Steady Movin' - Carlos del Junco - Reviews


Steady Movin'


"The economics of blues and roots music are unfortunate. In a more lucrative field, people all over the world might be able to see the brilliant teaming of Carlos Del Junco's incomparable harmonica and Kevin Breit's inventive stringed instrument prowess, at a local venue, at least once a year. As it stands, if you are lucky enough to live in Canada, you might get to see them play together once every four or five years, at the release party for del Junco's latest recording. The harmonica virtuoso tours regularly, but more lucrative demands on Breit's time, from artists like Cassandra Wilson, Rosanne Cash, Amos Lee, and Norah Jones, must make it hard for him to consider jaunts into the hinterlands at blues wages. Too, del Junco's relative anonymity south of the border means that Americans don't ever get to see him work his mouth harp magic. Fortunately, no matter where you live you can hear the pair any time by just purchasing Steady Movin', and/or the previous records they have recorded: Blues Mongrel and Big Boy.

"These records are released under del Junco's name but it is hard to overestimate Breit's contribution. One need only listen to
Diddle It, and Doodle It on this CD -- essentially two versions of the same blues, written by del Junco. The former is performed as a boogie with Breit adding horn-like stabs that kick the level of excitement through the roof, all while providing harmonic and melodic responses to del Junco's harmonica. Breit is credited with arranging the latter, and he turns the same theme into a banjo driven jazz tune, reminiscent of Thelonious Monk.

"This is not to diminish del Junco's genius. Once again, the harmonica man's performance reveals his usual combination of off-the-hook chops and impeccable taste; a taste that he evidences in areas other than his playing. Though more than a serviceable singer himself, when it comes to wringing the most out of his old school funk tune
Mashed Potatoes Canada, he brings in a ringer -- John Dickie from John and the Sisters -- whose leather lungs are more suited to the James Brown-ian nature of the song.

"Carlos del Junco demonstrates constant creativity, whether playing unaccompanied for the Delta-drenched, Sonny Boy Williamson tune
Movin' Down the River Rhine; in duo with Breit's acoustic slide for the guitarist's, beautiful ballad, Bye For Now; delving into Bill Frisell territory for cellist Matt Brubeck's The Simple Life; or swinging the jazz shuffle of Jersey Bounce. If you like your music eclectic and soulful, Steady Movin' will make you very happy. Maybe if we buy enough copies we will finally get to see this dynamic duo live."

-Michael Ross
August, 2009 


"Look no further than the woodcut styled painting of a flaming harmonica on the cover of Carlos Del Junco's album to get the gist of his approach. Unlike such more notes per second harp players as John Popper, Del Junco uses his dexterity as a means to an end. He developed his distinctive style on the ten-hole diatonic harp to play it chromatically, basically sounding like a far more bluesy Stevie Wonder. That gives him a unique sound on an instrument that seldom gets taken as seriously as it should. Here he uses it to terrific effect on Tiny Bradshaw's big band standard Jersey Bounce, a song Junco has already tackled on his 1999 live album. The disc jumps out of the blocks with three terrific instrumentals that mix blues and jazz. The surfy Dull Blade even finds Del Junco's harp tackling the James Bond theme for a few notes. But the momentum hits a snag when Del Junco's somewhat strained vocals appear on his own Mashed Potatoes Canada, a tribute to James Brown says the liner notes. Fellow Canadian Kevin Breit is also along for the ride here and his contributions on guitar and occasionally banjo push this already adventurous music almost into experimental territory. But this is truly Del Junco's showcase, especially on the unaccompanied pieces such as a cover of Sonny Boy Williamson ll's obscure Movin' Down the River Rhine and a take on Will the Circle be Unbroken that starts out traditional before moving into blues and beyond until the initial tune is nearly unrecognizable, then circling back, ending with his harp sounding like bagpipes. The closing stripped down walking bass, percussion and banjo accompanied Doodle It could well be the theme for the Andy Griffith Show until Del Junco shifts into jazz mode, diving into his nimble solo, followed by Breit's banjo. As you can tell, he's all over the place stylistically, but it's a classy collection and Del Junco is moving steadily in directions most other harmonica players don't even consider."

-Hal Horowitz
All Music Guide

March, 2009 


"Is there such a thing as air harmonica face? Facial distortions akin to the best B.B. King grimace (as Lucille tickles his fancy) will adorn your face when you listen to Steady Movin'. Eyes-closed toe-tapping will also be obligatory.

