Mikey Junior, Traveling South
"In 2014 it’s rare to encounter a blues album in which the production plays just as important a role as the music itself. Properly recording the diverse sounds of a harmonica in the studio is no easy task, and for his latest album, blues harp master Mikey Junior turned to his guitarist-producer Dave Gross, who has done a superb job. On the title track to Traveling South, the harmonica has a spooky, gothic vibe, and on “The Cheat,” Gross has framed the harmonica so that it has an almost three-dimensional sonic quality. Gross demonstrates great control of dynamics here: He makes Michael Bram’s mighty drums sound positively primal on “Morning On My Way,” while on the delicate fadeout to “Nobody Does It Like Me,” Mikey Junior’s subtle harmonica riffs evoke visions of a whispering ghost floating down a hallway. On his eighth album, Mikey Junior contributes 10 original compositions among the dozen tracks. As a composer, his subject matter is often interpersonal relationships, and as a musician, he’s not aiming to reinvent the wheel. But his amazing skills on diatonic and chromatic harmonicas—combined with muscular vocals that offer just enough growl without getting cartoonish—make him an exciting presence on today’s blues scene. The best way to hear his latest album is with the volume cranked way up."