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Carlos del Junco & the Blues Mongrels

Mongrel Mash

(Big Reed; US: 11 May 2011; UK: 11 May 2011)

Harmonica wizard casts a spell

How insane do you like your harmonica? Just a little bit nuts? Moderately disturbed? Or flat-out over-the-top? Well, if you fall into that third category, this might be the record for you. Carlos del Junco, considered by some as the greatest harmonica player in the world, has assembled a record uniquely suited to showing off his impressive chops. Far from being a straightforward blues album, del Junco’s band brings a jittery, jazzy, time-signature-shredding, world-music-evoking sensibility to the set. In other words, if you’re looking for something low-impact and tame, this probably isn’t the album to reach for.


One the other hand, if you’re in the mood for a little sonic variety—okay, whole wagonloads of sonic variety—this will do nicely. From the stop-and-start rhythms of instrumental opener “The Crazy Bastard” to the high-octane “Mojo” (a reworking of “I Got My Mojo Working”), from the mournful opening wails of “Heddon Tadpolly Spook”—don’t ask—to the closing bars of the Latin-jazz-inflected “Mariachi”, del Junco and his band appear allergic to doing anything twice. For listeners whose idea of harmonica remains rooted in 12-bar blues, this record will be a revelation—what Bela Fleck has done for banjo, Carlos del Junco is doing for harmonica.

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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