"Blues from another planet, another time, or at least an alternate plane of consciousness by Carlos del Junco and his fellow alien guitarist Kevin Breit (Sisters Euclid), will swing, sway, rock, and transport you to whatever amazing world they share on this latest gift. Perhaps it's the water in Canada or the laid-back political atmosphere, but whatever it is we could use some of it down here in the States.

"The bubbly upbeat numbers include Tiny Bradshaw's
Jersey Bounce, Mashed Potatoes Canada with flambé vocal by John Dickie, and the run-don't-walk bass line shuffle of the opening track, Diddle It (reprised as a slowed down and syncopated Doodle It with Breit on banjo for the final tracks).

"My favorite, if I must pick one, is
Dull Blade, a musical and production masterpiece that persists in reminding one of actor Fred Gwyn. Runner up is the title cut, Sonny Boy's Movin' Down the River Rhine. Finally, three del Junco solo tunes highlight his versatility and make one wonder when he learned to breathe and play through his ears, too.

"Del Junco had told me he takes a while to record a new CD, that he is lazy. That was in 2005 and
Steady Movin' was worth the wait. Lazy is great, but 2011 is way too long to wait for the next one, and don't cheat with a Best Of either!"

October 2008 


"Carlos del Junco was born in Cuba, but raised in Canada. Literally translated, his name means 'of the reeds,' and he picked up his first harp at the age of fourteen. Since that beginning, he has become one of the most respected harpmen on the planet, mastering a technique taught him by Howard Levy, whereby a diatonic harp is played chromatically (the 'overblow' method). Although difficult, when mastered the method produces an amazing sonic palette and makes for an enjoyable listening experience. His latest CD for Fred Litwin's Northern Blues label is Steady Movin', and here Carlos explores the nuances of this technique that has garnered him multiple Canadian blues awards. This set also features backing guitar from fellow countryman Kevin Breit, noted for his outstanding work with Norah Jones.

"There are eleven strong cuts presented herein, all showing Carlos' amazing versatility. The set is bookended by instrumentals,
Diddle It and Doodle It, the former showing us how Carlos weaves the traditional sounds of Little Walter in with the more progressive, avant-garde sounds of, say, a Paul Butterfield. The latter is a more laid-back affair, featuring sweet banjo from Kevin Breit.

"In between, there's definitely a lot to love. Carlos provides vocals on his favorite Sonny Boy Williamson tune,
Movin' Down The River Rhine, and again on an island-tinged number, the tale of a man who 'can't get too much Paradise.' His vocals are the perfect complement to Kevin's acoustic dobro work.

"We had three favorites, too. His take on
Amazing Grace is stellar, full of highs, lows, and myriad changes before returning to the melody line to close. The fellows pay homage to James Brown on the funked-up Mashed Potatoes Canada, with John Dickie name-checking all the noteworthy cities inorth of the border, a la Night Train. And, another tribute, this time to Opry legend Deford Bailey, is presented within the countrified, train-whistle effects of Bailey's Bounce.

"In listening to
Steady Movin', one can grasp the depth of Carlos del Junco's immense harp chops. From what is regarded by many to be a 'simple folk instrument,' Carlos coaxes a chromatically-complex compromise of country, blues, jazz, Latino, reggae, and darn near anything else you can think of to add in. This one gets two big thumbs up!!"

-Sheryl and Don Crow
Music City Blues Society
October, 2008 


"Born in Cuba and raised in Canada, Carlos del Junco is one of the outstanding harmonica players in the world. While he is comfortable playing the blues, his style envelopes many different genres, including jazz, country, funk, and roots rock. He plays a ten-hole diatonic harmonica using the recently developed 'overblow' technique, which gives him a more expressive tone. All of this technical talk may not mean a lot to some of you, but listening to del Juncoís latest release, Steady Moviní (NorthernBlues Music) will tell you all you really need to know ... this cat can blow some serious harp!!

"The opener,
Diddle It, is an enticing funk workout featuring del Junco, Kevin Breit (Norah Jones) on guitar, and bass player Marc Rogers. Dull Blade plays like a spy movie theme, with Denis Keldieís keyboards bubbling in the background, while Jersey Bounce is a loose jazzy piece, with del Junco taking a relaxed approach. Mashed Potatoes Canada is a light-hearted Canadian tribute to James Brown, featuring veteran blues singer John Dickie on vocals and del Junco pays loving tribute to the legendary Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) on the dazzling Moviní Down The River Rhine, which also features a playful vocal turn.

