Twenty Questions with Carlos del Junco

carlos-del-junco-1iDown the road, came a Junco partner

The Harp Surgery was nearly ready for Christmas. Our Monica was vacuuming loose pine needles from under the Christmas Tree, while Shag-pile Jim clung to the step ladder, trying to unhitch himself from the top branches. ‘Looks like you’ve caught your ding-dong merrily on high Jimbo‘, the Doc chuckled. ‘Another comment like that Doc, and you’ll be replacing the Christmas Fairy,‘ Jim muttered.

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Now, now Jim, ’tis the season to be jolly,‘ the Doc reminded him, ‘let me top up your Glühwein old boy…it’ll bring some colour to your cheeks.‘ The Doc nudged Monica and pointed at Jim’s builder’s cleavage. ‘Well how do you expect me to get the bloody Fairy up there?’ Jim moaned. ‘Have you tried bending?’ the Doc asked. ‘How’s that gonna help?’ Jim wailed. ‘Not you old boy, the tree.‘ The Doc was biting his lip.

Talking of bending, the Doc added, ‘I’ve just been chatting with Carlos del Junco. That man must eat soda crystals every time he plays harmonica.’ ‘What are you taking about?’ quizzed Monica. ‘Well he gets clean round every bend,‘ the Doc replied. His gag shot over Monica’s head like the Red Arrows at Farnborough Airshow.

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Mitt Gamon Interview – Part 1

Strawberrieds and Cream iIt was a humid summer’s day. Beyond the duck pond, the Rear Admiral’s mower muttered to itself and occasionally spat stones at his prizewinning parade of pink floribunda. Next to the Tickled Trout, a canopy of elder flowers floated in the warm breeze, while hover flies patrolled the cow parsley below, pretending to be bees. In the harp surgery kitchen, the Good Doctor was preparing cordials and halving strawberries for afternoon tea. He flourished sugar across the fruit from a shallow silver spoon. ‘How many songbirds fly to and fro, in an English country ga-ar… what the?’ A manilla envelope boomeranged through the window, clipped his ear and skidded to a halt on the kitchen table. The sugar spoon fell to the floor.

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Mark Feltham – The Old Market Theatre, Sat 8.Nov 2014

Ain’t that a pity, I declare it’s a cryin’ shame

Sparklers i sepiaIt was Guy Fawkes’ night down at the Surgery. Beside the wood burner, Greasy Rob and Shagpile Jim were playing light sabres with their indoor sparklers. From the galley, the Doc was dispensing glögg and spiced ale. As Otis queued up Homework on the Sonos system, from the foggiest fathoms of his sub-conscience, he quietly muttered, ‘Poor old pigeons.’ The Doc set down his sepiamulling poker and turned from the ARGA. ‘Since when did pigeons and The J. Geils Band have anything in common?’ he asked. Otis resurfaced. ‘I was thinking of the fireworks; it’s coming down in stair-rods outside. The Rear Admiral said there’ll be a few damp squibs this year.’

Well you know it’s nine below zero
‘That’d be wet squab mate.’ Greasy Rob was chairman of the surgery’s pub quiz team and an authority on trivia. ‘Young pigeons are squab. A squib’s a small stick of dynamite; an out-sized banger to you and me. And we’re not talking Cumberland. And don’t you get me started on squid either, sick or otherwise. They’ve set up a marquee by the pond – they’ll be fine.’ Otis was back in the building. ‘Alright! Alright!’ he growled, ‘no need for the third degree.’

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At that moment JJ, the local internet radio presenter, poked his be-spectacled bonce round the parlour door. ‘You should be on Egg-Heads Rob you saucy git. Here, any of you lively lot heard who’s playing The Old Market Theatre tonight?’ He flourished a wad of tickets. ‘Only Nine Below flamin’ Zero! It’s gonna be a proper R&B shindig.’ Otis sat freeze-Old NBZ Ticketframed, still pointing his finger at the guitarist on his album cover. ‘Sup up gentleman, we have some unfinished business!‘ The Doc pulled out his press pass and slipped it into his hatband.

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I Keep It To Myself

Steve Weston 2iDoctor Who?

Otis the postman dropped by this morning Wilko guitar iito deliver a letter from brother Neil Callaghan, who writes, ‘As a complete novice harmonica player I am trying to find out the harmonica key that Steve Weston is using whilst playing on the song I Keep It To Myself, which also has Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey performing. I hope you can help’.

Well, before you ask, yes that’s Roger ‘M-my g-g-g-generation’ Daltrey of The Who. And for anyone not in the know, I Keep It To Myself is on Wilko Johnson’s new album Going Back Home, which features Roger Daltrey (vox), Norman Watt-Roy (bass), Dylan Howe (drums), Mick Talbot (keyboard) and Steve Weston (harmonica). The occasion has also been marked by a bespoke resurrection of the iconic Chess record label.

Now, in response to the original email, I could slide into a friendly discourse about how to identify song keys and pick the right harp for yourself, but I’ll save that pleasure for a rainy day. In any case, divulging the secret could quite possibly make me redundant. So instead, let’s cut to the chase and call West Weston for the answer. You can listen to our chat and find the answer to Neil’s question on SoundCloud the end of this post. In the meantime, here’s some background.. (more…)

Aki Kumar Interview

Aki, Little Jonny and Johnny CatI ain’t got a nickel and I ain’t got a lousy dime

If you’re a regular at the Surgery, you will recall the Good Doctor’s first meeting with Aki Kumar in 2007 during a Jason Ricci gig in San Francisco’s Biscuit & Blues Club. It was world renowned harp pedagogue, author and music impresario Dave Barrett who had kindly put Aki and the Doc in touch.

Aki KumarSince then Aki has become very good friends with everyone down by the duck pond. So much so that Aki, his good lady and his esteemed guitar partner Little Jonny Lawton came to visit the Surgery in 2013. Everyone had a blast, not least because Dave Ferguson was also staying over. Aki, Jonny and Dave shared a whopping Saturday night gig; on the bill too were Gordon Russell (of Dr.Feelgood fame) and Brighton’s Blues Deluxe.

Well folks he’s back and it’s official. Having mixed it with John Mayall and Kim Wilson in California this month, on Saturday 8.Feb 2014, Aki Kumar will be leading a Little Walter workshop and gracing the stage again with Blues Deluxe at this year’s Harpin’ By The Sea harmonica festival in Brighton & Hove. You’d be crazy to miss it! For those who don’t know Aki already, let us introduce you. It was a summer’s day down at the Surgery…

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Dave Squared – Who’d Have Thought It Possible?

Our Monica 11Time was away and somewhere else

The Good Doctor was tapping the steering wheel of his bright red Volvo PV as it bowled along the village High Street. From below the dashboard came the rattle and hum not of the dodgy rocker box Greasy Rob had just re-engineered, but the rhythm of Shake A Bone; the album by Son of Dave.

The Doc pulled up outside the Harp Surgery, crunched his way along the path and, dropping his harp case inside the door, spun his homburg across the reception onto the vacant coat stand. Bull’s-eye! Mama like a bit of revolution talk..!’ he growled in a faux basse more reminiscent of Al Pacino than Son of Dave.  (more…)

Dave Ferguson, La Vie, Cape Town, 30.Jan 2011

Check him out now, the funk soul brother

If a sour mash of Alabama 3, Johnny Cash, Son of Dave, hip-hop, dub and fried green tomatoes was used for a whole new ass-kicking brew, the label would read Dave Ferguson’s Lucky No.7 Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

In our interview with The Mountain Of Love, reference was made to a New Blues music pioneered by R.L. Burnside and Little Axe in the 1980′s and 90′s. Here sequencing, sampling, dub and heavy dance beats were bulldozing the conventions of the blues.

Yet amidst the radicalism, two unalienables remained. The pathos of the slide guitar and anguish of the blues harp. Dave Ferguson is the latest settler in this new blues Heimat and an important exponent of the latter. What he does, he does extremely well. He also tackles it single-handedly. We dropped into Cape Town to check out the Lonesome Whistle Blower of New Blues.

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Mountain Of Love – Brixton Windmill, London, 18.Feb 2011

Way down below, there’s a half a million people

Otis, the Harp Surgery’s Postman, delivered a lovely letter this morning from our harp friend Piers Marsh, inviting us to see his new band at the Brixton Windmill on 18.Feb 2011. Their name is Mountain Of Love (after Piers’ Alabama 3 pseudonym naturally). We understand Sir Eddie Real of Alabama 3 is also part of the new set up.

We do urge everyone to check out the new grooves. The first MOL album is a work in progress, however you can catch a sneak preview on youtube. MOL has a myspace page, and describes it’s new sound as down-tempo, dub and elctronica. No doubt there will be some harmonica in there somewhere. There is also a Facebook page and a dedicated website in the pipeline. (more…)

Havana Blues Society

Cornbread, hog maw and chittlins

In our recent post Harping In Havana, we discovered the thrill of playing salsa music on the diatonic harmonica. We also said while Latin grooves feature strongly in rhythm and blues, the reverse is apparently not true in Cuba

Wherever you travel on the island, those infectious Cuban rhythms are omnipresent; even in the simplest peel of claves from a street vendor. Conversely, the only shuffle you’ll catch is from coveted chess boards in shady doorways.

But all this raises further questions. Do resident Cubans actually play or even like blues music? If so, where can it be found? Wouldn’t the style’s inextricable link with Americana have forced it deep underground, or else triggered its complete eradication under state censorship? And most importantly for the Harp Surgery, does the humble blues harmonica have a home in Cuba? We packed our bags and went in search of some answers.

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Son of Dave – Part 2 : “I’m not really a very clever harp player”

Son of Dave interviewLast month we interviewed the Son of Dave. Here’s the second half of our chat with the beat-boxing harmonica man: this time, he rants about drum-machines, America, nun-raping pop songs, and why he wears sunglasses indoors.

…So I asked some of our readers if they had any questions for you. Here’s one from Adam Gussow.
SoD: He has a question for me?

Why, he has three questions.
SoD: Get the fuck out of here! Well, hi Adam.

Here’s his first question: do you tongue-block or lip-purse, and does that sort of technical question interest you or bore you?
SoD: Tongue block, now stop boring me. (more…)