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Chicago Rambler - Blues Magazine (NL)

Blues Magazine (NL)
May 7th, 2019

CHICAGO RAMBLER - The Groove Crossroads Blues Society IL

March-Apr 2019 Issue of The Groove Crossroads Blues Society IL


Tomislav Goluban was inspired by harp masters Sonny Boy Williamson, Paul Butterfield, Gary Primich and others. The Croatian musician, whose surname translates to Pigeon in English, formed Little Pigeon’s Forhill Blues Band in 1997. His debut recording Pigeon’s Flight was released in 2005, and followed up in 2007 with “Mr. B”. In 2009 Goluban traveled to Memphis and competed in the International Blues Challenge. His sixth studio album 2014’s “Blow Junkie” was well received and cracked the Roots Music Report in May 2015. He has played in twenty European countries and at the prestigious Notodden Blues Festival in Norway. On his 2016 “Kaj Blues Etno” Goluban mixed Croatian songs and themes with his blues. In 2017 Goluban returned to Memphis to again compete in the IBC this time representing the Croatian Blues Forces. In early 2018 Goluban collaborated with pianist Toni Staresinic on the eclectic album “Velvet Space Love”.  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.

Last year Goluban made a pilgrimage to Chicago to record his tenth album. Goluban, harp and vocals, enlisted Chicago Blues guitarist Eric Noden; and the veteran rhythm section of E.G. (Greg) McDaniel, bass; and the Grammy nominated Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, drums. The album, co-produced by Goluban and Noden, was recorded January 30th and 31st, 2018 at the Joy Ride Studios. All of the songs are written by Goluban.

The opener “Pigeon Swing” inspired by Little Walter’s “Roller Coaster” recorded in 1955 is a rollicking instrumental with great harp work from Goluban. Originally slatted to be a bonus track, the strong band performance caused the producers to make it the lead track. The song is receiving a considerable amount of air time.

“Locked Heart” is a laconic Jimmy Reed styled tune featuring some discordant guitar from Noden. Both the south side shuffle “Bag Full of Troubles” and the Muddy Waters styled “Little Pigeon” feature fellow harmonica ace Joe Filisko who is often paired with guitarist Noden.

The rumba “Jerry Ricks On My Mind” is a tribute to Goluban’s friend “Philadelphia” Jerry Ricks who lived the later portion of his life in Croatia where he mentored the younger Goluban. An acoustic version follows. The Kastav Blues Festival in Croatia was established to honor Ricks.

“Do The Right Thing” features a Bo Diddley beat provided by Smith, and Goluban’s best vocal, and is another song receiving airplay. It is listed #2 on this week’s Chicago Blues song chart squeezed between Ronnie Baker Brooks and The Cash Box Kings. The closer “I’ll Go to My Cottage” is a traditional Croatian folk song transformed into a shuffle.

Goluban is a world class harp ace who walks the streets of Chicago on this set of originals.

MAKING A SCENE, Richard Ludmerer, January 17, 2019 (USA)

CHICAGO RAMBLER - Peter Merrett's review

Peter Merrett PBS106.7 Melbourne Australia

*** Track 1. - "Pigeon Swing" Written by Tomislav Goluban.
A bouncing stunning full on Blues kicks off the album with Little Pigeon himself ripping it up on the reeds on his self penned track "Little Pidgeon". The dexterity in his playing is fully on display here an he certainly calls on all of the past masters in Sonny Boy and Little Walter for inspiration and really it is Golubans innate amazing talents fully on show here on a track that was to be left off of the album. This track just isn't Goluban's harp but also the brilliance of guitarist Noden and a very powerful potent rhythm section of McDaniel and "Beedy Eyes" Smith. Stunning electrifying introduction to the album.
*** Track 2. - "Locked Heart: Written by Tomislav Goluban.
 Laconic rambling Blues displaying wonderful jangly guitar from Noden and a very solid rhythm section with the killer line up of bassist McDaniel and drummer "Beedy Eyes" Smith  this one is very engaging. As with past releases this award winning harpist absolutely shines in his heavily Slim Harpo and Jimmy Reed style. That being said he is not just a copier of their styles but has carefully and deftly combined elements of their styles and then carefully developed his very own. The laid back style lends itself well with Goluban as he wistfully meanders through this song vocally and reflects that imagery in his harp playing. Such a joyful experience this one is.

