CD: 12 Songs; 40:18 Minutes
Styles: Instrumental Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues, Harmonica Blues
Just how far has the influence of this magazine’s favorite subject spread around the world? So far, yours truly has reviewed blues CD’s from Australia, Africa, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and the UK. Tomislav Goluban and Nebojša Buhin provide an exciting entry to this list: Croatia.
Their latest album on the Spona label, For a Friend & Brother, contains twelve instrumentals dedicated to Nebojša’s brother Dražen, who passed away in 2012. From the most excruciating loss a human being suffers can come some of the most beautiful art s/he can create. Yes, the blues IS beautiful, as Goluban and Buhin’s masterpieces prove. This duo knows the purpose of instrumental music is twofold: to set a mood, and to let listeners achieve a powerful emotional release in the absence of lyrics. Certain fans might ask, “Where’s the ‘baby, baby, baby’, or traditional rhythms we’re used to hearing?” No one will find any of that on this album, but never fear. Its blues is as pure as it comes.
Tomislav Goluban has been honing his harp skills since 1997, and his sixth studio album, Blow Junkie, debuted at #49 on the Roots Music Chart. “Nebo” Buhin has played in front of renowned guitar masters such as Johnny Winter and Greg Koch. Both of them have performed at International Blues Challenges in Memphis, TN. Hopefully, their names will be hailed far and wide in the U.S., because all of their songs on this rip-roaring CD deserve national airplay.
It boasts a staggering total of nineteen musicians – not only Goluban on harps and Buhin on guitars, but their compatriots as well: Vlado Simich Vava on slide guitar; guitarist Mike Sponza; bassist Mario Mikor; Jurica Štelma on double bass; Mladen Malek and Igor Vugrek on drums; keyboardists Jurica Leikauff and Goran Kovačić; pianist Bruno Krajcar, Toni Eterović on synth; Boris Šaronja and Zvonimir Bajević on trumpet; Robert Polgar on saxophone; Mario Šincek on trombone, Danko Burić on viola; Igor Križanić on kalimba; Darka Veronica Bisćan on violoncello; Lela Kaplowitz on backing vocals (track nine), and also on tap dance with Lucia Kaplowitz and Bojan Valentić.
It’s truly impossible to pick the best songs on this album, so let’s go 1-2-3, for simplicity’s sake:
Track 01: “Won’t You” – Haunting, melodic, and slow, the opener captures the angst of lost love without saying so out loud. Here, Goluban’s harp does all the talking, or should I say, screaming. Lovelier than that, however, is Boris Šaronja’s tantalizing trumpet. This is a song for long, cold nights alone, perhaps with a bottle of wine for sole company.
Track 02: “St. Martin” – Directly after that, it’s time for a throw-down boogie! Whoever says that string instruments have no place in the blues hasn’t heard Danko Burić’s va-va-voom viola. Perhaps the catchiest, however, is a bouncy bass backbeat, courtesy of Mario Mikor. Such a track is perfect for live shows, whether at outdoor festivals or indoor bars. Yee-haw!
Track 03: “Thunder Night” – Get ready to tell some ghost stories, blues fans, on a dark and stormy – well, you know. With an intro that would make Edgar Allan Poe as well as Stephen King proud, Goluban’s harmonica wails tales of specters past and gone. Jurica Leikauff’s keyboards add a psychedelic touch.
For a Friend & Brother is a monumental tribute to instrumental blues fans everywhere!