Friday, February 9, 2024

#660 : Mike Zito - Life is Hard (


2024 – Gulf Coast Records

By Phillip Smith; Feb. 9, 2024


Release Date : February 23, 2024

Original source :

I’ve been writing about the music of Mike Zito since my earliest days of reviewing albums.  His literal finesse and musical mastery propel his songs into a realm of their own.  Zito’s latest album Life is Hard stands apart from the rest.  Drenched with passion, love, and grief, this record is a heart-felt dedication to his wife Laura who succumbed to cancer last summer.  Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith team up again to produce as well as lend their talents as guitarists, with Reese Wynans on keys, Calvin Turner on bass, and Lemar Carter on drums.

“Lonely Man” hits first with a cooking rhythm, searing guitar, and rolling keys.  It is then topped with a healthy serving of sax from Paulie Cerra.  This Little Milton cover absolutely swings and it sounds great.  The blues gets serious and real as Zito tears it up on title track “Life is Hard”, originally by Fred James.  I’m left speechless as his guitar openly wails from emotion.  I dig how he injects a Chuck Berry vibe into the classic Lefty Frizzell song “No One to Talk to (But the Blues)”.  Wymans gives the song a Little Richard-treatment on keys for an energetic accompaniment.  I love the cover of Tinsley Ellis’ “Dying to do Wrong”.  This cowboy-blues track runs along an ominous set of rails and I am instantly drawn in.  I can’t help but tear up when I hear him take on the Guess Who song “These Eyes”.  The production on this track is superb, featuring Jennifer Kumma and Anna Spina on French horn, and Jade Macrae and Dannielle Deandrea on background vocals.  “Without Loving You”, a Zito-original, has an intriguing, progressive element which captivates me as it pulls me into its crawling hypnotic rhythm.  Life is Hard concludes with a solemn rendition of Gary Davis’ 1960 gospel blues spiritual “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”.  As the song approaches its finish, it wonderfully swells with the sound of spirits and the ethers until total silence suddenly crashes.

Life is Hard is a blues album to be listened to in its entirely.  This is one everyone needs to hear.  



Track list

1 - Lonely Man

2 - Life Is Hard

3 - Have a Talk with God

4 - Forever My Love

5 - No One to Talk to (But the Blues)

6 - Dying to Do Wrong

7 - These Eyes

8 - Darkness

9 - Without Loving You

10 - Nobody Moves Me Like You Do

11 - Death Don’t Have No Mercy

12 - Forever My Love (radio edit)


 For more information about the artist, visit this website :

 For past reviews mentioning Mike Zito on PhillyCheezeBlues :


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