Review: Mike Zito – Life Is Hard


Mike Zito - Life Is Hard

Mike Zito – Life Is Hard
Format: CD – Digital / Label: Gulf Coast Records
Release: 2024

Text: Pascal Wilhelm

Life is hard, yes. For example, when your wife dies of cancer too early in life. It happened to Mike Zito. Mike and Laura discussed that Mike would try to pour his heart out on a record after her death. And he did.

Supported by Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith (production and, of course, additional guitars) he created, in his own words, a work of art. Surprisingly, only two originals on this record (Forever My Love and Without Loving You).

For the rest covers by, amongst others, Tab Benoit (Darkness), Tinsley Ellis (Dying To Do Wrong) and Walter Trout (Nobody Moves Me Like You Do), in total 11 songs including a radio edit of Forever My Love.

The covers are clearly functional to expressing his grief and sorrow and if you think about the background to this record, Mike’s singing gets a deeper dimension.

This is despite the powerhouse production and guitar violence present on this record, the risk of it being that the message gets lost. But no. On Death don’t have no mercy (Gary Davis), Mike’s emotions come closest (Death Don’t Have No Mercy In This Land, he’ll come to your house and won’t stay long, you look in the bed somebody’s gone). The song starts very intimate with only Mike’s voice and erupts into a heavily orchestrated spiritual that suddenly stops. Beautiful symbolism.

To be honest, Mike’s music is not my thing, but the background story made me really appreciate this record. To me, it showed that what is communicated through music is of such importance. When it is something universal, you get true art. One does not have to like it but one feels it is something meaningful.

According to Mike, he has sung Forever my love countless times at the kitchen table when Laura was still alive. She did not live to hear the final result, but she must have felt confident that Mike would make a good one. And he did.

01. Lonely Man – Milton Campbell, Bob Lyons
02. Life Is Hard – Fred James
03. Have a Talk with God – Calvin Hardaway, Stevie Wonder
04. Forever My Love – Mike Zito
05. No One to Talk to (But the Blues) – George Sherry, Wayne P Walker
06. Dying to Do Wrong – Tinsley Ellis
07. These Eyes – Randall Charles Bachman, Burton Cummings
07. Darkness – Tab Benoit
08. Without Loving You – Mike Zito
09. Nobody Moves Me Like You Do – Walter Trout
10. Death Don’t Have No Mercy – Gary Davis
11. Forever My Love (radio edit) – Mike Zito

Mike Zito – Guitar and Vocals
Joe Bonamassa – Additional Guitar
Josh Smith – Additional Guitar
Reese Wynans – Keyboards
Calvin Turner – Bass
Lemar Carter – Drums
Paulie Cerra – Saxophone on “Lonely Man”
Jennifer Kumma and Anna Spina – French Horn on “Forever My Love” and “These Eyes”
Jade Macrae – Background Vocals
Dannielle Deandrea – Background Vocals
Steve Ray Ladson – Background Vocals on “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”
French Horn Arrangements by Calvin Turner