Tomas Doncker Band - Big Apple Blues (Cover Artwork)

Tomas Doncker Band

Big Apple Blues (2014)

True Groove Records

Not many artists can say they’ve collaborated directly with a Pulitzer prize-winning poet, but then not many artists are in the same league as Tomás Doncker, the man credited with bringing so-called “global soul” to the world.

The New York-based solo artist brings an illustrious history in the music business to his latest release, Big Apple Blues. Having previously worked with Madonna, Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono, Doncker has teamed up with internationally-renowned scholar and professor Yusef Komunyakaa to produce an album that combines his giant, razor-edged voice with sharp, accomplished wordsmithery. And the resultant record is absolutely brimming with style.

Clear echoes of Doncker’s heroes, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, BB King, pepper the album, and tracks like “Can’t Say No” and “Hellfighters Of Harlem” sound like vintage Little Feat. The entirety of Big Apple Blues is dripping in swagger, Doncker’s mighty vocal throbbing and rasping over screaming harmonica, creamy backing vocals and strutting bass-lines. It’s the kind of sound you can only achieve after decades in the business, and with a gang of grade-A players behind you.

The album’s title may hint at urban disillusionment, but in truth Big Apple Blues feels more like an ode to New York than a lamentation about city life. “Coney Island” is sentimental about its subject matter, and even “Ground Zero” (“there’s no hero… at Ground Zero”) feels like the product of a songwriter who cares deeply about his hometown.