Local guitar hero John Zito and his band Electric Church released their new 6 song EP “Baptism Under Fire” earlier this week, and it has quickly become my go to record in my playlist.
Opening with the searing title track, John and his band, featuring Bassist Barry Barnes and Paulie “Paulie D” DiSibio (who also, along with Zito make up the rhythm section of Count’s 77) waste no time delivering the goods.
Coming in with a heavy, pounding back beat and John’s signature guitar style, the band lays the groundwork for hard rocking, blues trip of a CD.
John’s vocals are road weary and wise, soaked in Jim Beam and Marlboros. He delivers his lyrics with the raw emotion of someone who has actually lived the blues. But this isn’t your standard “my woman done left me” sobbing blues. This is the hard stuff, tinged with touches of metal and grunge, which sells them so much better.
In the standout track ” The Chain” he howls “God’s bells toll, raindrops fall. I need my time alone, don’t leave me standing.” with Vegas vocalist Mary Kryah giving added depth to words. The CD also features a who’s who of Vegas’ best as guests with Kyle Frost on keys, Stoney Curtis (who also produced and co-wrote the record) on guitars and the Count himself, Danny Koker, on backing vocals.
“Semi-Sonic” is everything that is John Zito in one song. Coming in with his signature slide playing the song twists and turns throughout its entire life,always coming back to the focus- The UNBELIEVABLE SLIDE PLAYING! I am not going too far in saying that I place Zito on the list of best slide guitar players right next to Duane Allman, Ry Cooder and Derek Trucks. He’s THAT good.
Barnes and Paulie D lay such a thick, solid foundation for the songs that it never sounds over indulgent, even when some of the songs venture into six minute territory.
The cover of the Stone’s classic “Happy” is a great surprise on the record. With John doing his best Keith Richards, and Koker supplying excellent back-ups, its every bit as jumpy and raunchy as the original.
The CD closes at with the remorseful instrumental “11:11” which ties the whole set together nicely.
Zito wears his influences proudly, with touches of Joe Perry and Robin Trower coming through at times, but his style is all his own, and when he and Curtis team up (as they do in Count’s 77) it’s a magical experience.
The CD, “Baptism Under Fire”, is available on Amazon Music, CD Baby and all major streaming sites. Do yourself a favor and get it. I normally don’t submit a “Best Of” list at the end of the year for this magazine, as I am so far entrenched in the Vegas music scene myself I don’t ever want to be seen as playing favorites, but I am absolutely saying this right now- This is going to be hard to beat for “Best Release” of 2019.