Tomas Doncker’s “Wherever You Go” Reviewed
From the drum clappin’ fade in of the opening song it is clear that Tomas Doncker’s Wherever You Go is not a blues album, it is a classic rock album in the same sense that Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door or the Stones’ Black And Blue is a classic rock album, which means in is thoroughly informed by the blues but is from a later time, a later sound, the blues electric guitar yes, but as often as not dreaming upwards of a classicism in song structure and execution, and while it doesn’t find the band jamming the way Zep does (although “I’m Gonna Run to the city of refuge” was written by Blind Willie Johnson and “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” was Skip James, both were covered by Zep back in the day), or touching reggae the way the Stones does, it’s the same DNA, presenting the songs sweet and straight, it returns us to a future passed of clear linear songs. It could be 1969 and it could be 1979, though it is clearly 2020 as it is formed in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. It holds hope in being both right now and right then.
I’m starting at the end… Tomas Doncker has been on a run of albums since 2011 that are essentially unprecedented, from Ethiopian soul to agitprop to black Americana, all under the Global Soul mantle, he has made play out of genre. And that isn’t to even mention his production and songwriting for True Groove Records where he is as likely to record a country album as a spoken word hybrid as Finnish soul. Over the years I became both a fan and a friend of the giant guitarist, and always in thrall to what he would be doing next. At the start of the year I was planning to visit my sister in Scotland last August, in time to get to the Edinburgh Music festival and see the Allstars. It was an exciting time, lead by Doncker touring Europe with the Blue Ruin Band. As expressed in the current Doncker interview in American Blues Scene (here), the Blues Ruin Band were to be his touring outfit featuring “James Dellatacoma-Guitars (West Orange, NJ); Ed Matthiack-Bass (Altidona, Italy); Julie Parker-Piano, Keyboards (Kent, U.K.); Artur Uronen-Gonzo Pedal Steel (Helsinki, Finland); Regina Bonelli- Vocals (Staten Island, NYC) and James Sedge-Drums (Kent, U.K.). Dellatacoma also produced, engineered and mixed Wherever You Go at OMSS, West Orange, NJ. The album was mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at TurtleTone studio, NYC, with the vinyl mastering performed by Geoff Pesche at Abbey Road Studios, U.K.”. I was more or less aware of this as it was recorded and every song Doncker sent was better than the one before it. Hearing it now, as one piece, is 32 minutes of soul and blues rock and roll. At the center is two blues classics, a new benediction from Tomas, and a cover of Marla Mase’s “Drown In Blue” as a folk , acoustic blues growler. The set ends with a psychedelic workout Tame Impala would give a lot to add to their catalog, “Door To The Dome”.
The album is a breathless 32 minute snapshot of April, 2020, one of the scariest moments in New York history as Doncker mixed and matched up musicians from around the world into a cohesive unit of rock variants. “II’m Gonna Run to the city of refuge” has Doncker dueting with Regina Bonelli, debatably, our best female blues singer, a revved up moment and an encapsule of the moment. The title track follows, in Doncker’s beautiful yet hard boiled benediction, “Have Mercy Baby Please” sounds like a old school blues cover and it is anything , the classic blues would be the scary and brooding “Hard Time Filling Field Blues”.
It is hard to place it in the Doncker continuum, where, in the world of Tomas I know, he is gearing up for another album with Yusef Komunyakaa and Wherever You Go brings back this spring with a force of borderline nostalgia. But for you, it is the calm and beauty before the final act of the Trump nightmare, even as you wait breathlessly for the “wooh” on “Change Is Hard To Come By” before the best guitar solo on the album. Wherever You Go exists to make you feel great, alive, enthralled in world music.