Artist: Carlos del Junco
Album: Blues Mongrel
Label: NorthernBlues Music
Release date: Feb. 8, 2005
Blues Mongrel (NorthenBlues Music) is like taking a trip up the Mississippi River on one happenin riverboat, traveling fast between New Orleans and Chicago, stopping at points in between.
Carlos del Juncos harmonica sonically keeps you down in Cajun territory, affirming the Blues in the album title. Mongrel comes in with the songs arrangements, and often del Juncos playing, which can take you from Orleans early jazz to even bop and avant-garde.
Mongrel doesnt stop there. Del Junco also drifts into bluegrass, country and whatever other form he can achieve with his harmonica. The Canadian-based musician has been praised as one of the best harmonica players in the world, through awards and critical acclaim, and he certainly proves it here. His range on the harmonica is impeccably wide allowing del Junco the privilege of pulling off several styles, but also to beautifully imitate any instrument.
On "Our Man Flint" and the sweet ballad "Dont Worry Your Pretty Little Head," del Junco mutates his harmonica into a saxophone with stunning results. On the Latin-infused "Lets Mambo," his 10-hole diatonic mouth harp becomes a festive trumpet. And elsewhere, his instrument achieves an almost violin quality, mostly for its smooth texture.
Like blues guitarist Eddie Turner, also on NorthernBlues Music, del Junco isnt a great blues vocalist, but puts enthusiasm and a fun-loving spirit behind it, which can always be appreciated.
His vocals are only supplemental, sort of a necessary aspect especially to the bluesier tracks to his hearty blues harmonica playing, like on "Blues With A Feeling" and the title track. His best solo blues performance is on "Nine Below Zero," one of the CDs highlights.
While his backing band can sometimes get in the way of what del Juncos trying to do on the harmonica, they can also be real great support, and sometimes, too much. Kevin Breits guitar-playing borders on being overpowering at points, but its usually at the right moments where del Junco has sort of stepped aside.
Cajun and country blues fans will respond best to Mongrel as those influences seem to dominate the album. Theres still something here for everyone though. Great instrumentalists will always find an audience, despite genre boundaries.
Grade: A l