*** Track 3. - "Bag Full Of Troubles Featuring Joe Filisko" Written by Tomislav Goluban.
Rambling but tight Chicago Blues with very precise power packed instrumentation lays this one you with plenty of passion. Filisko provides the harp work throughout and he certainly pulls no punches leaving you in no doubt as to why he was chosen to play on the album of a true genius harpist in Tomislav Goluban. Throughout Noden's guitar work is absolutely mesmerizing as he just gets onto a groove and is unrelenting with it and the pulls out a brilliant solo to take your breathe away. Not to be outdone the rhythm section is in the stratosphere with their performance as it is just that good with bassist McDaniel striking up that killer groove and drummer "Beedy Eyes" Smith making the skin work look easy but playing some very complex runs. Goluban's vocals are very strong but somewhat mono tonal but that works well with the song and his performance is exemplary all round. Great sound and a great track! 

*** Track 4. - "Jerry Ricks On My Mind" Written by Tomislav Goluban.
This is such a personal song for Goluban and could be said to be auto biographical about his time in 2007 performing with Mr. Jerry Ricks. Very folksy and very engaging. Call it quaint if you like but it has that something that draws you into the sentiments of the story situated in Kastav Croatia. Blues is international and Goluban himself is an international ambassador so he is paying homage to one of his teachers and by listening to and enjoying the song we to are thanking Mr. Jerry Ricks for imparting his teachings on one Tomislav Goluban. It is stories like this that Blues began with and helped the music along with the singers flourish. Time hasn't travelled all that far with Blues after all has it? Golubans voice is suitably frail at times, very emotive if not fragile but it is this that shows his reverence to the man who was his inspiration. The harp playing as expected is sublime throughout and at times you can be so engrossed with the amazing story that you miss just how beautiful the music is. Eric Noden's guitar is absolutely magnificent as he helps to draw every emotion from the listener with a performance so carefully crafted. Masterful indeed. Now we must look at rhythm section member Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith and the hypnotic drumming performance on this track. Very prominent in the mix it truly is a masterclass of playing. Fellow rhythm section alumni E. G. McDaniel on bass has provided the perfect performance as he sits perfectly in the mix providing the stunning cadence for this beautiful song, carefully carrying it along on his four strings. Absolutely faultless performance!

*** Track 5. - "Can't Find Myself" Written by Tomislav Goluban.
Now this is one stunning slow Blues intro what with Noden's mesmerizing magnificent slide guitar intro and single drum strikes from drummer "Beedy Eyes" Smith. Mimilist vocals permeate this introduction with Goluban's voice taken on a sort of mournful moan about times of extreme rain fall and hurricanes. McDaniel's bass adds perfectly to this deeply saddened sound that is simply exquisite despite the subject but it can't be denied that the performance presented here is mesmerising and one that just takes your breath away. The impact of the harp, guitar, drums and bass are sublime to say the least. This truly is a masterpiece of slow Blues.

*** Track 6. - "Home Made Honey" Written by Tomislav Goluban.
Here Goluban steps it up and has a party and a beach party at that as he brings in some boogaloo to the mix, a bit of shimmy and a bit of shake for good measure. Perfect for a beach party. Noden not to be left out knows just how to get the part jammin' and has the twang thing happenin' perfectly. Goluban's vocals are decidedly low key but appear to be a bit of a parody but his harp is a celebration of all of the music of that time in the early sixties in California. "Beedy Eyes" Smith and McDaniel swing it hard and are very boisterous in their application. The have the rhythm section cookin' on all burners here.  All round this is a fun track that just rocks and rolls.

*** Track 7. - "One Way Ticket" Written by Tomislav Goluban.
If ever there was a subject matter to imitate in the Blues it has to be a train and the harp is the perfect instrument to do just that. Here Goluban absolutely lifts the bar on that standard to one very dizzying height as he chugs, wails, wheezes, squeals on down the line. This is one very righteous display of how to play the harp. Have mercy this man is good! Joining Goluban on this train ride Noden lays down some mighty fine guitar licks that also accentuate the harp and Goluban's catchy vocals. These vocals have a distinctive country twang to them giving a distinctive  sound to the song. McDaniel and "Beedy Eyes" Smith have the rhythm section cooking in a perfect cadence to the rhythm of the chugging train  keeping this one on time and at the station definitely on time.

