Traditional blues disciple from Eastern Europe, Thomas Goluban, aka Little Pigeon, returns with his 12th album, “Express Connection,” continuing his mission to prove that music is truly an international language and as the title suggests is a vehicle to connect all people. The 10 tracks, 9 original and 1 cover, may be considered the sequel to his previous album, “Memphis Light,” as he once again assembled a crew of likeminded souls to record at Ardent studios in Memphis TN. Although the two recording sessions took place a year apart, the continuity of sound and substance remains, due to the expert work of Mike Wilson at Ardent and Jeff Bakos at the famed Bakos Amp Works in Atlanta.
Goluban’s theatrical harmonica playing is nimbly placed in the musical center of a strong ensemble sound created by the fine rhythm section of David Green on drums, Bill Ruffino on bass with keyboardist Rick Steff and stellar guitar playing from Mark Johnson and co-producer Jeff Jensen. Saxophone from Kirk Smothers and trumpet from Mark Franklin were added to three of the tracks to create an authentic Memphis Horns sound. The icing on the cake is Southern California singer songwriter Kelly Zirbes, not only taking advantage of her dexterous vocal talents, but also her lyrical skills on the collection of new material and one selected cover.
The set opens with the first of three instrumentals that display the full breath of talent Goluban has on the harmonica. ‘Express Connection,’ the title track, is aptly named as it clocks in at well over 140 bpm, quite a workout for David Green and Tomi. The full band with horns comes into play for the satirical hard luck blues, ‘Used To Be Someone,’ with a Butterfield inspired groove. The two-beat foot stomper, ‘Babe On The Run,’ feels like an Electric Mud update and Mark Johnson delivers some fine high lonesome slide guitar playing for the redux of ‘Pale Blue Eyes,’ a deep cut from the Velvet Underground catalog that Goluban and company frame as a mournful country ballad akin to Willie Nelson covering Lou Reed.
“Working with Tomas was such a joy, I am thrilled that he trusted in me to bring a different voice to his music,“ says Kelly Zirbes of her collaboration with Goluban, who handed over lead vocals to her for the driving ‘Shoestring Blues.’ The Chicago shuffle ‘Extra Boom,’ pays tribute to Chess Records’ hero, Little Walter, on the album’s second greasy instrumental. Kelly Z joins him again for the duet ‘Seeds In The Bag,’ a coy tete-a-tete over a Professor Longhair-styled piano driven Louisiana rumba. Goluban‘s offbeat witticism is front and center on the rambling country blues ‘Bite Me Like A Snake,’ where he is joined by Joseph Franher, leaving us wondering just exactly what kind of a girl he’s singing about. Soaring horn jabs help fuel the driving plea for peace and redemption in ‘No Future In Your Past,’ calling for social justice. The album closes with the third instrumental, ‘Beast Walk,’ that showcases more of Goluban’s dynamic range on the harmonica that has earned him comparisons to the legendary Sonny Terry.
“Express Connection” is another fine example of how Tomislav Goluban plays and sings with a strong passion and a flash of humor in the music he loves.
Tomislav “Little Pigeon” Goluban is a blues singer and harmonica player, leader of his own band, blues educator, radio DJ, festival organizer and recording artist. Goluban was born in a house by the railroad track in Grabrovec, Zabok, Croatia, where he still lives, in the heart of Croatian Zagorje. He began playing harp back in 1997, and his main drive was to revive the legacy of country/delta blues. This came out of hours and hours of intense listening to legendary Sonny Terry records. Over the years, Goluban has sharpened his music expression into the unique country-blues blended with Croatian traditional music. His nickname “Little Pigeon” is a liberal translation of his last name to English.
Performing solo/duo and with a band, Goluban has played in the U.S. and many European countries at festivals and events such as the Notodden Blues Festival (Norway), Amal's Blues Festival (Sweden), Blues Sur Seine (France) and International Blues Challenge (USA). Other international successes are 4th place at World Harmonica Festival 2005, Trossingen, Germany in the category: solo diatonic Blues/Rock/Folk/Country, and in 2004 the German website Harp Online declared him “the player with the most ruthless scene performance ever.” He won a couple of Croatia’s most prestigious national music awards (“Porin”); he is the founder of Etno Blues Festival in his hometown region; he hosts a blues radio show on Croatian national radio and was one of the founders and the first president of the "Croatian Blues Forces" association (national blues society), which received a “Keeping The Blues Alive“ award in 2019.
Looking back at his discography reveals delta, country & Chicago blues, zydeco, rock 'n' roll and world music. He's recorded his music from raw delta duo sound to the full instrumental arrangement with 20 musicians playing one song. His 11th album “Memphis Light” charted at #69 on the top 200 Blues Albums on Roots Music Report in 2020 and at #41 in the Contemporary Blues sub-genre chart. His 10th album “Chicago Rambler” charted at #86 on the top 200 Blues Albums of 2019 on Roots Music Report. It also charted at #5 in the Chicago Blues subgenre chart.
Considering that in the early days it was difficult for him to obtain information, Tomislav developed an educational blues music program, like Blues In The Schools. The program's aim is to inform the children of basic terms in the world of harmonica and blues. This fun and educational program called “The Harmonica in Blues” is presented to the pupils of elementary and high schools all over Croatia.
Photo Credits: (1)-(3) Tomislav Goluban, (4) Kelly Zirbes (unknown/website).