(Gulf Coast Records/Hillside Global)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Don’t let the world get you down, sings Mike Zito on Quarantine, the blues rocking singer/songwriter/guitarist’s appropriately titled pandemic-era 2020 release. Taking his own advice, he returns a year later with a bookend what is hopefully the end of COVID times as we can finally see a light at the end of that particular tunnel. It’s an often introspective, revealing set that finds Zito taking stock of life and love, and ready for the revitalization of the disc’s title.
Zito, along with longtime producer David Z, looks for a rebirth of sorts on these eleven tracks, eight of which he composed or co-wrote. The disc’s title doesn’t say everything, but it suggests plenty. These songs, even the three he didn’t write, generally convey a much needed resurrection, both in Zito’s life and the world in general.
He talks of being at his lowest point in “When It Rains It Pours” singing They say when you hit bottom/the only place to go is up as thudding drums ominously pound and Zito glides into a raw slide guitar solo that feels as forlorn as the lyrics. On “Don’t Bring Me Down” he breaks free of a dysfunctional relationship in a sizzling track where his taut, raw guitar solo and painful vocal conveys the frustration of a situation he has lost patience with.
Politics inform “Running Man” which discusses politicians who run for office every four years taking the first person narrative with Tell you stories, be so sincere/Then I’m gone, just disappear with a tough riff, muddy mix and rugged ZZ Top/Creedence-styled approach enhanced by horns, which are oddly buried in the mix. We might have heard these concepts before, specifically in Cream’s “Politician,” but Zito’s fiery and punchy attack helps hammer home the concept.
A sincere cover of Blind Faith/Eric Clapton’s “Presence of the Lord” hews close to the original, yet brings a tougher edge to the faith based classic. But Howlin’ Wolf’s “Evil” gets a fresh rearrangement, slowing it down, injecting a Clapton-styled psychedelic guitar solo and soaking the blues classic in the dank, muggy swamp. “You Don’t Have Me”’s gutsy sound is heavily influenced by J.J. Cale who Zito covers on the opening “I’ll Make Love to You.”
The closing title track is a searing, seemingly personal attempt to revive a marriage that has recently seen difficult years singing, With all the pain we discovered/How could we ever/ Last the test of time. Those melancholy lyrics are sung over a slow, bluesy melody featuring one of Zito’s most powerful guitar solos and vocals.
It’s another potent roots rocking album from a guy who has been there, done that and has the miles on his odometer to prove it. Here’s hoping he gets the renewal he’s searching for.