Feature: Albums that time forgot – VOODOO RAMBLE – That’s Why

Voodoo Ramble - That's Why

Self Release [Release date 31.08.18]

We’re currently in lockdown as I write this review. And having been encouraged to pen some reviews of albums that we may have missed for review – but have certainly played – there’s no better time to draw your attention to the Croatian rock-blues outfit Voodoo Ramble and ‘That’s Why’.

The stylish mix of rock-blues, boogie, southern rock, funk, Memphis soul and elements of prog rock comes from the pen and guitar of the award winning Boris Dugi-Novacki, aka Boris Zamba, who represented Croatia at the Memphis International Blues Challenge.

With a career spanning pop, rock, heavy rock, roots rock and rock blues, Boris Zamba has the career experience to match his studio honed guitar chops.

He achieves the perfect match on a free flowing album that is rooted in rock blues, but  spreads its focus wider to demand more of his band who step up to the plate admirably.

This is a well balanced and superbly played album that finds an equilibrium through subtle restraint, cool dynamics and exhilarating playing to uncover moments of real intensity on tracks like ‘The Man’.

The latter opens with Walter Trout style guitar figure with an awesome tonal burst and moves on to evoke the crunch of Billy F. Gibbons.

‘That’s Why’ works so well because it successfully achieves a slight of hand, with a self penned album that frequently reminds us of the guitar giants of days gone past.

And just to emphasize the point, Zamba pulls away the veil to reveal a cover of ZZ Top’s ‘Just Got Paid’. His up tempo boogie arrangement features a Steve Winwood style B3 riff with some gnawing wah-wah replacing slide to re-energise an oft played cover.

And while there’s nothing startlingly new here, there’s enough steely riffs, lingering melodies and great ensemble playing to fashion a coherent musical direction.

The album opens with the dirt-blues distorted tones of the title track. He evokes Gary Moore on a riff driven stop-time intro as part of wall of sound.

A sludgy Zeppelin break and additional slide guitar takes the song into an unexpected direction on a great opening track.

His vocals are more rough-hewn grit than polished, but he ups his game on the Memphis Soul ballad ‘Hold On’ and the southern rock anthem and Celtic tinged ‘Raise Your Hand’.

Hold On’ benefits from gospel bv’s  and a lovely contrast between the funky horn stabs and fluent guitar solo before a sudden stop.  And somewhere in between the 2, he adds and an acoustic/electric intro to a dreamy blues called ‘She’s Your Woman’. His  guitar mirrors the lyrical feel of a beautifully paced track,which morphs into 2 consummate Gary Moore style solos with a razor sharp tone and lovely phrasing.

There’s funk too, on the crisply delivered ‘No No No No’, built on the rhythm foundation of bassist Hrvoje Kralj and drummer Mario Klaric who impress throughout.  Zamba and alto sax player Nikola Fabijanić trade double lines leading into a mellifluous guitar break and a perfunctory ending that correctly suggests job done.

The band also locks horns on the harp and slide-driven shuffle boogie of ‘Yellow River’, with added dobro and scat vocals.

The album has a lovey ebb and flow best exemplified by the Jimmy Page guitar feel of ‘I’ll Never Be Your Man’.

‘That’s Why’ could almost be a musical answer to an imaginary question about what makes this album special. It’s an old school project in which everything is a related part of coherent whole. There’s some intrinsic rock infused energy, real blues feel, undulating funk and a heart of soul to match well crafted songs.

The 10 tracks invite you to become immersed in Zamba’s musical vision, as his guitar threads its way through the heart of some great contemporary rocking blues that is eloquently framed by Drago Smokrovic Smokva (aka. The Fig), a producer with a cool set of ears who knows the value of letting things breath organically.

The only downside is that the band has been beaten to the punch by Joe Bonamassa who has already mined the Brit blues invasion and related guitar heroes.

The difference though, is although  Zamba’s self penned material draws on similar rock-blues influences, he impressively forges his own style though his use of tone, guitar textures, songcraft and an impassioned vocal style.

He throws in a few surprises as well, from a funky outing and a ballad to a closing instrumental ‘The New Day’. The latter pushes his playing towards Joe Satriani on the kind of fractured short note staccato rhythm that evokes early Beefheart, Jethro Tull and Little Feat.

As with the album as a whole, Zamba’s guitar playing serves the song to emphasize the melody and add a little extra push. The subtle fade brings to an end a polished album that is the perfect introduction to the leading light of the Croatian and European rock-blues scene. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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