Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tomás Doncker Band "Big Apple Blues" reviewed

by Germar Derron

In some ways, I’m down on this project. Before I ever played track one, I knew what I’d hear. The blues gon’ be the blues. This is the blues.  And it’s not just the rhythms, instrumentation, melodies, or unpolished raspy and dry vocal. The recording and mix sounds like every blues record ever, even though I know it doesn’t. It’s somewhat updated—a modern sound. But the sound defines today’s blues. I mixed one blues track in my life, years ago, in surround. It sounds exactly like this—the blues.

One thing that characterizes the recorded blues sound is liveness. Liveness is a studio produced sound that sounds nothing like a studio. It’s professional—clean, but somehow still dirty. The reverb here sounds like the natural reverberation of an old bar with lots of wooden chairs and cigarette butts. When I listen, I can smell years of sticky beer remnants in dark corners. Like the best blues, even when it brings you down, it somehow lifts you up.  But I feel that I might write this about every blues band’s best.

That said, I realize the previous two paragraphs are ridiculous.  That every song sound defines any genre. Without those instruments--that vocal, and that liveness--it’s not the blues.  Every rock song features guitars.  Every R&B song begins with adlibs or spoken words. And every song that I've ever written is in C. Honestly, there’s not a bad song in the bunch.  And the album doesn’t remain typical throughout.

A choir warms the background and horns transform a track (almost funk-like). By far, my favorite track is “Coney Island.”  I can imagine this song being covered by a number of artists in many different styles. It’s sweet like cotton candy.  It feels good – breezy and just the right amount of bright.  In my world, this song sets the bar for what blues should be today.

I’m obviously not a fan of the genre. But I believe any fan of this style would be a fan of this album. Plus, here, the band collaborates with Pulitzer prize-winning poet Professor Yusef Komunyakaa.  +2 

I’ll give this a three out of five stars. 


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