Mike Zito and the Wheel
featuring Jimmy Carpenter, Scot Sutherland, Lewis Stephens, and Rob Lee
The natural habitat of the true musician is not the gleaming studio, a glitzy showbiz party or a five-star hotel. It’s the road. And if multiple Blues Music Award winner Mike Zito had a dollar for every mile of tarmac he’s burnt since his breakout in the early-’90s, they’d be piled up to his chin. “There’s just something in me,” considers the solo bandleader and Royal Southern Brotherhood co-founder (with Devon Allman and Cyril Neville), “It’s there in all musicians. You gotta love the road to be a part of this world. You’re right there, looking in people’s eyes, swapping stories, shaking hands…”
There’s an undeniable romance about a life in motion – and an enduring magic about the moment when the house lights go down, the roar of the crowd goes up and the shadows take the stage. For Mike, who began touring the Midwest circuit at the age of eighteen, and has since crossed twenty-plus countries as guitarist with the Brotherhood, this is when things get serious. “In my band, The Wheel, if you’re not already with us, you’d better get on board,” he grins. “Because otherwise we’re gonna knock you down!”
Released in August 2014 in the US as the latest installment in Ruf Records’ Award winning live series, Zito’s Songs From The Road is a two-disc set that captures Mike at full throttle on his adopted home-turf. “This DVD and live album were recorded on January 10th, 2014, at Dosey Doe at The Woodlands, TX, to a sold-out crowd of crazy Texans,” he recalls. “The audience was on fire from the first note. The band played with such energy and passion. I was overwhelmed many times throughout this performance by the sheer energy of love that poured out of every soul in that building. It was a truly magical night, one I’ll never forget.”
Mike Zito And The Wheel: Songs From The Road captures the push ‘n’ pull between Mike and his all-star lineup of Jimmy Carpenter (sax/vocals), Scot Sutherland (bass/vocals), Lewis Stephens (piano/organ) and Rob Lee (drums/percussion). “With the guys in The Wheel,” explains the bandleader, “we’re all on the same page. We’re not interested in solos, we want to play together.”
White-hot chemistry meets world-class material on Songs From The Road, whose set list dips into pivotal moments from Mike’s storied past. There’s Greyhound: the gritty travelogue recalling the desperate events of September 2002, when a drug-addicted Mike stole his father’s credit card and bought a one-way bus ticket to Florida. “I decided I’d be doing everybody a favor if I just left, got as far away as I could go,” he remembers.
On the emotional flipside, there’s Rainbow Bridge, written about the rush that a reformed Mike felt on the final approach to home. “The Rainbow Bridge is one of the tallest bridges in the South,” he explains. “I would have to drive to Louisiana to play gigs, and then I’d drive home over that Rainbow Bridge. And I knew that when I was hitting the bridge, I was almost home.”