Mike Zito is making music when he isn't making music. He's always busy and it's always something musical whether it's in collaboration with other artists like his band Royal Southern Brotherhood (featuring Devon Allman and Cyril Neville), producing for up-and-comers like Samantha Fish, or working on his own solo records.
Gone To Texas follows up Zito's Greyhound and continues the autobiographical bent of that record. Zito is joined by his core band, The Wheel, comprised of Jimmy Carpenter (sax and guitars), Rob Lee, (drums) and Scot Sutherland (bass) and recruits some heavyweight talent in the form of luminaries Debert McClinton and Sonny Landreth as well as Susan Cowsill and Lewis Stephens.
The Texas connection is not only an autobiographical and emotional one for Zito but is also the cornerstone of his blues-rock sound. Stevie Ray Vaughan is the touchstone of modern Texas blues and you can hear shades of his style on Texas but Zito is no SRV wannabe, the downfall of so many aspiring Texas bluesmen.
It's another Texan, the aforementioned McClinton, who looms large on Gone To Texas, both as a guest performer and as songwriter. Zito lays down some greasy slide guitar and puts his gruff, mannered vocal against McClinton's patented soul as the two trade verses on "The Road Never Ends." McClinton remains a vocal champion and can still blow some badass harp. The master outshines the student but there's no shame in that; the collaboration works.
There are two covers on the record, one of which is the McClinton-penned "Take It Easy." Zito is best on uptempo rockers and doesn't have the same easy soul in his voice as Delbert but gives a robust reading of the tune and supplies some tasty guitar lead.
Zito is still at the center of the record, even with the McClinton influence, and the presence of other outstanding guests. "Rainbow Bridge" partners him with Landreth and Cowsill, both of whom make their presence felt, but Zito stands tall among them and this boogie stands as out as a highlight.
A song title like "Hell On Me" pretty well demands getting loud and he does just that while carefully walking the line between rocking the blues and devolving into generic blues-rock. That care and some hot guitar work make this another highpoint.
Zito is a solid singer and songwriter with the technical prowess as a guitarist and producer to confidently execute his vision. Gone To Texas is a durable, enjoyable listen for those who like some Texas twang in their blues and rock.