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CD REVIEW -- Coco Montoya
WGLT Highway 309


 Coming In Hot

Alligator Records

11 tracks

Coco Montoya CD

By Steve Jones

Coco Montoya can take a mundane tune and turn it into a gem of his own.  He takes a nice mix of covers and originals on this new Alligator release and turns them into a beautiful “stew” of blues that the listener can truly savor.


Montoya began his professional career as Albert Collins drummer and later became his second guitarist. In 1984 John Mayall spotted Montoya at a jam session and invited him to join fellow guitarist Walter Trout in his Bluesbreakers band following in the footsteps of Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor. Folks took notice of Montoya’s guitar prowess and he began to venture out on his own in the 1990s and then released his first Alligator Album Suspicion in 2000. He cut Can’t Look Back in 2002 for Alligator and Dirty Deal in 2007. He left but returned to Alligator in 2017 with Hard Truth and continues with this hot new album.


Joining Coco are Mike Finnigan on all things keyboard, Johnny Lee Schell (and Billy Watts on three cuts) on rhythm guitar, Bob Glaub on bass (Mike Mennell on four tracks) and producer Tony Braunagel on drums and percussion. These guys have played with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Buffett, John Fogerty, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Etta James, Jerry Lee Lewis, Taj Mahal, Eric Burdon, and more. Finnigan is especially impressive on piano, Wurlitzer, and Hammond organs.


The album starts with a great cut entitled “Good Man Gone” featuring both stinging and poignant guitar work and some gritty vocals.  A good driving beat from the backline and organ and some great solos by Coco grab the listener.  Next is the title track, another hot number with more fantastic soloing on the guitar.  Montoya is blazing as he plays and sings about coming in hot for his girl at 500 mph! It’s a cool and jumping cut.  New Orleans’ own Jon Cleary appears on piano here to spice up the mix even more. “Stop Runnin’ Away from My Love” slows things way down as Coco testifies to his woman about making up her mind about who she will choose. Montoya also offers a slick solo mid-song and then later takes us home on guitar as the song fades. “Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home” is from Albert Collins’ songbook; Coco plays it as a dirty, slow blues with some wickedly hot guitar backed up by Hammond organ.  It’s an impressive piece. The following cut is “Stone Survivor” with a little honky tonk piano plus nice backing vocals. It’s a mid-tempo blues rocker with even more great guitar licks and a solid beat. “What Am I?” is a pretty ballad written by Warren Haynes with some pretty cool guitar to spice up the flavor of the Allman Brothers inspired tune. Montoya howls on vocals and the organ fills in behind his singing and guitar.


The Bobby Bland cut “Ain’t It A Good Thing” is next and Montoya gives it his own spin with a bit of a tempo uplift and some great backing and then lead vocals by Shaun Murphy (Bob Seger, Eric Clapton, Little Feat) and another great guitar solo by Coco. More special organ work is supporting the piece, too; Murphy and Montoya nail this as a duo. Up next is the pensive “I Wouldn’t Want to Be You.” This one’s got a little funk going and has a nice groove to it.  Montoya sings and plays with both precision and artistry as he covers this one. “Trouble” is a bouncy midtempo blues rocker with more stinging guitar and cool organ work. Allison August’s “Witness Protection” comes from her 2016 CD Holy Water and it’s a great blues cut for Coco.  Piano backs the musical progression as Montoya sings with authority and plays his axe as few can. “Water To Wine” concludes the set; it’s a great shuffle that mixes blues and gospel and has some more fantastic piano where Finnigan finally gets a solo to let it all air out – well done!


Whether kicking in the after burners or offering restraint, Montoya shows us he is a brilliant and special talent on the guitar. He plays and sings with authority and offers here a great CD that will garner lots and lots of attention in the next cycle of blues awards.  I really enjoyed this CD and most highly recommend it for your enjoyment!

For info or to buy the album:

About the author: Steve Jones is the president of the award-winning Crossroads Blues Society of Rockford & Byron, IL


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