Mike Zito Set to Release New Album, "Life Is Hard," On February, 23, 2024

Article Contributed by Mark Pucci Media | Published on Thursday, December 14, 2023

Gulf Coast Records announces a February 23, 2024, release date for the new disc from multi-Blues Music Award-winner Mike Zito, Life Is Hard. Zito recorded the new album in September at Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood, California, with Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith producing. Both Bonamassa and Smith were involved in the production of Blood Brothers, the critically-acclaimed album Zito recorded with fellow label guitarist Albert Castiglia, which topped both the Billboard and iTunes blues charts after its release in March, 2023. Mike’s first single, “Life is Hard,” the album’s title track, will drop on January 12th.

“Life Is Hard is a complete work of art for me,” says Mike Zito about the new disc. “I believe this is the best album I’ve ever made in my life. My wife Laura and I planned this idea of pouring my heart out in music after her death from cancer. Joe, Josh and the incredible musicians were fully aware of the task at hand. They brought a lot of emotion to the music. I am so proud of this album and I know Laura would be proud as well.”

The even-dozen tracks on Life Is Hard include not only several Mike Zito originals, but also his takes on a wide variety of blues songs written by such contemporaries as Tinsley Ellis, Walter Trout, Tab Benoit and Fred James. Sprinkled in are covers from a diverse assortment of blues/roots music icons, including Little Milton (“Lonely Man”), Stevie Wonder (“Have a Talk with God”) and Reverend Gary Davis (“Death Don’t Have No Mercy”), plus the outside-the-box blues-worthy rendering of the Guess Who classic, “These Eyes.”

Mike Zito’s last Gulf Coast solo album, the double live set, Blues for the Southside (released Feb. 2022), debuted at number one on the Billboard Blues Chart. Recorded in November, 2021, at the Old Rock House in St. Louis, Missouri, and produced by Zito, Blues for the Southside captured Mike (guitar and vocals) and his stellar band in full fury: Matthew Johnson - vocals/drums; Lewis Stephens - piano/organ; Doug Byrkit – vocals/ bass, with special guests including label mate guitarists Tony Campanella and Dave Kalz, plus guitar wizard Eric Gales.

Zito’s last studio album, Resurrection (released July, 2021), contained 11 tracks that not only showcased his strengths as a composer,  but also as an interpreter of other compositions, with scintillating and powerful takes on tunes from JJ Cale (“I’ll Make Love To You”), Eric Clapton (“Presence of the Lord”) and Willie Dixon (“Evil”).  Mike won the 2022 Blues Music Award for “Blues Rock Album” for Resurrection.

The Blood Brothers disc was one of the most-anticipated albums of 2023, with its sales and critical response taking both Zito and Castiglia to new heights in the blues/roots music world, and its ongoing lengthy tour became one of the hottest tickets on the club and festival circuit. The album generated extensive radio airplay around the world, accompanied by universal rave reviews: “…a terrific collaboration.” – American Songwriter; “The universe wants what it wants and, right now, it wants this. Miss it and miss out.” – Rock & Blues Muse; “There was big anticipation that this album would be one of those where one plus one equals better than two. And it does.” – Blues Music Magazine

About Mike Zito

Mike Zito is one of the most lauded artists in the contemporary blues arena today and rightfully so, but for him, the thing that counts the most is maintaining his honesty, authenticity and integrity. Those are the qualities that have steered Zito’s career since the beginning and continue to define every effort he’s offered since.

“I have nothing to hide; it seems my honesty is what people relate to most,” he once told Vintage Guitar magazine. “Anders (Osborne) told me early on, ‘If you don’t believe what you’re singing, you’ll never be a good singer.’ I try not to write fluff; I try to make every word count.”

Naturally, patience and perseverance have been Zito’s stock and trade since the beginning. He began playing guitar at the age of five, and by the time he reached his late teens, he was already a fixture on the local St. Louis music scene. He initially released his music independently and then signed with Eclecto Groove Records in 2008. "Pearl River," the title track of his 2009 album for the label, won Song of the Year at the Blues Music Awards and marked his first collaboration with Cyril Neville, with whom he’d later work in the Royal Southern Brotherhood. A steady succession of critically acclaimed albums followed, culminating in 2011’s Greyhound, which was nominated for Best Rock Blues Album at that year’s Blue Music Awards ceremony in Memphis. Two years later, he signed with Ruf Records and released Gone to Texas, the story of how he gained his sobriety, offered an emotional homage to the state that left an indelible imprint on his entire life. It also marked the debut of his band, The Wheel.

From 2010 to 2014, Zito also played an integral role in the super group of sorts, Royal Southern Brotherhood. The group released two albums and a DVD, Songs from the Road - Live in Germany, winner of the year’s Blues Music Award for Best DVD. He also made his mark behind the boards by producing albums for Samantha Fish, Albert Castiglia, Ally Venable, Jeremiah Johnson, Jimmy Carpenter, and many others.Meanwhile, the accolades kept coming. His album, Make Blues Not War, debuted on the Billboard Blues Album Chart at number one and garnered him recognition as the 2018 Rock Blues Artist of the Year at the Blues Music Awards. First Class Life followed suit, also entering the charts at number one. Alternate Root magazine insisted that “The First Class Life that Mike Zito titles his upcoming album can be heard in the sweet sound of Blue Soul rising like heat waves from his guitar and his vocal.” American Blues Scene said, “Mike Zito’s return to the blues is, in a word, triumphant!” No Depression declared, “Once again, Zito has delivered the goods, a first class package with no postage due.”

With numerous Blues Music Award honors under his belt, Mike Zito is also the co-owner of Texas-based Gulf Coast Records (which has birthed a number of critically-acclaimed blues/rock albums since its 2018 inception.

Mike Zito - Life Is Hard Track Listing and Credits

Produced by Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith

Mixed by Alan Hertz; Engineered by Austin Atwood; Asst. Engineer Nate Haessly

Mastered by Eric Boulanger at the Bakery Mastering

Recorded at Sunset Sound Studio Los Angeles, Additional recording at Ocean Way Studios Nashville

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


Lonely Man - Milton Campbell, Bob Lyons

Life Is Hard - Fred James

Have a Talk with God - Calvin Hardaway, Stevie Wonder

Forever My Love - Mike Zito

No One to Talk to (But the Blues) - George Sherry, Wayne P Walker

Dying to Do Wrong - Tinsley Ellis

These Eyes - Randall Charles Bachman, Burton Cummings

Darkness - Tab Benoit

Without Loving You - Mike Zito

Nobody Moves Me Like You Do - Walter Trout

Death Don’t Have No Mercy - Gary Davis