Review: MonkeyJunk – To Behold

Posted on: Thursday, Jul 21, 2011

“To Behold”
(Stony Plain Records – SPCD 1356)

The second release from Ottawa-based trio MonkeyJunk, “To Behold” – following on from their award-winning debut “Tiger In Your Tank” – has been on pretty heavy rotation with the trio’s blues roots fleshed out by some “swamp r&b, soul boogie and bedroom funk”, putting it definitely amongst the best releases of 2011.

The band consist of Tony D (guitars and background vocals), Steve Marriner (lead vocals, harmonica, guitars, Wurlitzer, Hammond organ and background vocals) and Matt Sobb (drums, percussion and background vocals), with the 10 songs here comprising nine originals and just one cover, and co-produced by Marriner and Ken Friesen, who has worked with Canadian giants such as The Tragically Hip and Blue Rodeo.

The opening “Mother’s Crying” fairly flies from the traps like a runaway train . . . from the acoustic guitar intro, Matt Sobb’s driving rhythm and the incessant guitar of Tony D (Diteodoro to give him his full surname). Steve Marriner, formerly harmonica player with fellow Canadian JW Jones, has a fine voice and also lets rip some lusty and tasteful harmonica here. The only cover on offer follows, a swampy low down take on Hank Williams “You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave)”, with Tony D’s greasy slide guitar work.

The outfit hit a nice funk groove on “Right Now”, with wah-wah guitar a plenty and a nice vocal hook on the chorus; the soulful ballad “Let Her Down” is one of the album’s highlights, with Marriner showing his versatility and talents with a great vocal and some delightful Hammond organ fills. The sound is taken down to Memphis for a Southern soul-flavoured romp on “With These Hands” . . . lovely playing all round again, with the added background vocals of Tracey Brown and Kelly Prescott a delight.

The pace is taken up again for the tough “You Don’t Know”, with Marriner featuring both on slide guitar and harmonica – another gem! The tale of love that comprises the six-minutes plus of “While You Are Mine”, sees Tony D featuring on slide on this epic ballad. The band rock out on the Texas / Louisiana roadhouse romp, “Running In The Rain” . . . a brief sub three minutes with gorgeous harmonica, sweet guitar solo, and the trio sounding as if they were having a ball!

This highly recommended release ends with another soulful ballad in the shape of Tony D’s “All About You”, another tender love song; and a harmonica showcase for Steve Marriner on “The Marrinator”, which starts off in a country blues manner before really taking off about halfway through, as the harmonica tone goes up a notch and the trio really fly, with the afore-mentioned Marriner showing what a top player he is.


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