In the title track of Make Blues Not War, Mike Zito gives us the timely message that “when you turn off the news and turn on the blues the world is a beautiful place.” Listening to Zito will convince you that this is true, at least long enough to get a much needed break.
Besides Zito on guitar and vocals, the album features Tom Hambridge on drums, who also produced the album and co-wrote some of the songs, with Tommy MacDonald on bass, and Rob McNelley on guitar.
Walter Trout steps in to add his distinctive guitar to the first tune, “Highway Mama,” and Kevin McKendree provides both piano and Hammond B-3 for this rocking track. It’s followed by the rollicking “Wasted Time,” and Zito’s vocals are sounding possibly the best they ever have.
“Redbird” follows in the same vein, and then comes “Crazy Legs,” a fun song which sounds a lot like ZZ Top. “Make Blues Not War” is the bluesiest cut on the record so far, and it is a powerful one. The skillful harmonica playing on it is from former Blues Music Award winner Jason Ricci. “On the Road” is the obligatory autobiographical road song, but it’s a strong one with great vocals and guitar.
Zito then gives us the first of only two covers on the album, and it’s just fine in the coolest sense of the word. It’s a heartfelt rendition of Luther Allison’s “Bad News Is Coming,” with searing vocals and guitar.
Suddenly we seem to be transported to the Rolling Stones! Oh wait, it’s still the same album but the Stones influence is both obvious and delightful on “One More Train,” which features tight harmonies, great keyboards, and the return of Ricci on harmonica.
“Girl Back Home” slows things down for a sweet, whimsical love song. It’s followed by my choice for the highlight of the album, “Chip Off the Old Block,” in which Zito shares his pride in his son Zach, who is featured on guitar, proving the elder Zito’s contention that “the apple don’t fall far from the tree.”
Next is another road song, this one the more plaintive “Road Dog.” The CD ends on a strong upswing with the other cover, “Route 90,” written by Clarence “Bon Ton” Garlow and Joe Josea. It’s pure Louisiana music, with fantastic boogie-woogie piano and Zito’s voice filled with joy, making a great end to the release.
Take up Zito’s battle cry, “Make Blues Not War,” and enjoy this incredible record, which I believe is his best yet!