The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Tinsley Ellis and Mike Zito. Courtesy photos.

Tinsley Ellis & Mike Zito 

When: Saturday, Dec. 13, 8 p.m.
Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 2 Young Road, Londonderry
Tickets: $30 & $35 at

Pairing up
Tinsley Ellis and Mike Zito play Tupelo

By Michael Witthaus

A rare treat awaits blues-rock fans when Tinsley Ellis and Mike Zito trade licks on Dec. 13 at Tupelo Music Hall, one of four dates dubbed the Soul and Soul Tour. Both have long and lauded solo careers, but they’ve kicked around the idea of sharing a stage for years. Joined by a drums/bass rhythm section, the show will mix songs from each guitarist’s catalog.

An old-school mood will prevail, Zito said in a recent phone interview. 
“We both want to play guitar together in the sprit of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers or Fleetwood Mac” — the vintage extant when Stevie Nicks was still in college. “I’ve always been a fan of Tinsley. … It will be fun, loose and I’ll try and steal some of his licks.”
It’s a relaxing change of pace for Zito, who just finished a five-week tour of Europe that stopped everywhere from London and Paris to the Czech Republic. He was drumming up support for a CD/DVD set released last month. 
Recorded last January in front of a raucous Texas crowd, Mike Zito and The Wheel: Songs From the Road serves as both a retrospective and an introduction to fans that discovered him during his time with Royal Southern Brotherhood. He spent four years with the band, which included Cyril Neville, Devon Allman, Charlie Wooton and Yonrico Scott.
Zito left the supergroup with good memories but is glad to be back doing his own thing. 
“I had never been in a band where other people were involved and making choices,” he said. “I joined because it was fun, to make some records with these guys that are friends, but not to get off path.”
He found that he missed performing his own music. 
“It seems weird to play all these songs for a large period of your life and then not play them for a couple of years,” Zito said. “So I knew I had to get back to it. The best part about the Brotherhood is it turned me on to a lot of people.”
The live set follows 2013’s Gone to Texas, a heartfelt paean to the state that Zito claims “saved my life” after a long stretch of addiction and despair. The studio disc was also the debut of his new band — Delbert McClinton’s former keyboard player Lewis Stephens, Scott Sutherland on drums, bassist Rob Lee (Tommy Castro) and Jimmy Carpenter on sax. 
Both records are fiery affairs, and the group’s quick chemistry is no accident. Zito met Carpenter early in his career, and Lee’s been his drummer for six years. 
“I just saw these guys and thought they should all play together,” he said. “We’re gonna do another studio album … this is the long haul. One thing about the Brotherhood, it inspired me to have my own band and my own sound.”
He’s quite excited for the detour with Ellis, though, and about returning to New Hampshire. 
“I love Tupelo, what a great room,” he said. “All these great crazy Italian people from Boston get up front and holler, it’s like the Zito family party.”
For the energetic Zito, it’s all about cutting loose and having a good time. 
“With the Brotherhood we had this thing that we did,” he said. “This is more in the blues guitar vein. … We get to play guitar together and have a good time the way that those classic late ‘60s kind of blues jam bands did, and who knows what’s going to happen? Tinsley is a master, and I think if people are into blues and good guitar playing, man, this is going to be a fun show.” 
As seen in the December 11, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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