By Ron Wynn
Exciting and charismatic blues-rock guitarist Mike Zito didn’t plan to make his current LP “Quarantine Blues.” Instead, his goal was to promote his acclaimed 2019 release “Rock”Rock N Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry” on Ruf Records via a European tour. The outstanding LP, one of last year’s finest in any idiom, contains 20 tunes featuring 21 guest guitarists: Joe Bonamassa, Walter Trout, Robben Ford, Sonny Landreth, Richard Fortus, Alex Skolnick, Joanna Connor, Anders Osborne, Ryan Perry, Ally Venable, Albert Castiglia, Luther Dickinson, Jeremiah Johnson, Tommy Castro, Tinsley Ellis, Josh Smith, Kirk Fletcher, Jimmy Vivino, Kid Andersen. It also includes Berry’s son Charlie Berry the 3rd. Zito met both father and son when he was working at a music instrument store with his drummer. Both periodically came by the shop.
But the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic wiped out his tour plans.. “That was really hard,” Zito told the Tribune this week during a phone interview.” We were all pumped for the tour and then the bottom fell out.We came back to St. Louis (his hometown) and we were just sitting around, off for three months. I wanted to keep the guys working and active, so we just started doing some tracks. Before we knew it, there’s an album. We wanted to get it to the fans so we made it available via download. It’s proven quite a success, and a bit of a surprise.”
Zito comes to Nashville next Wednesday for a show at the City Winery. It’s their first live music event since the pandemic shut down everything in March. He will be primarily spotlighting tunes from the Berry tribute LP. “Growing up in St.Louis it was quite a thrill to get to meet Chuck, see him and hear his music,” Zito continues. “I got to know him and his family and it’s a real joy and privilege to play his tunes.”
Zito’s been a heralded guitarist and vocalist for several years. As a teenager he immersed himself in the St. Louis music scene. Zito began getting national attention in 2008 with the LP “Today,” which framed his explosive guitar playing and soulful singing with contributions from an A-list of studio musicians. His second CD “Pearl River” included the signature tune “Pearl River” that eventually won Song of the Year at the 2010 Blues Music Awards. Over the past 10 years Zito has not only been a band leader, but part of the group Royal Southern Brotherhood with Devon Allman and Cyril Neville for four years (2010-2014). He currently has his own label and studio in St. Louis, and says Nashville fans should know special measures are being taken for his appearance.
“We’re going to be socially distancing,” Zito concludes. “We definitely want people to come out and hear the show, but they (City Winery) are doing everything to make sure they’ll be safe, and we’ll do everything to make them happy.”
Mike Zito at City Winery, 609 Lafayette Street, Wednesday night at 6 pm.