Dave Zollo & The Body Electric (Iowa City, IA.) –
Many people know David Zollo from his work playing keyboards on the recordings and in the touring bands of some of the Americana music genre’s most respected songwriters (Greg Brown; Todd Snider; William Elliot Whitmore,) or for his time as owner/operator of the legendary Iowa roots-music label, Trailer Records, where regular customers included, amongst many others, Lucinda Williams, Dave Alvin and members of David Letterman’s house band. From 1994-2005, the label released more than 30 titles by some of Iowa’s finest performers, and Zollo not only ran the label, but did production (Brother Trucker, The Pines,) or played keys (Bo Ramsey, Joe Price) on many of the label’s releases.
But it’s as a bandleader, songwriter and performer that Zollo has made most of his living, averaging close to 200 gigs a year from the time he started his career in 1992 with Iowa City’s seminal, alt-country bruisers, High and Lonesome, to the present day. In the midst of this promising career arc, Zollo’s life started to unravel when he endured a very well-publicized arrest for attempting to purchase drugs. Coming on the heels of his closing up shop at Trailer Records, Zollo suffered one personal challenge after the next, which ended up with a divorce and time spent in facilities where he dealt with his addiction.
Now, back with his family, clean and sober, and performing better than ever, Zollo has released his latest record, “For Hire,” a cycle of songs that charts his descent in to addiction, the loss of his family, and the long fight back. This is basically front-line reporting from a forgotten, but ever-growing, part of the American population. The poor; the broken; the addicted; the lost. Drawing on influences ranging from gospel to honkey-tonk; from blues to rock and roll, Zollo has given us a beautiful, pained, but ultimately triumphant, look at what it means to be an American on the margins in the 21st century. Recorded with his long-time stage band, The Body Electric (Brian Cooper, drums; Randall Davis, guitar; Ryan Bernemann, harmony vocals; Stephen “The Kid” Howard, bass, electric guitars and co-production) and calling on friends made in his time working in the music business, notably Will Kimbrough (EmmyLou Harris, Todd Snider;) and brilliant horn work from Des Moines musicians Heath Alan (saxophone, horn arrangements) and Erik Brown (trumpet.) In a career filled with highlights, Zollo delivers his best work yet.