Mike Zito Blues for the Southside


Jeff Tamarkin on April 18, 2022

Mike Zito Blues for the Southside

Mike Zito is one of those hardworking musicians who just keeps plugging away, not for the fame or other rewards, but because he gets up every morning knowing that playing music is what he needs to do. Blues for the Southside is a good example of why. A double CD recorded live in Zito’s native South St. Louis, it finds the guitarist and singer tearing it up in front of an appreciative crowd, much of which has probably been cheering him on since his debut in 1998. A good chunk of the repertoire comes from Zito’s previous albums, including “Mississippi Nights”—the show opener, previously heard on the artist’s 2018 album First Class Life. Zito doesn’t waste any time crunching away, spilling out chunky chords and serpentine licks as he tells the tale. “Make Blues Not War,” a sentiment that no one in their right mind would reject, served as the title track of a 2016 release. Here, Zito jumps in with a muscular, and all-too-brief, solo volley before the band—pianist Lewis Stephens, bassist Doug Byrkit and drummer Matthew Johnson—kicks in to bring it all home. Blues for the Southside also features a handful of choice covers: Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” has certainly been attempted by a long line of acolytes. But, to his credit, Zito—joined here by fellow guitar monster Eric Gales—manages to assimilate and not imitate, giving it a personal spin. And you can never go wrong with a blasting “Johnny B. Goode” as your showstopper: Not since Johnny Winter reanimated the old Chuck Berry classic has this one rocked as hard as it does here.

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