To Behold

Stony Plain Records

By Lady K
September 2011

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I know, I know – MonkeyJunk, and all one word (Lady K hoped that meant it wasn’t zoo-related!! The band’s explanation is cool tho’: the name is based on a quote from Son House: “I’m talkin’ ‘bout the blues. I ain’t talking about monkey junk”; the band made it two words, run together. So, MonkeyJunk – the band – is three guys, out of Ottawa, Ontario: Steve Marriner (vocals, harmonica, keyboard, guitar); Tony D (lead guitar, backup vocals); and Matt Sobb (drums, percussion, backup vocals). And MonkeyJunk did such a good job of describing their music that Lady K will just quote from the promo page: “Swamp R&B, soul boogie, deep blues, and bedroom funk.” Really!!

I didn’t know what to expect from a band named MonkeyJunk, but they got my attention right away. To Behold has been played many times, and it is a fun listen. Track 1, “Mother’s Crying,” has a fast, rockin’ beat, but it’s a seriously relevant message-tune about the world and the situations we find ourselves in with: “pain in their hearts and there’s trouble in the air; people are suffering – nobody seems to care - dark clouds rolling, water’s running black; same old story from New Orleans to Iraq. Sweet salvation – got to find a way.” Heavy lyrics, made less painful by the music itself.

Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I loved the only cover on this CD: MonkeyJunk’s version of the Hank Williams Sr. tune “You’re Gonna Change (or I’m Gonna Leave).” It’s a bit honky-tonk, and really funky, and with barely a hint of that twang that is so painful to Lady K. “Let Her Down” is a slow, very sad tune of sorrow for a wrong done to a loved one: “Bible on the table, ashtray beside it; book ink running from the tears I was crying. Can’t forget the day I let that good woman down.”

To Behold has a little bit of everything, as promised in the promo sheet. “With These Hands” has a just touch of twang, but extra back-up singers give it a kind of revival-meeting sound. Very interesting. And “You Don’t Know” includes vocals from all three MonkeyJunk guys, and some exceptional slide guitar in an up-tempo put-down of a self-centered woman: “Believe what you want, it won’t make it so; in your little world there’s no need for truth. Go on thinking you’re a star.” “Running in the Rain” is a catchy, bluesy, little tune – literally, a ‘little’ tune: at 2 minutes, 44 seconds, there’s barely time for him to proclaim his love and invite her to join him: “I love you, I love you, I love you, and if you feel the same, baby take my hand and we’ll go running in the rain.” It’s such a fun song, that I found myself wishing there were more to it.

“The Marrinator” (get it? As in Steve Marriner?) is 5+ minutes of rocking, rolling, swampy, New Orleans-sounding party music; it’s instrumental, and the harp is the star on this one. In To Behold, Ontario’s MonkeyJunk has put together an enjoyable album, with something for everyone who happens to love the blues and the NOLA sound, all rolled up in a funky party feeling.

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