Monday, September 19, 2011

To Behold reviewed by Steve Jones

To Behold
Monkey Junk
Stony Plain Records
10 tracks/43 minutes

What would happen if you took the smooth funkiness of John Nemeth and mixed it with the raw, primal energy and sounds of Lightning Malcolm and Cedric Burnside?  Why, you would, of course, get Monkey Junk.
Three guys from Ottawa, the home of the Senators and a traditionally rabid hockey town.  They came together in 2008, produced a first CD in 2009 and now this new one from June 2011.  Monkey Junk is Steve Marriner (vocals, harmonica, keyboards, guitar), Tony D (lead guitar),  and Matt Sobb (drums).  Monkey Junk is hot. Screaming hot.  White hot.  I love these guys and the sound they have.  I am so glad to have finally discovered them and I want to hear more.

The CD opens to a driving beat that perhaps hearkens even as far back as to prehistoric times.  Driving, throbbing drum beats, big guitar sounds, scorching harp and poignant vocals; "Mother's Crying" grabs your lapels and says "Dammit- listen to me!" and you just have to, over and over again.  It is a call to arms and just great stuff.  They change up the tempo with Hank William's "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)", and, while slower, the swamp gets thicker and grabs you some more until you just can't get out.  And where else have you ever heard the word "peaved" used well in a song if at all?  Seminal stuff.  I love this song and it's tribal thumping, exceptional vocals and lyrics, hot guitar and harp; as Keith Jackson used to say, "Whoa, Nellie!"

Did I mention there is no bass player?  A little baritone guitar is thrown into the mix, giving a deep resonant sound to back things up, but like Hounddog Taylor no bass is needed.
Track 3 is funkier, darker, some what brooding, and just impressive.  "Right Now" is one of nine originals here. "Let Her Down" follows and if the last song was brooding then this one is downright depressing, yet one just gets caught up in  the emotion.  The feelings these guys express in their music are superb and sublime. In "With These Hands" they stay in the swamp but take things up into the world of the living.  A love song, done in a style that really reminded me of John Nemeth.  Classy vocals, packaged nicely and professionally with the band's outstanding backing work.  

"You Don't Know" is big, driving and rocking blues.  It builds and builds into a finale of cajun hot stuff. Then comes "While You Are Mine", a swampy ballad served up like it should come with cornbread on the side. They give us "Running In The Rain" next, another driving, throbbing tune.  It's sort of a mix of country, blues and maybe even a little Gospel sound served up with Spanish Moss dangling down the sides. "All About You" is a gritty, slow cut showing the band's "tender" side.  As if Marriner's vocals were not enough, the guitar and organ sell this one big time.  They finish up with "The Marrinator"; it begins as a stripped down, acoustic piece with raw harp, then it goes over to the electric side for a rousing run to the finish line.

I'm sold- these young guys are great. I want to see and hear them play live.  You do, too.  Trust me on this.  They are a great band who will be taking the blues world by storm!  Kudos to Stony Plain for promoting this great band and their hot blues sound!!! 

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