16 tracks; 54 minutes
Croatian musician Tomislav Goluban has been playing harp since 1997 and finds his inspiration among US players such as Paul Butterfield, Kim Wilson and Gary Primich. Two contemporary harp players, Joe Filisko and Eric Noden are credited for their assistance with songwriting on this CD. The material is all original bar one cover and was mainly written by Tomislav, with assistance on four songs by expat American Robert Lon Johnson (not that Robert Johnson) who lived and played in Croatia for a period of time and collaborated with Tomislav. The band is Tomislav on harp and vocals, Lovro Sicel on guitar and B/V, Aleksandar Vesic on bass and Igor Vugrek on drums. Additional guitar on one track is by Nebojsa Buhin.
The CD opens with an instrumental appropriately entitled “Harp Rockin’”. “Blow Junkie Boogie” follows with some dirty slide work underneath the harp, a solid boogie rhythm being maintained throughout. From the lyrics we gather that the ‘blow’ that interests Tomislav is through his harp, not illegal substances! Tomislav sings in quite a deep voice with an accent but the lyrics are perfectly understandable on most tracks; it is only really when Tomislav tackles the cover song that one really hears the difference as the lyrics are so familiar.
“Electric Lights” drops the pace a little and “Gambler’s Blues” is an attractive tune with some echoey guitar from guest Nebojsa and some good picking by Lovro as Tomislav recounts the story of an addiction to the tables, as well as taking a solid solo on harp which also complements that echoey guitar sound. “On The Roof” ups the pace with some cigar box slide work as Tomislav tells us about people “dancing on the roof” after he “moved down south to play some blues” – one of the standout tracks here. “Blues For Mother Earth” bears some similarity lyrically to the Memphis Slim song but is wrapped up in a breezy pop tune that talks of ‘peace and love’ with some more good picking from Lovro and harp by Tomislav. The instrumental “Boogie 44” acts as an intermission on the album at the half way point with Tomislav playing brightly over the foot-tapping rhythm.
“Drivin’ And Ridin’” is a funky tune about…driving around in a car! Another boogie number entitled “Forhill’s Boogie” precedes “Two Rockets”; on both these songs Tomislav sings in a deeper voice which does not always make for easy understanding. “Two Rockets” borrows a little from “Bullfrog Blues” in its lyrical structure but whips along enjoyably. The band drops the pace for “Until The Morning Comes”, Tomislav’s harp having something of a campfire feel as befits a tune with a country feel.
“Freedom King” is another instrumental with some tough harp on top of a rocking riff before the cover of Mel London’s “Messin With The Kid” appears. Tomislav feels that “every blues album must have at least one cover song to pay tribute to the legends”; this is his choice here and his playing is very good indeed. “Speedin’ Train” was apparently a pop hit in Croatia and Tomislav and his American friend RLJ translated it into English and to a blues idiom. As befits the title the track increases in pace and Tomislav produces some fine ‘train’ sounds on his harp. A second version of the title track, this time simply entitled “Blow Junkie” is set at a less frenetic pace than the first version earlier on the album. “Springtime Fever” closes the album with a laidback instrumental on which Tomislav hits some very low notes on the harp.
This was the first time that Croatian blues has crossed this reviewer’s path and it is good to hear the enthusiasm that people in countries distant from the USA have for the music we all enjoy. This album is well-crafted and recorded and deserves a listen. Good luck to Tomislav and his band in spreading the blues word in Croatia.