If, like me, the name Zed Mitchell is new, then prepare, like me, to be embarrassed…this Belgrade born, German-based, multi-talented songwriter, singer, guitarist and has appeared on over twenty albums and, in January, released his eighth solo album on vinyl (the ‘standard release came out in December.)
Zed has been a professional musician since 1970 and comes with the approval of none other than feted broadcaster, journalist and champion of the blues Mr Pete Feenstra…indeed, Pete adds to his talents by writing the lyrics for four of the ten tracks on the vinyl (plus two extra via download.) This just makes my ignorance even more inexcusable: I will seek out more of this talented man’s work over the coming months as, on the evidence of this latest one, Route 69, there is much to explore.
First run through tells me this isn’t just a blues album; it combines the blues with rock, pop, jazz and all points in between to deliver a varied and accessible collection.
It opens with a slinky slide which he combines neatly with tremolo work…delicious. Then, behind the Knopfler-like and effective vocal inflexions, it builds into…how to explain? Imagine Mark fronting the Jeff Beck Group and it’s getting close as the bass also sounds like Tal as it pins everything down…it is a pity there’s no extended solo(said he, selfishly.)
Next comes the mild funk of I Like To drive My Car (I’m Ready To Live); it has a laid backwash with the vocals reminding me of Scorpion’s Klaus in a small way…the guitar is again the star for me as Zed pulls some wonderful tones ou of it…even if the extended solo is missing again. I’m Still Waiting (I See, You See) has a brilliant bass line, sweeping Hammond and tasty guitar…the Beck tremolo style is a delight as we get a Knopfler does Rea, especially on the chorus. Hurrah! Two proper solos that have a touch of genius about them…still too short.
The Girl That Broke Your Heart is a love song that escapes mawkishness due to the guitar speaking in voices that explain as much as the words. The solo waits until the end and…is too short. Freedom Trail adds some clever use of the wah, wah pedal to the mix as this slowed down, almost countrified blues takes form. The solo is very good indeed with each note and bend meaning something and the background slide is like a pedal steel, while the outro solo has great tone as runs and chords combine neatly.
From My Dreams could have been a hit in days of yore as the poppy themes bring a sense of Rea doing Eurovision…it is way better than that sounds; especially as it has more tremolo work in the solo that again uses each note carefully and craftily. Midnight Melody has the jazz I mentioned as the subtle toned guitar, brushed snare and bass sounding very upright make for a lounge experience. A sax solo further reinforces that and it is a good ‘un, and we do get a guitar solo of quality too with volume play as well as tremolo…nice!
Is This Life is more Rea/Knopfler flavoured blues with a (short) picked solo with a lovely tone. The outro guitar is worth waiting for too. Blue In Your Eyes has the Klaus-like touchback in a balladic structure (without whistling!) and another great solo that plays with all of the melodies.
A pick up in pace and the twin guitars of Zed and his son, Todor, on Life Will Always Find You which is reminiscent of Innocent Victim Heep; the solo is just Zed though and is still good. The outro reprises the intro but with extra dubbed phrasing.
The first bonus track, I Don’t Know, is another slower, laid back song but contains an occasional rock chording but is most notable for the best solo yet…tremolo filled wizardry. The final track is Fake: a bluesy, light rock song with a damnably clever bass line and some superb guitar explorations.
All in all, this is a remarkable album from a guitarist of exceptional talent; it veers toward pop a little too much at times but is always rescued by that amazing guitar tone, tremolo and volume play that never wears thin. A welcome addition to my blues guitar collection.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – A Wonderful album of guitar wizardry set to blues-tinged songs that always entertain.
01. By Sundown You’ll Be Gone
02. I Like To Drive (I’m Ready To Live)
03. I’m Still Waiting (I See, I See)
04. The Girl That Broke Your Heart
05. Freedom Trail
06. From My Dreams
07: Midnight Melody
08. Is This Life
09.Blue In Your Eyes
10: Life will Always Find You
11: I Don’t Know
All guitars Zed Mitchell & Todor Manojlovic
Drums: David Haynes
Keys on ‘The Girl That Broke Your Heart’: Sascha Kuhn
Sax on ‘Midnight Melody’: Max Schurakowski
Recorded in Zed Mitchell studio in Düsseldorf
(iTunes brought me a demo I picked up on bandcamp by the heavy as a heavy thing psyche band called Zodiac and the blues tinted and quite superb Drown.)