Mike Zito and the Wheel

Mike Zito and the Wheel
Gone to Texas

Ruf Records

By Lady K
October 2013

Out of Texas, having moved there to re-invent himself (he succeeded), Mike Zito has become a rip-roaring Texas bluesman. Everyone knows that Lady K has a low-twang tolerance, so she first listened to Gone to Texas with much trepidation. Thankfully, there isn’t a whole lot of twang; what there is is a whole lot of terrific guitar, and tunes with innovative and sometimes funny lyrics. The band with Mike is The Wheel: Jimmy Carpenter (saxes, vocals, percussion); Rob Lee (drums); Scot Sutherland (bass guitars); Lewis Stephens (keyboards); Susan Cowsill (vocals). Zito and the Wheel are joined on two tracks by special guests Delbert McClinton and Sonny Landreth.

Gone to Texas contains 13 tracks: 8 written by Mike Zito; 3 tunes by Mike, with Rob Lee, Devon Allman, or Cyril Neville, and 2 covers: “Let Your Light Shine on Me” (William Johnson) and “Take It Easy” (Delbert McClinton).

The title tune is a slow-ish blues rocker with some terrific instrumentation, and just a touch of twang in the vocals. It explains the changed life that Zito managed for himself as a result of moving to Texas: “Gonna start my life again / I’m gonna get down in the Lone Star / and wash away my sins.” And it worked!!!!! And so does the tune.

“Rainbow Bridge” is more rockin’ blues, and includes some Sonny Landreth slide. The lyrics are country-funny: “I got a ticket in Bridge City, from a cop who wasn’t pretty, for doing 5 miles over the limit in front of the Walmart.” “The Road Never Ends” has Zito, the band, and Delbert McClinton (harp included) rocking some blues with nary a twang. Lady K loves this track.

“It hits you like a freight train, leaves you feeling like a fool / It comes on like a lovers’ game when you know it’s no good / I never knew a hurricane could hurt me like you.” Just some of the sentiments in “I Never Knew a Hurricane,” a slow, bluesy tune with back-up vocals by Cowsill and Carpenter’s sax for emphasis.

Lady K also loved “Don’t Think Cause You’re Pretty” because it’s an up-tempo blues rocker, with kick-ass guitars, heavy on bass – the instrumental bits will blow your mind - this track is huge. After a fun bass intro, musical interludes during “Don’t Break a Leg” highlight Hammond B3 and sax on this lively track. And more fun lyrics: “don’t break a leg baby, trying to jump out of my bed / don’t be acting like a fool over something silly I said / you know I’m sorry baby, I’m gonna try and be more sensitive / maybe you could do something for me, and try to be more sensuous.” Ouch!!

“Take It Easy” is slow, country-blues, with enough ‘saxyness’, piano and guitar to make Lady K not care about the country. “Subtraction Blues” – more rockin’ blues, and honky-tonk piano blues: “I got the subtraction blues, when she leaves she takes a little piece of me too.”

Lady K likes Mike Zito, his guitars, his band, his talent for lyrics (even if he is a little bit country).

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