MIKE ZITO – Quarantine Blues (Gulf Coast Records)

Quarantine BluesQuarantine Blues is good. To be more precise, this is hit-you-over-the-head good. Generally, when an album comes in for review, I play it two or three times, maybe in the car, maybe while I’m sorting something out, to get a feel and then, after that, I give it several proper listens. Every so often a track, more rarely an album, makes me stop doing anything else when I’m on that first listen. Quarantine Blues did that from the opening track. Minutes into the first play I sat down, turned up the volume and listened, really listened. Try ‘Don’t Let The World Get You Down’ in the link below, see if it does it to you – and then try and find your soul if it doesn’t.

Quarantine Blues is also important in another way in current circumstances. Zito puts it this way, “While flying home from Europe after all of our tours being cancelled, I decided the band and myself would record a free album for our fans. Individually we have been quarantined for 14 days and this idea of writing, producing and releasing an album in the 14-day period seemed like quite an effort and a distraction for us. In return fans from around the world contributed to our Gofundme and it has been an amazingly rewarding experience

That was Zito’s first step; this is his second: “Now, we are extending this campaign to our large Blues community. We are asking artists that are in need of assistance to contribute a song for this project and in return we are going to try and raise $1000 each for the artist and their band members. We feel this is a time of need, but we want to give back with what we do best – music. We have a list of musicians and bands that are in serious need right now and they are going to each contribute new music to the project. We will announce an artist and band in need and once the amount of money has been reached, we will then announce a new artist and band…and so on.” There’s more detail – and a Donate Button – on Zito’s webpages, though it seems as though the free download of the whole of Quarantine Blues might have finished.

And the music? Full of life and energy. ‘Looking Out This Window’ is blues with a tinge of Velvet Underground; ‘Don’t Touch Me’ is a collaboration with Tracii Guns (of Guns and Roses – and has all the drive that comes with that); in hindsight, it was obvious that someone had to write a blues about being quarantined for 14 days; Zito’s the one who’s done it “Isolation has been hurting/Feel I been losing my soul/I can’t touch my woman/Can’t even sleep in my bed”; ‘Walking The Street’ is the first of several tracks that bring Rory Gallagher to mind. If this was on vinyl – those five tracks would make a rather splendid Side One.

The remaining six tracks keep on with the don’t-put-this-album-down mood. ‘Dark Raven’ is dramatic; ‘Dust Up’ has a lyric about there being “a dust-up” since lockdown with a woman who wants kill you – a blues melody to match, guitar lead biting against a steady rhythm; ‘Call of the Wild’ is my favourite track – memories of Gallagher at his best; ‘Hurts My Heart’ is a revisit of one of Zito’s old Royal Southern Brotherhood songs; and the album finishes with the acoustic ‘What It Used To Be’.

Zito says, “I wrote what I was feeling regardless of style or genre and used my feelings of fear, hope, love and rebelliousness to full my creativity…. I left the ‘rules’ on the floor and followed my heart”.

Sometimes, something special happens (in life, art or whatever) that no amount of pre-preparation or post-editing can give you. To my ear, Quarantine Blues benefits not just from Zito having followed his heart, but from the speed with which it was pulled together – it’s got an edge that could have been lost if there’d been more time.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website: https://www.mikezito.com

‘Don’t Let The World Get You Down’ – official video:

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