Victoria has a chance to see award-winning harmonica player Carlos del Junco play Friday night as he comes through Oak Bay on the West Coast tour for his new album Hold On.
Hold On, which features a range of sounds from quirky instrumentals to beautiful ballads, has del Junco bending notes to make the harmonica sound like a saxophone, violin, trumpet and sometimes even bagpipes.
Spanning a career of more than 25 years, the unique sound del Junco draws from his harmonica has garnered multiple national and international awards including two Juno nominations and an International Songwriting Award. Not only does he bring years of award-winning work to the stage, del Junco continues to challenge himself to push new ground with his craft.
The fast tempo of “No Fool Horse”, a duet written by Kevin Breit that appears on the album, was the most challenging song by far on the record for del Junco.
“It’s so fast and you have to make it sound musical and intelligent,” said del Junco.
Five of the 10 songs on the album were written by Breit, a Canadian singer-songwriter who has worked with the likes of Norah Jones, k.d. Lang, Cassandra Wilson, and Serena Ryder. Breit played guitar on del Junco’s previous albums.
The other songs on the eclectic album range from covers of Jimi Hendrix’s classic “Little Wing”, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Ribbon of Darkness”, and “Shtetl Waltz”, the beautifully haunting musical melody by Canadian piano player Aaron Davis.
“I’m not as much of a lyric person. I’ve always found inspiration mostly in a really wonderful melody or something rhythmic that captures my ear,” said del Junco. “It’s always after the fact that I might go ‘oh that was actually a really good lyric’. I’m much more drawn to the quality of the way it is sung – the tonality and the timbre of the voice maybe or the instrument. I hear music that way. It’s always the second or third pass before I realize there was a good lyric.”
Hold On – a mix of roots, blue, jazz and folk – is del Junco’s first mostly acoustic release and it features long-time bandmates Eric St. Laurent on acoustic guitar and Henry Heillig on upright bass. They’ve been working as a trio since 2013, all being accomplished musicians in their own right.
“There is a real synergy between us because we’ve played together for years,” said del Junco.
The band promises to bring a mix of old and new material on their tour which hits 13 stops in 19 days, island-hopping around Vancouver Island, Hornby, and Maine, as well as heading inland to Nelson, Penticton, and Calgary.
To get a sneak peek, sound bytes from his new album can heard at carlosdeljunco.com.
Born in Havana, Cuba, del Junco immigrated to Canada with his family when he was one. Though he started playing harmonica when he was fourteen, del Junco spent his early 20’s immersed in a visual arts career after graduating with honours from the Ontario College of Art with a major in sculpture. Luckily for Canadian music lovers, he then turned to devote his time to playing the harmonica.
Carlos del Junco performs March 23 at 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6 for dinner) in Oak Bay Recreation’s Upstairs Lounge, 1975 Bee St. Tickets are $20 in advance at Ivy’s Bookshop and Oak Bay Recreation or online at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/carlos-del-junco-the-blues-mongrels-tickets-34256296505. Tickets are $25 at the door. Get a taste of the band at carlosdeljunco.com.
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