Some musicians are so monumentally groundbreaking in what they do that other artists feel the need and inspiration to replicate or personalize their music. The Tomás Doncker Band is reviving the old school blues with the more recent genre, “Global Soul.” Following in the footsteps of legends can be difficult and unrewarding in many circumstances. This album, Moanin’ at Midnight: The Howlin’ Wolf Project (released July 2014) is a tribute to the Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon. Quick history lesson, Dixon is one of the musicians most recognized for connecting rock and roll with blues. Do Tomas and his crew successfully modernize old school blues or are their howls lost in the night?
The Tomás Doncker Band is familiar with playing other musicians work, after all they have supported multiple artists for entire albums, plus, they have more than five albums of their own work. Of course, when skilled musicians have been playing together for so many years across so many genres they tend to keep coming back to their favorite tracks and honestly, what calls you back harder than the blues?
What does the album bring to the table? Everything you would expect from the blues. Guitar, Harmonica, Bass, Drums, Saxaphone, and tons of vocals; gritty soulful vocals. There is more than enough attention being paid to the lead guitar here (Jimi Hendrix fans will be overjoyed). Throw in the deep soulty baritone of Donker’s vocals along with the well focused harmonica of David Barnes and you have a powerful groove machine that is difficult to ignore. Some of these tracks have been reworked to give a different perspective and feeling, “Killing Floor” for example is much more droopy and downtrodden than the original.
Moanin’ at Midnight: The Howlin’ Wolf Project is ten tracks long and concludes itself with a remixed version of “Moanin’ at Midnight.” This rendition of the song feels much slower, almost as if it is struggling to find an end. Such a suffocating feeling is distinctly different from the blues, yet feels comfortable enough to close out the album. Truly, this track feels more psychedelic and perpetual than all others, it adds enough different creativity to stand strong; if only some of the other tracks on the album were as bold.
Very simply put, this album is blues. Moanin’ at Midnight: The Howlin’ Wolf Project is a tribute album with a clear vision and precise musicians. The Tomás Doncker Band really put their all into it and you can tell from the energy presented from each band member, especially Donker. Old blues fans will still be able to single out tracks and less experienced listeners will be convinced that they are hearing classic blues as intended. The influences brought into this album don’t reinvent the genre necessarily, but The Tomás Doncker Band brought forth these tracks in a manner that shows they are still rockin’, soulful, and down right beautiful.
Underground Examinations is a series of Independent Music Reviews with the intention of giving new music a fair and appropriate opportunity to be enjoyed.