Europe has long been a hotbed for the blues and many fine releases have come from across the continent…and Scandinavia, proving that the Brits and Americans aren’t the only ones to understand and appreciate this rewarding genre. Although this is a new name to me, Tomislav Goluban has just released his tenth album. His instrument of choice is the harmonica and this Croatian born musician cites Sonny Boy Williamson, Paul Butterfield and Gary Primich amongst others as his inspiration. He is no slouch in other areas either; Goluban has also founded a blues festival in his hometown, educates students with a “Blues in The Schools” program, and hosts his own radio show….a busyman indeed! His surname apparently translates as ‘Pigeon’, which accounts for the titles of 2005 debut, Pigeon’s Flight, and a couple of tracks on the new album. For this release, he made a pilgrimage to America and recruited some local talent to lay down the twelve tracks and, fittingly, called it Chicago Rambler. There is no musical rambling on this…it is all blues and comes across as cohesive, well thought out and skilfully played and recorded.
Unusually, the opener is an instrumental…Pigeon Swing is redolent with Little Walter inflections, as the melody seems to have taken inspiration from his 1955 song, Roller Coaster. Here, the band take the 50s feel and update it in a jubilant way with the harp weaving around the great backing. The variations that Tom (if I may call him that) fits into his playing is excellent as it means that there is a lot to listen for and too, whereas a lot of harp players are less multi-dimensional. Next up is Locked Heart that starts all country swing and shows Tom’s warm vocals with very good diction too. It is a sort of Jimmy Reed style in its lilt and standard blues phrasing, but has a tasteful and clever discordant chord sequence from Noden’s guitar before a restrained and effective harp solo. The verse melody reminds of the Leo Price song, Can’t Believe You’re Gonna Leave, as performed by Little Richard and a spanking version on the Gillan/Glover venture, Accidentally On Purpose…this is still a decent song though. Bag Full Of Troubles is a heavier, more rocking shuffle and, although, it also has a familiar, standard backing the vocals and harp lift it into the ‘new-old’ blues that many try to capture…Tom has made a modern Chicago standard with some genius guitar/harp interplay. Jerry Ricks On My Mind is a fitting tribute to the country blues man, Philadelphia Jerry Ricks, who tom shared a deep friendship with before his untimely death in 2007. This has a rhumba rhythm base, as Tom tells the story of how Jerry taught him “what the blues is all about”. It has a suitable guitar solo tribute too as it takes over from the harp in the countrified middle section. Can’t Find Myself is, inevitably, my favourite as Noden puts in a sterling slide performance that is so simple and emotive as it fills the song with sadness and this is ably reflected in the mournful harp. Slow, meaningful and with a funereal edge maybe, but it is true blues executed perfectly. Home Made Honey is harp led Beach Boys but with way more blues in it! The vocal on this and the subtle chorded and picked surf style guitar makes my mind picture Mickey Moody doing a Dick Dale…and that is a good thing. (I pause here to pay tribute to the remarkable, innovative talent that was Dick Dale…his passing was announced shortly before I sat down to write this). One-Way ticket soon cheered me up…I never tire of quality harp players making like a train! Tom does it here and it is brilliantly evocative of the steam age…I can (just) remember the noise, smoke and emotions that these beasts always conjure in people’s minds. It lasts nigh on a minute and a half as the train speed up and then slows back down, but it doesn’t outstay its welcome before the rest of the band join in this ‘travelling blues’. Do The Right Thing reminds me of the sort of structure Bo Diddley used to such good effect, as did the Stones. Here it is just simply great fun and catchy as hell. The harp punctuates occasionally and solos to the fade in a distinctly Jagger way. Little Pigeon is a harp to the fore update on the Muddy Waters style of the blues. The guitar in the background is devilishly clever too, if you listen carefully. Next up is an acoustic reading of Jerry Ricks On my Mind…not sure it adds anything to the electric version; nor does it take anything away, but I would sooner have had another new track rather than this. Searchin’ For My Baby recalls Jimmy Reed again with a countrified blues new standard. The harp solo is another example of Tom’s sure footed (mouthed?) abilities and he can certainly makes it sing. Final track is a reworking of a traditional Croatian folk song; it has been transformed into a neat mid-paced shuffle with neat hi-hat wok, a rollicking bass and clipped guitar giving the song a lilt and lift…no idea what he is singing as it is in his mother tongue, other than it is something about going to a cottage!
All in all this is a very enjoyable album with a modern twist on blues standard structures. The harp work is faultless and he certainly had a great band behind him during his rambles around Chicago. There isn’t a whole lot of new to it, but if you like your blues with some Chicago fire then you will enjoy this. I may not seek it out specifically, but if any of these come up on shuffle then they will be welcomed every time.
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Pigeon Swing
- Locked Heart
- Bag Full Of Troubles
- Jerry Ricks On My mind
- Can’t Find Myself
- Home Made Honey
- Do The Right Thing
- One-way Ticket
- Little Pigeon
- Jerry Ricks On My Mind (Acoustic)
- Searchin’ For My Baby
- Išel budem v kleticu (I’ll Go To My Cottage)
All songs written by Tomislav Goluban except Išel budem v kleticu, a traditional Croatian folk song arranged by Goluban.
Tomislav Goluban: Vocals, harmonica
Eric Noden: guitar
E G McDaniel: bass
Kenny Smith: drums
Joe Filisko: harmonica
Produced byEric Noden; engineered by Blaise Burton
Recorded atJoy Ride Studios, Chicago