The Jimi Hendrix of harmonica players

Carlos del Junco is one of those players whose music is so advanced that when it comes to awards, it’s either retire the category or rephrase the question to “Best Harmonica Player Not Named Carlos”

Carlos del Junco and the Blues Mongrels will bring a mix of blues and jazz to the Tidemark Theatre March 3.

It’s probably a good thing Carlos del Junco wasn’t there when the harmonica appeared in North America in the 1850s. Neil Young and Bob Dylan can probably roll with it when it he says they are very mediocre harmonica players. Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid might have overreacted and pulled out their pistols…Del Junco is one of those players whose music is so advanced that when it comes to awards, it’s either retire the category or rephrase the question to “Best Harmonica Player Not Named Carlos.” This includes two Gold Medals from the Hohner World Harmonica Championship in Trossingen, Germany, as well as multiple national awards. To say he plays the harmonica is like saying Jimi Hendrix plays guitar. He blows the blues harp through a prism – suddenly it seems he’s holding every color in the musical rainbow right there in his hands. Simultaneously sophisticated and raw, his playing blurs the boundaries between blues and jazz (hence the name for his band “The Blues Mongrels”). The emphasis is on blues, but del Junco and his band are not afraid to merrily traipse off in other directions delivering a seamless fusion of New Orleans second line grooves, swing, Latin, hip-hop or ska melodies, to swampy roots rock. The Blues Mongrels are: bassist Henry Heillig, guitarist Eric St. Laurent, and Mark Mariash on drums.  Get ready to trash all you thought you knew about the harmonica. del Junco and his Blues Mongrels deliver a no-holds-barred display of fun and melodic virtuosity.Catch Carlos del Junco and the Blues Mongrels at the Tidemark Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 3. Tickets are $33 for Tidemark Theatre Society members or $38 for non-members. Tickets can be ordered by phone at 250-28-7465 or online at tidemarktheatre.comAt first, world champion jazz/blues harmonica player del Junco thought a live album would be a fitting follow-up to his Juno-nominated 2010 release Steady Movin’.But, after growing frustrated with sound quality issues, the two-time Juno nominee decided instead to make a “live album in the studio,” capturing all the rawness, energy and diversity of del Junco’s live show with the crystal clarity of a studio set.  The result is Mongrel Mash, a collection of the old, new, borrowed, and blue, showcasing del Junco’s mad skills on harp and long-time collaborator Kevin Breit’s singularly quirky musical accompaniment – plus the rock- solid backing of the rest of the Blues Mongrels.  The album opens with a swampy, rockin’ Breit original called “The Crazy Bastard” and follows it up with del Junco’s own “My Favourite Uncle,” an airy, summery-sounding blend of New Orleans and Hawaii.  From there, it moves through two more covers and three updated renditions of del Junco audience favourites before closing with “Lil’ Laptop,” a new-millennium remake of “Rockit 88,” in which fast computers replace fast cars as the focus of macho one-upmanship. Just like any great live set, the album is punctuated with rip-roaring extended solos and plenty of raw, impassioned playing. del Junco tours regularly in Canada, the US, and Germany.  He is launching Mongrel Mash with a tour of Western Canada starting March 2.

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