It seems as if harmonicists are intent on being the first ones heard in this new year. This is the fourth review this writer is written for a harmonicist led group across two different outlets and we’re only in the first full week of the new year. Each certainly has its own merits and Croatian Tomislav “Little Pigeon” Goluban adds to his own impressive resume with Memphis Light, his 11th release. As the title suggests, he made the trip to Memphis to record at the famed Ardent Studios. He plays with some of the city’s best including guitarist Jeff Jensen, drummer David Green, keyboardist Rick Steff, bassist Bill Ruffino, slide guitarist Mark Johnson, and four background vocalists including the esteemed Reb Russell and Daunielle Hill. Tomi takes the lead vocal and blows the heck out of his harp on each track. Vince Johnson’s deep resonant voice will remind some of Watermelon Slim, on the slow blues “Fun Starts Here.”. Nine of the ten are originals with a rather unique cover of “House of the Rising Sun.”
Goluban provides some notes on each track. His European take is a refreshing angle on the blues, which can easily get bogged down into predictable clichés and riffs. For example his inspiration for the opening “Hayloft Blues” about families stacking hay, “well-spiced with song and laughter. Also, common to both Europe and America – hay was very often the setting for various love activities, and this makes the song universal.” His sense of humor often reveals itself in tunes like “Party Time Blues” and “Fun Starts Here” – “dedicated to all the women who bring out the wild side of men.” The title track however, is somewhat bipolar in nature. While Goluban is excited to be in the “Home of the Blues,” he’s also mourning the loss of a late friend. He poses the commonly discussed issues of relationships gone bad or about to do so in “Disappear for Good” and “Can I Be What I Want,” the latter coming off more as fun romp due to the background vocalists in the chorus. So, even in the throes of serious subject matter, Goluban doesn’t take it too seriously.
Goluban is intent on having fun and his exuberance shines throughout.
- Jim Hynes