I never grew up in the presence of blues and I wish I did. I mean, there were times where I heard a tradeoff blues song covered by rock musician like The Allman Brothers or Jeff Beck, but there wasn’t a time until I discovered my own music that I had a true blues artist. I remember hearing Live at Regal Hall by B.B. King for the first time and falling off my chair, absolutely amazed by the power of the music. The solos, the crooning, the tone of the guitar and voice working together. It was as if I heard music through new ears. As I dived further, I found Moanin‘ in the Moolight by Howlin’ Wolf, which to some is the greatest album ever made.
Tomás Doncker and his band surely found it impactful, as they’ve dedicated an entire album to this release and Howlin’ Wolf in general. What they have in common the most is Doncker’s powerful voice, which relates to the original Howlin’ Wolf. Not to mention the production us also clearer, but let’s take away some of the unfair variables. To compare, Moanin’ At Midnight is a modern recreation of what Howlin’ Wolf would have wanted to release if he was still kicking today.
The addition of a fuller band also allows for more versatility when it comes to working around a blues arrangement. Doncker is backed by some of the most creative musicians you’ve never heard of. Mark Henry on Sax, Damon Duewhite and Michael Faulkner on drums, David Barnes adding in some crazy harmonica, especially on the cover of “Evil”, and many others who kill it time after time on these tracks. It’s easy to believe these guys were raised from the get-go on blues and lived this album for the recording process. The soulfulness of songs like, “Killing Floor”, and “Spoonful” had me grooving in my chair while sifting through my life. It made everything I did enjoyable, and that’s a compliment.
What Moain’ At Midnight fails to do is create an innovation that hasn’t already been heard. I could write all day about how amazing these artists are, or how awesome solo was. Anyone who has or will listen to this album knows what I’m talking about. What I was hoping for was something new or something I haven’t heard yet in blues. There’s so many great and timeless aspects about the genre, but it’s been pigeonholed into a niche sound. Tomás Doncker and his band have an opportunity to change that. They have a good thing going for them, and they know themselves as musicians. I just wanted a change in sound from the usual blues.
Now this is a solid album. Everything flows at ease, with Doncker leading the way with pride. In a way, it was doomed to be innovative from the start by being a tribute album to a musician, who at his time, was innovative. Nonetheless, everybody in this album lays it all on the line for the songs they play. Howlin’ Wolf is grooving in his grave for this wonderful tribute to a timeless musician.
The album is released June 8th on True Groove Records, but stream it below: