Carlos del Junco and The Blues Mongrels are on tour, and we asked Carlos a few questions to set the stage for his Alberta dates. Don’t miss this blues harmonica star when there’s a show near you.
How old were you when you began playing harmonica?
I was 14 when I first started playing. I first played in front of an audience at 16, at a student talent night, with my math teacher singing and playing guitar for a couple Leadbelly tunes.
Was there a particular teacher or player who made you want to be a career musician?
There was nobody in particular. The first blues player I attempted to mimic was Paul Butterfield, but it was getting to study with Howard Levy, known for his work with Béla Fleck and The Flecktones, who completely turned me around, as he had figured out you could treat the 10-hole diatonic harmonica as a fully chromatic instrument. I got to study with him in summer workshops in the late 80s and early 90s, then got a Canada Council grant to study privately with him for two months in 1995 in Evanston, Illinois.
What are the upcoming shows in Western Canada?
I’m playing in my trio format with the Blues Mongrels, with Eric St. Laurent on guitar and Henry Heillig on bass. We’re just doing a mini tour with the first stop in Invermere, BC on March 29. We’ll be in Canmore on March 30, Calgary on March 31, and Sherwood Park on April 1. We’ll be playing an eclectic retrospective of tunes from all my CDs, including the last acoustic CD Hang On, which features this trio.
What can you tell us about The Blues Mongrels?
Eric and Henry play with numerous other projects, including their own self-titled jazzier CDs. Both have a wonderful roots and blues sensibility in their playing. Lots of solo virtuosity will be featured among some of the more arranged jazzy tunes to the looser blues tunes, with some roots and folk elements as well.
Can you choose a song from one of your albums for our audience?
I had fun covering Jimi Hendrix’s song “Little Wing” on the album Hang On.