Tomislav Goluban – Kaj Blues Etno
A Croatian blues harmonica player, Tomislav Goluban has put together a project that stretches the lines defining blues music, served up with a unique international perspective. Utilizing over forty musicians and vocalists, Goluban is the lone constant as listeners move from track to track. His vision features traditional Zagorje music mixed with elements from other cultures, seasoned with standard blues progressions.
The disc is divided into three segments, with the first titled Kaj for Goluban’s native Kajkavian dialect. It starts with a lively rendition of “Na Zagorskom Bruegu (Down By The Riverside)” that finds the leader’s harp weaving around Aljosa Mutic’s vibrant saxophone playing. The next track, “Vinska Kaplia” has a rolling beat behind Adalbert Turner Juci’s dark vocal. Hana Hegedusic’s smooth voice tempers the mood a bit and Mike Sponza solid slide guitar effort. “Isel Budem V Kleticu” opens with a moving acapella vocal passage before shifting into a country stomp with Marko First on violin leading the way. Juci is back on the traditional tune, “Tebe Rad Iman,” supported by Toni Staresinic on keyboards.
Goluban hits his stride on the Blues segment right from the start. “Cug” is Goluban on harp conjuring up the sound of a train rolling down the track, which carries over to the next track, “Vlak Vozi,” celebrating riding the train in a fine rocking style. Two brief instrumentals, “Traktor” and “Daj Gas,” give him room to blow some full-tone, amplified harp, unaccompanied over a tractor engine on the former while the latter cut also features Sponza one more time.
By the time listeners reach the half way point on this twenty-one track program, hearing the various vocalists singing in the Kajkavian dialect starts to lose its appeal. Part of the joy of listening to music is letting the lyrics paint a picture in your mind – hard to do when you don’t speak the language. “Tambura Boogie” is exactly what you would imagine from the title while “Polako Starim” is another brisk country-influenced number featuring First’s violin and Lovro Sicel on guitar.
The final segment, Etno, opens with “Coper,” an instrumental duet for harp and Danijel Tisanic’s clarinet. “Vrata” adopts a funkier, ska-like tone with the horn section leading the way. The proceedings shift to a New Orleans second line rhythm on “Jebiveter” with the requisite horns, including a tuba. The original, “Crveni Tepih,” has some nice acoustic guitar picking by Damir Halilic Hal along with some wailing harp. “Odlazak U San” has a touch of the Irish as the quiet tune unfolds with a variety of instruments including the double flute and tambura following Damjan Grbac’s thick bass line. Ivana Kurs Podvorec adds her graceful voice to “Zivot Mi Je Kakti Nocka,” a traditional piece reworked by Goluban with Nebojsa Buhin in the spotlight on slide guitar.
Finishing off the disc is a an instrumental version of “Tebe Rad Iman”. Various instruments flow in and out of the arrangement, playing off Goluban’s measured harp tones. It serves a s fitting synopsis for a album that starts off strong with a unique presentation that starts wearing thin as you get deeper into the disc. Artists constantly have to make decisions about the direction and focus of their craft. Goluban is to be commended for utilizing his native language. But that choice may very well limit the market for this project.