"The breezy
Paradise has a country feel to it. Amazing Grace is a solo track that really shows del Juncoís virtuosity on the diatonic harp. Baileyís Bounce is another tribute, this time to one of the pioneers of the harmonica, Deford Bailey. The album closes with Doodle It, a jaunty reprise of the opening cut.

"Speaking of pioneers, Carlos del Junco is taking the harmonica in astonishing directions. Though the harmonica has long been underappreciated in most musical genres (excepting blues), del Junco promised to change all that and gets closer to doing so with each release.
Steady Moviní should remove all doubt that he is one of the finest harmonica players ever."

-Graham Clarke
Blues Bytes
September, 2008 


"Mr. Del Junco, a Canadian, happens to be one of the preeminent harmonica players in the world. Some of his accolades include: winner of the Canadian Maple Blues Award for best harmonica player 7 times in the 11 year history of the award (Canada is blessed with at least a couple dozen absolutely amazing harp players!); 1996 Blues Musician of the Year from Jazz Report Magazine; and 1993 Hohner World Harmonica Gold Medal Champion (held in Trossingen, Germany) in 2 categories - diatonic blues and diatonic jazz...

"... Well, this may be one of the most eclectic albums directed at the blues market that youíll hear this year. Itís got a few straight blues tunes, a few jazzy numbers, and a few other tracks that are combination of both - and more. This CD will please those folks who enjoy great variety in their listening, and it will please harmonica junkies for sure. Carlos is one of the Worldís greatest musicians, and his skills show on all the tracks here. He very rarely overplays, instead relying on taste and economy where each is called for. Even when the tracks are a bit eclectic they are still very melodic and easy to listen to. The band is also incredible, and Kevin Breitís name deserves mention one more time. Heís played with Carlos on and off for years, and has made quite a name for himself playing with Norah Jones and Cassandra Wilson. As Iím getting long-winded here, letís get to the Blue-O-Meter rating; Iím giving this one a 4.5 on the old meter. This CD is by no means a straight blues release, but it is wonderful music that you just might find very rewarding to listen to."

-Lee 'East Side Slim' Howland
September, 2008 

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"Del Junco's mastery of the 10-hole diatonic harmonica sets him apart from most blues harpists. This compelling set is highlighted by a solo tour de force on Bailey's Bounce and a playful duet with Kevin Breit's guitar on Bye For Now. ***1/2"

-Mike Regenstreif
The Montreal Gazette
September, 2008 


"There must have been smoke coming off harmonica player Carlos Del Junco when he recorded Steady Moviní because there are places on this record where he plays like a man on fire.

"The illustration of a burning harmonica on the cover of this CD is therefore most appropriate.

Steady Moviní is Del Juncoís much anticipated followup to 2005ís Blues Mongrel, a killer set that helped establish his reputation as one of the absolute best blues harp players on the planet.

"The winner of four Maple Blues Award for best harmonica player, Del Junco continues to grow and evolve as both a musician and as a composer.

"Heís been generating significant attention for his work on the 10-hole diatonic harmonica, which he plays chromatically by using a recently developed 'overblowí technique taught to him by jazz virtuoso Howard Levy.

"His use of that harmonica has enabled him to create a sound that is far more expressive than that created by players utilizing the standard chromatic harmonica.

Steady Moviní, the Cuban-born Del Junco penned four of the albumís 11 cuts, including two of the albumís best offerings, Diddle It and Baileyís Bounce.

"He augmented his original material with tracks from a number of sources, most notably guitarist Kevin Breit who contributed two songs to the mix,
Dull Blade and Bye For Now. Breit also played guitar on several tracks.

"Also included in the mix are a great version of Sonny Boy Williamsonís
Moviní Down The River Rhine, an interesting take on Amazing Grace which manages to be both adventurous and respectful and a great version of the big band chestnut Jersey Bounce.

"Del Junco delivers some amazing performances on this set, performances I suspect will be justifiably rewarded with a spate of nominations come yearís end.

"And his arenít the only great performances here.

"Breit, unquestionably one of this countryís best guitar players, delivers a couple, as does John Dickie, who provides the vocals for
Mashed Potatoes Canada, and keyboard player Denis Keldie."

-Doug Gallant
Charlottetown Guardian
August, 2008