Bernard Allison, Vanja Sky and Mike Zito – Blues Caravan 2018 | Album Review

Mike Zito, Vanja Sky and Bernard Allison – Blues Caravan 2018

Ruf Records

CD: 12 Songs, 72:00 Minutes DVD: 19 Tracks, 138 Minutes

Styles: Live Album, CD and DVD Set, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock  

Everyone loves a good collaboration. If “two heads are better than one” and “great minds think alike,” then when musicians tour together, magic often happens. It’s this magic that Germany’s Ruf Records has counted on, ever since 2005, in its annual Blues Caravan series. Different artists are showcased each year. In 2018, blues-rock renegade Mike Zito, newcomer Vanja Sky and the renowned Bernard Allison teamed up. The resulting CD features twelve songs and over an hour of music, while the DVD presents over two hours of live concert glory. Naturally, collectors of the BC installments won’t want to miss this one. Those of us who are new to them receive a no-holds-barred intro to two of Ruf’s superstars and a freshman on her way to becoming one. Most of the numbers on the CD and DVD are originals, with exceptions such as Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88” and Theodore R. Taylor’s “Give Me Back My Wig.”

Bernard Allison, son of the iconic Luther Allison, taught himself to play guitar while his father was busy on international tours. He displayed his earliest skills at the age of twelve, prompting Luther to buy him a Stratocaster, yet making sure Bernard stayed in school. At eighteen, Bernard debuted with his father at the 1983 Chicago Blues Festival. He soon toured with Koko Taylor’s band and furthered his skills under Johnny Winter and the late, great SRV. Mike Zito, a co-founder of the Royal Southern Brotherhood, has also done film and solo work. He started singing at the age of five. By his late teens, he’d begun his career in the St. Louis scene. Though now with Ruf, Mike made his international debut on the Eclecto Groove label. Vanja Sky saw the light of blues-rock inspiration at a local music venue near her hometown of Buzet in Croatia. Her first album, Bad Penny, is also promoted by Ruf. As her website URL states, she “.rocks”.

The ensemble consists of Mike Zito on vocals and guitar; Vanja Sky on vocals and guitar; Bernard Allison on vocals and guitar; Roger Inniss on bass; and Mario Dawson on drums.

The highlight of both the CD and the DVD is a hard-driving ditty that delighted a live crowd.

Track 05 on CD, Track 08 on DVD: “Keep Coming Back” – This one’s a zinger from Zito, featuring a growling intro reminiscent of Too Slim and the Taildraggers. On the DVD, watch Mike’s face as he concentrates on his fretwork and vocals. He’s a bluesman and he knows it, and his visage surely shows it. Too bad there are no subtitles or included lyric booklet. All the same, if you’re dancing and/or playing air guitar here, you’ll “Keep Coming Back” for more.

It’s no surprise that Allison’s and Zito’s offerings are the strongest ones on both media formats. This isn’t their first rodeo. Nevertheless, young Vanja Sky has toned good looks and melodious guitar work going for her. The purpose of a Blues Caravan is for musicians to promote one another and lift each other up. These three amigos do so with style on Ruf’s 2018 release.

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