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Coco Montoya - I Want It All Back

Ruf Records

Coco Montoya is probably best known as the principle axeman with John Mayall for the 10 years ending in 1993, when he went solo. During that time Montoya worked closely with Walter Trout, and the duels between the two ace guitar men provoked considerable excitement. Montoya went out on his own and in intervening years has made half a dozen excellent records, each of which has been enthusiastically received.

Montoya started his musical career as a drummer but one night after a famous encounter with Albert Collins when, with permission, Montoya’s drum kit was used by Collins’ drummer. Albert and Coco got talking, and the latter was invited to join Collins’ band as a drummer. During rehearsals and off times, Albert showed him a few licks and Montoya fell under the thrall of the Master Of The Telecaster. From there on he concentrated on his guitar work.

Montoya is an upside down, left handed guitar player in the same way as the other Albert, Albert King. He picked up from Collins the fiery style (sometimes called ‘hot ice’) which, when listened to, leaves one in no doubt what the expression ‘attack’ means when describing the playing of an instrument. Despite the fact that Montoya is renowned as being a master of the Strat, this album is a departure from his previous work, for instead of concentrating on his guitar chops, Montoya has spent much time honing and refining his vocals.

The album is produced by Keb Mo, assisted by Jeff Paris (both of whom are take back up musician roles), but you should not expect too much in the line of raw blues. Only one track, ‘Fannie Mae’, falls into that category, and that one features Rod Piazza and his wife, Honey Alexander in what in my humble opinion is the best track on the record. But don’t be misled by that statement. In his efforts to improve his vocals, Montoya, advised by his producers, goes for soul, Motown, and occasionally, what seems to me to be contemporary country music. Tracks include, 'Forever' (originally done by the Marvelettes) and The One Who Really Loves You' (a Mary Wells' hit). Two outstanding songs, which are certainly on the edge of contemporary country music, are 'Cry Lonely,' and 'As Close As I Have Come.' Both of those songs were co-written by award-winning songwriter Gary Nicholson, who knows a good deal about blues and country music, the former in his guise as Whitey Johnson (check that out on Google you won’t regret it).

By and large, this album is a success if only because the production, musicianship and, yes, the vocal skills are exemplary. For those reasons alone, Montoya should achieve his desire and get what reviews he wants back – back. The CD sounds a bit samey, but perhaps I’m just being an old stick in that mud! I can’t help but notice too that sometimes Montoya’s vocal lines (phrasing) does sound just a tad too much like Mr. Moore. ‘Ho hum’, as someone famous once said!

Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South ( a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer (see ) and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM  in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central).

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