*** Track 8. - "Do The Right Thing" Written by Tomislav Goluban.
One of the most recognisable beats is the six bits for a shave Bo Diddley jungle beat. No matter what you do or how you dress it up it can't be disguised. Not that there is anything wrong with that because we all love that beat and here "Beedy Eyes" Smith has the toms beating out those jungle rhythms perfectly setting up the rhythm along with bassist McDaniel. Golubans harp and Noden's guitar share the Diddley guitar part and this combination is absolutely spectacular as they share the leads producing a stunning mix to the overall sound. Goluban's vocals are strong and emotive throughout on this song that is another example of Golubans outstanding grasp of the Blues with his song writing.

*** Track 9. - "Little Pigeon Featuring Joe Filisko" Written by Tomislav Goluban.
Chicago style Blues that has 'Little Pigeon" himself extolling all of his good points to the ladies. Very much a Muddy Waters style of song written by Goluban but here the harp duties have been handed to the amazing Joe Filisko who absolutely nails it in a masterful virtuoso display. Noden's guitar work is very strong with a very powerful masculine feel to it and it really sits back in the mix allowing the harp to take centre stage. Keeping this intense powerful song in time the rhythm section has to be equally firm and "Beedy Eyes" Smith and McDaniel are perfectly in tune and command to do so. The song certainly is a tale of Tomislav's life and maybe a wee bit of boasting or might l say embellishment within it by chance. Either way it's a wonderful Chicago style Blues.

*** Track 10. - "Jerry Ricks On My Mind Acoustic" Written by Tomislav Goluban.
What a difference it is to hear this song acoustic as opposed to electric as in track 4. Stripped back with Noden playing stunning acoustic guitar there is a real honesty about the sound. Uncomplicated the song takes on a completely different sound as does Golubans voice as it sounds somewhat stronger. This is a wonderful inclusion to the album and even though the song is already on the album this acoustic version takes it in a completely different direction.

*** Track 11. - "Searchin' For My Baby" Written by Tomislav Goluban.
When this one started l instantly thought of the great Jimmy Reed. The laconic singing style and harp, it is all there but man this is just so good. Goluban nails this song in the most entertaining way putting all the elements for a great Blues song in just the right place together to obtain this result. The backing is decidedly restrained  "Beedy Eyes" Smith are very promin ate with McDaniel's bass a standout. Such a strong rhythm section. Noden has wonderful flourishes on guitar but is somewhat reserved in the mix but that is not to say that he doesn't make an impact on the mix as it is quite the contrary. You can't help but love this one.

*** Track 12. - "Isel Budem V Kleticu (I'll Go To My Cottage)" Written by Traditional.
What an interesting idea it is to take a traditional Croatian folk song and transform it into a shuffling Blues that has a jaunty bounce about it. "Beedy Eyes" Smith is in his element here as his drums are very prominent leading the rhythm section  with bassist McDaniel. Guitarist Noden is not one to be left out and lays down some mighty  fine licks indeed riffing in and out of the mix all the while as Goluban unleashes bursts of harp magic that will excite. To hear Tomislav sing in Croatian feels right and you feel as though you know what he is singing about. Even though l don't l liked it a lot.

When you teased us by releasing "Locked Heart" Tomislav l just knew we were in for something special with "Chicago Rambler" Now that l have the album and have had a really good listen am l disappointed with it?  The plain truth about it is a resounding no as it is more than l expected. Much more in fact. Your song writing has gone to a new level and your grasp of the different styles of the past masters is something to behold. Each and every song is distinctively special and l had a new favourite after each song. For me that is a big tick. I also have to say your harp playing has gone ballistic of late, are on something because wow it is so good at present. Your singing has also improved immensely and at times you are even more laconic than ever than before if that is indeed possible. I must congratulate you and your band as their performances were stellar to say the least. Eric Noden on guitar, man this cat can play, epic! E. G. McDaniel a masterful bassist who really knows how to get on the right groove. Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith, now what can l say about a cool cat like this that hasn't been said except to say the skins sigh when they see him coming. Joe Filisko added two incredible and memorable harp performances that would have been daunting to do on an album of a noted harpist. He did and he shined. Combined with the  fantastic compositions and the traditional folk song plus amazing musicians this is an album for the true Blues lover who demands and expects the best of the best. Tomislav Goluban you indeed have done it again.