MonkeyJunk Is Hitting On All Frequencies with New
Stony Plain Records CD, Coming September 24
Follow-Up to Band’s Juno Award-Winning Label Debut Pushes the Boundaries of Its Blues/Roots Music
EDMONTON, AB – Stony Plain Records announces a September 24 release date for All Frequencies, the new CD from Ottawa-based blues/roots rockers MonkeyJunk. Comprised of Steve Marriner (vocals, harmonica, keyboards, baritone guitar), Tony D (lead guitar, background vocals) and Matt Sobb (drums, percussion, background vocals), MonkeyJunk plays a mix of swamp blues and funky roots rock ‘n’ roll. Produced by Steve Marriner and Ken Friesen (Blue Rodeo, The Tragically Hip), the new album includes nine original songs, plus a scorching version of the Bobby Charles classic, “Why Are People Like That?” For the uninitiated, the band takes its name from a chance remark by legendary bluesman Son House: “I’m talkin’ ‘bout the blues. I ain’t talkin’ about monkey junk.”
“Sonically speaking, there are some new and exciting flavors on this album,” says Steve Marriner about the sessions that produced All Frequencies. “This is an analog recording using a Neve console, cut to two-inch tape and mastered to half-inch tape. These tools helped achieve certain sonic qualities that until now were untapped for us. As well, since the last recording, I've had a custom baritone guitar made which allows me to produce much more bottom end. With the absence of a bassist in our group, representing those low frequencies is always a challenge, but on All Frequencies the bottom end is indeed robust. We did a lot of experimenting with guitar sounds this time, too. On several tracks, I'm running my guitar through a Leslie cabinet to achieve that classic choral effect Buddy Guy and the Vaughan Brothers have all employed over the years. Tony kicks on a wah-wah pedal more than in past recordings and plays more slide guitar than ever. Also, I believe we captured the finest drum sounds of any of our records. We had access to many beautifully-sounding vintage microphones, which helped make the drum sounds tighter, yet fuller and have more overall impact.”
All Frequencies is the follow-up to the band’s 2011 label debut, To Behold, which won the 2012 Juno Award (Canada’s Grammy) as “Blues Album of the Year.” Over the last five years, MonkeyJunk has also garnered 15 Maple Blues Awards, including “Electric Act of the Year” four years running.
“The most immediate and noticeable difference about All Frequencies compared to our previous CDs is the originality of the content,” states Marriner. “Whereas the previous albums had a distinctly more traditional blues influence, All Frequencies allows all sorts of influences through the door. It's really a mixed bag of songs and sounds: greasy rock 'n 'roll, swampy blues, uptown funk and soul, and even a little taste of Appalachia. Of the ten songs, we wrote nine and covered a Bobby Charles tune. As with previous songs we've covered, we tried to make it more of an 'interpretation' than a faithful cover. We really tried to put our own stamp on it.”
With the release of All Frequencies, MonkeyJunk raises the bar even further than its last multi-award winning album, with an exciting and genre-pushing sound firmly planted in its blues/roots foundation, but driven to new heights with a creative display of energizing musicianship that should bring it even more accolades come next awards time.
“While there are some outstanding solos on this album (particularly by Tony D), the majority of the solos are tight and melodic,” declares Marriner. “The focus was more on the lyrical content and the choruses. We tried to write relevant songs that people can relate to and sing along with, supported by grooves that will make them move. All Frequencies is noticeably more up-tempo than To Behold. Where To Behold included three ballads, All Frequencies has one, and even then, it's a real burner.”
The three members of MonkeyJunk all started out as players on the Ottawa blues scene, playing solo gigs as well as with a dozen different bands between them before meeting up over beers and deciding to form a band together. Six months after they started, MonkeyJunk was nominated for a Maple Blues Award for “Best New Artist” — without having even released an album yet.
In February 2009, they represented Ottawa at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis and with all the tough competition wound up placing third overall. That fueled the release of their own indie CD, Tiger in Your Tank, which came out in April 2009 and generated tons of great press, airplay on CBC Radio in Canada and syndicated airplay world-wide on “The House of Blues Radio Hour,” which featured one of its tracks, “Small Time Evil,” a coveted “Blues Breaker” slot.
MonkeyJunk began to tour in earnest with the first CD’s release, playing a dozen major festivals all over Canada, plus some dates in the U.S. and the Blues sur Seine festival in France. All that hard work paid off with their Juno Award and subsequent multiple Maple Blues Awards, plus international recognition by winning the 2010 Blues Music Award for “Best New Artist Debut” from the Blues Foundation, becoming only the second Canadian to win a Blues Music Award, along with the late, great Jeff Healey.
“Since our inception as band, MonkeyJunk has always tried to do things a little differently,” offers Marriner. “We've always had a wide range of influences in our repertoire. At some point in the last couple years, we stopped worrying whether it was ‘bluesy enough’ or not. We've realized that people who know our music, have seen us play and are fans of our band are likely going to dig what we're doing. There is a noticeable progression between our first and second albums and I think All Frequencies represents that same sort of evolution. We're growing and we're exploring. Every era of blues music has influential artists who changed the soundscape of the music and throughout their careers, explored different musical possibilities.”