Tomás Doncker is a true bluesman, with his collection Wherever You Go covering all the bases with aplomb.
Album-opener “I’m Gonna Run to the City of Refuge” is the loosest, noisiest entry on the disc. It infuses the sloppy, fun energy of a raucous live performance into the album, giving a taste of what a live performance might sound like when Tomás wants to get the crowd jacked up, and though it’s not even close to one of my personal favorite tracks on the album, it’s a perfectly fitting way to get things started.
The very next track – the title track – is one of my favorites. Tomás’ delivery of “Wherever You Go” reminds me of some of the grittier, more heartfelt versions of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” occupying a similar emotional zone. The song will put a lump in your throat as you listen to it. Sonically, its melancholy vocals and tearfully soaring guitars would be a perfect movie soundtrack backdrop for a starcrossed couple holding each other tightly as they know their futures lie separately. If you don’t have to swallow hard just to get through listening to this masterpiece, you’re stone-cold heartless.
Up next, the funky rhythm of “Have Mercy Baby Please” is the perfect antidote to get you groovin’ again. Oozy, bluesy soul with a very cool energy. Then “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” mutes the funky groove and replaces it with an ominous vibe.
“Change” has more of a dance-styled underlying rhythm and herky-jerky blues riff supporting Tomás’ gruff vocals, leading into “Come Sunday” which, true to its name, derives its momentum from a big, slow, bluesy Gospel sway. The song just keeps getting bigger, lending itself to some intricate, straight-from-the-heart blues guitar runs to the point that, after it ends, you’ll need to take a deep breath to recover.
But take that breath quickly, since “Drown in Blue” brings a mid-tempo insistence – and a rhythm whose intensity makes it seem faster than it really is – almost immediately. This song is sneaky-good, as you’ll catch yourself unwittingly grooving to its rhythm hours later.
The last track on this eight-song release showcases yet another side to Tomás’ musical repertoire. There’s a space-rock music bed driving the mellow, almost Pink Floyd-ish “Door to the Dome,” with distorted, soft guitar runs punctuating this black light and lava lamp-worthy album-ender.
Aside from Blind Willie Johnson’s “I’m Gonna Run to the City of Refuge” and Skip James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues,” the rest of the songs are at least co-written by Doncker, so this album – replete with its variety, tied together by Tomás ever-present guitarwork and deep vocals – really is Tomás Doncker’s trademark sound. If you like the blues, especially gritty blues, and especially if you like it sprinkled with a variety of musical influences, you need to hear Wherever You Go. It covers every aspect of the blues you’d expect (and then some) from an artist you’d catch at the high-end blues room, and it even features a transcendent potential hit song, the title track. So settle in, turn down the lights, and listen. Then check the listing as soon as live music returns to see if you can catch Tomás Doncker live somewhere.
If you scroll down the main page of Tomás’ website, you’ll find live show listings. At the moment, everything shows as “cancelled” until you reach August. Obviously, as things change, keep an eye out for updates here.