For anyone who thinks the harmonica is just the sprinkles on a sweet song, Carlos del Junco says he makes it the “creamy cheese icing” instead.
He and his band, the Blues Mongrels, are coming to Errington with a “real meal” of music on Saturday, March 24.
“There are many different courses to the meal,” he said in an interview ahead of the show. “You’ve got everything from in your face, upbeat blues to these sort of beautiful, melodic ballads that melt over you.”
del Junco’s extended food metaphor might suggest he was a former chef, but sculpture was actually his thing before turning hard into harmonica playing at the age of about 30.
Having taken a four-year course in the visual arts in his 20s at the Ontario College of Art, del Junco even traveled to Italy on a grant to learn from traditional stone carvers for nine months.
It was an amazing experience, he said. But, years later, del Junco would play harmonica in a theatre production, which launched him into his music career as a harmonica player.
His love for the instrument, specifically the 10-hole diatonic harmonica, however, began much earlier.
At about 14 years old, a friend introduced him to the instrument. “He could bend a few notes, but just the sound of him bending a note really did it for me.”
Addicted to the sound from then on, del Junco began buying records and imitating what he heard.
Now, he said, he’s gone well beyond the short and middling harmonica solos from popular songs by Bob Dylan and Neil Young, which, del Junco said, tends to define people’s expectations for the harmonica.
“(Dylan and Young) do a sort of journeyman’s job on (the harmonica) to accompany their amazing songwriting,” he said.
“They throw it on a little neck brace, but that’s people’s association with the instrument.”
Del Junco goes to many other places with the instrument, he said, coaxing the sounds of a saxophone, trumpet, violin, guitar or bagpipes out of it.
He’s also learned to play the ten-hole diatonic harmonica chromatically, using the overblow technique taught to him by musician Howard Levy.
Like the sounds of his instrument, the Blues Mongrels keep their songs varied, from blues to roots, rock, folk and world music styles.
Del Junco and the band’s brand new album, Hang On, will be for sale at his shows, where he, Eric St. Laurent on acoustic guitar and Henry Heillig on upright bass will dish up their musical meal.
Their performance at Errington War Memorial Hall (1390 Errington Rd. in Errington) takes place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 24.
Tickets are $20 at ErringtonHall.tickit.ca plus a $2.50 cover charge, or at Cranky Dog Music in Parksville, Heaven on Earth Natural Foods in Qualicum Beach, and the Errington General Store. Admission for those 12 and under is $5 at the door.