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MonkeyJunk "To Behold"
We often look forward to a product that really does come across as advertised, but far to often we are disappointed. That is however, not the case with MonkeyJunk, whom have always advertised their style of music as "a contemporary blend of swamp R&B, soul boogie and bedroom funk", and whom have always delivered that style of music, as promised. Now with their new release, "To Behold", the band with the strange name once again shows us how three super talented Canadian musicians deliver the beat without the Bass.
Consisting of Steve Marriner, Tony D (Diteodoro), and Matt Sobb, MonkeyJunk whom got their name from "Iím talkiní Ďbout the blues. I ainít talkiní about monkey junkĒ, a remark made by the legendary blues artists Son House, have not been together that long, actually only 3 years, yet in that short amount of time, their popularity, both in Canada and internationally, has sky rocketed. 2010 saw them nominated for six Maple Blues Awards and winning five, Electric Act of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, Guitar Player of the Year (Tony D), Vocalist of the Year (Steve Marriner), and Harmonica Player of the Year (Steve Marriner). Not long after that, they received the "Best Blues Artist Award at the Canadian Independent Music Awards". But wait a second, it doesn't stop there, MonkeyJunk also managed to do something only previously done by one other Canadian Artists, and that is win a Blues Music Award, and for the Best New Artist Debut. Top that off with managing a very impressive third place showing at the International Blues Challenge and one might think that building an extra room, to house any future awards, would be a good idea.
"To Behold", MonkeyJunk's second Album for the Stony Plain Record Label, was "co-produced by Ken Friesen (Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo) and Steve Marriner", and consists of 10 Tracks, of which 7 are credited to all the members of the band. Of the three remaining Tracks, Steve Marriner gets credit for one ("With These Hands"), and Tony D gets credit for one, as well ("All About You"). The one cover that was chosen for "To Behold", was the great Hank Williams Sr. song "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)". Joining this terrific trio, whom by the way, like Hound Dog Taylor band, does not consists of a Bass player, are Special Guests, The Marrinaires (Tracey Brown, Kelly Prescott, and Curtis Chaffey), whom offer Harmony Vocals and Background Vocals either together or separately on 4 Tracks.
"To Behold" starts the ball rolling with a good taste of their Swampy Blues with "Mother's Crying" and believe me, if your feet ain't tapping and your head ain't bobbing, shortly after you start listening to this opener, you just ain't alive. Next up is the Hank Williams Sr. cover "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)", and although no one could do it better then Hank, MonkeyJunk still manage to give this beer swilling song, due justice. The third Track "Right Now" comes off as a little Funky in nature with a start that reminded a lot of ZZ Top, especially with the Guitars fuzziness. The funk is nicely accentuated with Steve's Keyboard and Tony's great Guitar work. Next up is "Let Her Down", a nice track that slows everything down a bit but at the same time,  blues everything up. A really good song with great keyboards, once again from Steve. Finishing off the first half of "To Behold" finds us heading into Soulful Blues territory, with Steve Marriner's solo written song "With These Hands". This one speeds it up a little and is wonderfully accentuated with Background Vocals courtesy of Tracey Brown, and Kelly Prescott.
The second half of "To Behold" starts with "You Don't Know" a nice Track that reminds me a bit of 56 Deluxe, especially the singing. Steve's great Harmonica skills come through at just the right moment and plays nicely into the opening of the next Track "While You Are Mine", a song served up, just right, on a delicious plate of blues. Next up is one of my favorite Tracks on "To Behold", "Running In The Rain". Everyone is clicking on all 8 cylinders for this one and everyone gets an opportunity to show off their goods. The second to last Track "All About You" once again slows it down a bit for this inspirational song written solo by Tony D. A nice slow one for those lovin' couples up on the dance floor. With the title of the closing Track on "To Behold", being "The Marrinator", I am sure there is no doubt as to whom that is referring to. Done in a style that is as raw as it gets, Steve Marriner lets loose on his Harmonica, and gives us over five minutes of pure Harmonica Heaven clearly showing us why he won Best Harmonica Player at the 2010 Maple Blues Awards.
With such a young band you would think that the players would still not have had that much experience, but that is not the case with MonkeyJunk, as their amazing trio of Steve Marriner, Tony D, and Matt Sobb, can already boast of having over 60 years of combined musical experience, already under their belts, which no doubt is the reason they have come so fast out of the gates and continue to to lead the race in popularity.
"To Behold" is an excellent sophomore release for MonkeyJunk, one not only sure to please their fans, old and new, but also an Album destined to see this trio of Canadian talent at the forefront of many more awards and accolades.
Review by John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network)
Additional Info
1. Mother's Crying 4:36
2. You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave) 3:34
3. Right Now 4:12
4. Let Her Down 4:57
5. With These Hands 3:48
6. You Don't Know 3:40
7. While You Are Mine 6:04
8. Running In The Rain 2:44
9. All About You 5:04
10. The Marrinator 5:11
Listen To Samples Here...