David Zollo knows how to play to a room and a crowd with his band's pleasing mix of original blues/roots rock and unusually wide variety of covers. He began his set at Mugzee's with an enthusiastic cover of "Born in Mississippi," his keyboard talent and strong, passionate vocals combining to fire the crowd's enthusiasm immediately. He followed with an original, the soft, rootsy ballad "Caroline" from his CD, Uneasy Street. Here David showed off both the warmth and emotion he brings to a song with his vocals, great, soft keyboard work, and the nuanced playing of his lead guitarist, Eric Strumanis. This and his other original songs the band played show David to be an excellent songwriter in the blues / roots / country territory as he chronicles the ups and downs of life in Iowa.
David and the band hale from Iowa City. David has played with Iowa blues legends Joe Price and Bo Ramsey, the latter a frequent band mate with his wicked slide guitar. David indicated that Bo was otherwise preoccupied this summer, playing guitar for Lucinda Williams on her national tour. While a young performer, David shows an appreciation for a wide variety of musical styles in his covers, which included blues, Rolling Stones, "Send Me Dead Flowers," Merle Haggard, "The Bottle Let Me Down," Greg Brown, "Poor Backslider." The latter song featured some great slide guitar and stage antics by lead guitarist "Dr." Eric S.
Yet it is with their originals where the band really shines. "Washington County Blues," gives you the mental image where you can just see the old timers in the small downtown café in Southern Iowa where David was raised. The band's comfortable, laid back style is complemented by the fact that David plays keyboard barefoot, as does his solid bass player, Marty Christensen. David can do it all on keyboard, going from boogie woogie, country, slow blues, to roots rock and back. "I'm Gonna Fly" is an uptempo, boogie woogie original that gave the entire band a chance to shine on their instruments. "While You Undress" is a slower, seductive roots-rock song tinged with blues that David wrote and dedicated to his wife.
This band's experience at playing clubs and understanding their crowd came through loud and clear. They are all talented musicians, particularly David with his solid keyboard work, warm, rich, emotional vocals, and stage presence. Whatever they play, they play it well and with a sense of fun. They got the crowd up and dancing and cheering loudly after each song. If you want to get out and hear a little blues along with a mix of other good music, definitely check these guys out the next time they come to town. You won't be disappointed.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Rich Benson, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.