Tomislav Goluban shines a Memphis Light

I think the best way to open this review is to share the introduction from his last appearance here on Bluesdoodles. “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, busy man, 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”.

Well, now we have his eleventh album that, like the last has a kind of a theme…this time it is Memphis that percolates through as Tomi shines a Memphis Light.

Opening with the country blues flavoured Hayloft Blues, we see Tomi doing what he does best…letting the harmonica add colour, depth and character to the song without ever becoming (pardon the pun) overblown. He isn’t like some that fill every second with harp histrionics; he has the knack of making the harp speak and to compliment rather than take over a composition. And so it is here as some great guitar and harp introduce the song in just the right understated way. It stays that way too and then supplies a harp solo with variation and skill and a guitar solo of the same quality. Fun Starts Here features Memphis local and fellow harp player Vince Johnson who lends his vocals to this song that, to quote Tomi, “is dedicated to all the women who bring out the wild side of men”…I dare not comment further! Musically the guitar is class and the soulful vocal suits the song. The guitar, piano and harp should be listened to carefully throughout, not just the lovely solos, as this is a great song that may not grab on first listen. Country Bag is an instrumental that emerged from a studio jam and the good time had by all feeling just draws you in…just don’t try toe-tapping as the frantic pace will wear out those digits. Disappear For Good addresses something that us old ‘uns are all too aware of. Behind the message is a clever, slow smooch of guitars, brushed snare and keys. OK, Tomi’s vocals are an acquired taste but they are good enough to carry this with panache.

Memphis Light embodies the title with the languid backing instrumentation and vocals. The highlight is harp solo that literally speaks volumes in the carefully phrased playing. Next is a cover of House Of The Rising Sun…always risky as we all have a preferred version: mine is without doubt the underrated Miller Anderson version off his brilliant Bluesheart album. This interpretation is faster than most and is a fascinating take. His vocals fit perfectly and the guitar and piano feed the rhythm cleverly: indeed the piano solo and slide guitar of Mark Johnson make it even better, as does the harp solo that plays beautifully on the main melody. Spirit Will Never Get Old takes a more celebratory approach about his grandfather, I think. It is a neat track even though you will be thinking ‘sounds like…’ thoughts. Party Time Blues is about hangovers and the resulting “what did I do” worries…but as it’s on the top of a happy soundtrack we end up agreeing that it is probably the best way to party! A neat harp solo that won’t bust a hangover head a short and very sweet burst of slide lift it from the danger of being classed as a so-so number. Woman Needs A Man is more delightful slide, piano and harp and a joint vocal that puts the juke into the joint!

The final track, Can I Be What I Want, may try to understand the never-ending puzzle of successful relationships but musically it approaches a sort of light blues-rock with a light-hearted approach too. This is another song that could have been so-so, but the harp solo is so understated and brilliant, all is forgiven.

Tomislav is great harp player who, as I keep saying, knows how to make it effective without blowing the wax out of his and our ears. His subtlety and skill always make him worth a listen and this album is no exception.

Bluesdoodles rating: Wonderful – Harp lovers will definitely add to their collection!

Track listing:

  1. Hayloft Blues
  2. Fun Starts Here
  3. Country Bag
  4. Disappear For Good
  5. Memphis Light
  6. House Of The Rising Sun
  7. Spirit Will Never Get Old
  8. Party Time Blues
  9. Woman Needs A Man
  10. Can I Be What I Want

Musicians:

Tomislav Goluban: vocals, harmonica

Jeff Jensen: guitars

David Green: drums

Rick Steff: keyboards

Bill Ruffino: bass

Plus:

Mark Johnson: slide guitar

Vince Johnson: vocals

Franher Joseph, Reba Russell, Daunielle Hill: backing vocals



Recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis.

Tomislav Goluban shines a Memphis Light

(The iTunes run on track was the underrated master of the guitar that was Tommy Bolin. From the superb solo album. Private Eyes, the carefully crafted Bustin’ Out For Rosie wafted through the speakers.)

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