Songs from life well traveled
Photo by Dorcas Moulton
John Roy Zat is a Northern California based singer, songwriter, fiddler and guitar picker with a few miles on his chassis and a lot of this world traveled. His work has garnered the attention of, and been recorded by, music legend Kate Wolf, by Banish Misfortune, Caroline Herring, and others. "His lyrics are stunning and his rich vocals bring life to each song, taking us on a journey . . . This man has honed his craft to a fine edge and it shows in his work." Indie Showcase.
With Appalachian influences, Cajun, dust bowl, and a dash of rockabilly, "JRZ comes from a long line of American singer-songwriters who occupy that space between traditional country and folk music." Leichester Bangs Think Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, John Prine, Jessie Winchester - you get the idea.
JRZ's latest CD, Who Zat - released in March 2015, has charted well on STS and RMR. It features songs about how to succeed in life (Fake It 'Til You Make It), what it takes to be a working singer songwriter (Gasoline & Guitar Strings), and what to do on Saturday night (Got to let my devil out!) It also includes a beautiful love ballad inspired by the writings of Willa Cather (A Promise & A Rose), and two traditional fiddle tunes: one, a sweet, haunting waltz about facing failure and going home (Back To The Mountains) and the other, a toe-tapping dance tune (Cluck Old Hen). And there's more!
JRZ's two previous CDs, released in 2011, received consistent airplay on independent radio and charted in the top ten on Roots Music Report and Airplay Direct. The first, Solo, features just JRZ's singing and playing, as when he performs solo. On the second, Collaborations, he recorded with a group of like-minded musicians, adding texture and dimension without messing with his intrinsic Americana roots sound. Who Zat, strikes a middle ground, featuring his vocals, guitar and fiddle, with some added banjo, female duets, bass and even drums on several of the tracks.
If you want a bit more detail of JRZ's story, here it is in his own words:
"I grew up on the British Invasion - Beatles, Stones, Donovan, Clapton and all that - and the alternative folk scene of Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Simon & Garfunkel, the Byrds, Neil Young and others. I started playing guitar in high school; and in college I discovered American old time music courtesy of the Holy Modal Rounders, Rambling Jack Elliot, and Charlie Poole, and I started playing the fiddle.
After college and one year as a geologist, I began playing in bands full time, mostly country rock and top-40 pop. During the 1970's and early 80's, I toured in the western US, opened several times for Asleep At The Wheel, and once for Tanya Tucker. I played with Kate Wolf, Nina Gerber, Queen Ida and Bill Kirchen, to drop a few more names. Kate recorded my lyric to Midnight on the Water on her second album, and I played the fiddle part. Midnight On The Water is still sung in folk circles, and I get a lot of satisfaction from that.
When I got married, I put my full time music activities on hold to focus on family. I worked residential construction; and after five years of that, I went back to school and got a business degree. I started as an auditor for KPMG, a large international accounting firm; and twenty some years later, I finished my corporate career as CFO of The Asia Foundation, a non-profit helping governments in Asia.
"Through all of this, I kept playing music, writing songs and performing. My bands have played the San Francisco Bluegrass and Old Time Festival twice and the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse on numerous occasions, and for many, many clubs, private parties and casual functions.
"Since June 2011, I am back to making and performing music full time. It is exciting and a lot of fun, and if I haven't met you yet, I hope to before too long."