|Recycled Blues and Other Somewhat Related Stuff (Part 2)
WARNING: Harmonica players exhibiting even marginal suicidal tendencies should listen at their own risk! (Except those guys, and you know who you are, who insist on blowing out of key harp in the audience.)
Using a Filisko (Joe Filisko, harp guru and self-described harmonica technician, musician, teacher, and builder of custom diatonic harmonicas)-modified Hohner Golden Harmony and a harp-customized Ed Amp (High end instrument amplifiers of distinction, known for their exceptional quality and clean sound even at low wattage), Carlos del Junco achieves an overblown sound that you have never heard from a 10-hole diatonic harmonica. That is unless you've listened to his mentor, Howard Levy, who is completely untouchable and totally eclectic.
Somehow, perhaps due to touring and making his home in The Great White North, Carlos del Junco escaped this writers' detection until this exceptional recording, Blues Mongrel. Very impressive indeed; you'll be blown away by his scary technique, imaginative songwriting, and inventive arranging. Let's immediately recognize the involvement with the master of all guitar genres Kevin Breit (Norah Jones Band, among many others) figures heavily into the overall sound and the songwriting.
Mongrel commences with Kevin's first of many stylistic incarnations; snarling syncopated guitar chunks followed by, and I mean this in a very positive way, a John Bonham/John Paul Jones-ish dinosaur stomp provided by Jorn Juul Anderson and Henry Heillig. What is the song? A version of Little Walters' "Blues With A Feeling" that surely never occurred to Mr. Jacobs. This phenomenon repeats itself with Sonny Boy's "Nine Below Zero." I don't think even Sonny would have been able to conceive of the self-accompaniment Carlos exhibits.
Multiple genres pepper the disc: Country ("Don't Bring Me Down"), playfully funky Ska Fusion on "Skatoon," to Mambo ("Let's Mambo"). All are executed with poise and cool self-assurance. Speaking of cool, the haunting opening of the '60s James Coburn movie, Our Man Flint's theme song evokes a Jean "Toots" Thieleman mood. You heard right and the following kick-ass Calypso is in like flint. The title track suggests a locomotive slowly pulling out of the station en route to parts unknown and traverses numerous styles in its journey. It is 21st century music that this mutt can really sink his teeth into.
Carlos del Junco's (translates as Carlos "of the reeds") Northern Blues debut, Blues Mongrel, is in reality pure pedigreed Blues, Jazz, and a little Country. Being voted Maple Awards Best Harmonica Player 2004 and getting gold medals at the Hohner World Harmonica Championship in both the diatonic Blues and Jazz category is far from being a mere mongrel.
Even being of mixed breeds, this is one championship show dog! WOW! I gotta get Part 1!
Beardo is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax