartic exercise for the artist, but you’re welcome to just marvel at the guitar playing. The album’s greatest strength is in Zito’s ability to take his tales, get into the studio with a cooking band and turn it all into first-class blues rock.
Authors: Jeff Tamarkin
Artist: Mike Zito
Album: First Class Life
Label: RUF