Tuesday, March 22, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: CARLOS DEL JUNCO - MONGREL MASH
Del Junco is a freaking amazing harmonica player, and I don't mean in the sense of the lead singer in the local blues band who blows really loud and bobs his head up and down. Those guys are a dime a dozen in blues, and I'm pretty much sick of them all. Look, let's face it, it's a dull, limited instrument in most people's hands (and mouths). Del Junco is an actual ace who composes intricate parts and solos, and knows several techniques that allow him to play all the notes in whatever key, instead of the few usually available on the tiny instrument. Umm, it's complicated, but he does it, and it works, and not many can. His material is far more instrumental than vocal, and the fact it's always exciting and interesting says it all.
The plans were to make a live album of his energetic stage show, but the technical limitations were bugging him, so instead he took the Mongrels into the studio, and simply played the live show there. But if he hadn't said so in the liner notes, I wouldn't have had a clue, since it's so perfect. That's a tribute to him and the band, all fine players. Now normally, I'd get a little sick of a disc that featured so much solo work, especially on the harp, but that's not the case at all. Plus, of the country's best guitar players is here as well, Kevin Breit, our own Ry Cooder, so there's the excitement of hearing him leap in.
I should state that this isn't wall-to-wall soloing, but rather ensemble playing, with subtleties and clever arrangements. The interplay between del Junco and Breit is lots of fun to single out in your listening, as the two harmonize their parts. There's also a cool mix of song styles, with the usual 12-bar blues nowhere to be found. Err, well, there is one, the classic Got My Mojo Workin', simply called Mojo here, where the group shows you and every blasted blues band in the world how to make it new again. But it's the perky, fun, jazzy Hedden Tadpolly Spook instrumental, with its Merry Melodies harmonica line that goes pretty much the entire song that makes me the happiest, and makes me respect the harmonica again.