(5 / 5)
Coco Montoya, a true blues-rock giant. Formerly a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers for a decade, alongside his pal Walter Trout – after a five-year apprenticeship with Albert Collins.
Coco started on the drums and then stepped out from behind the kit, to pick up the second guitar behind the master of the Telecaster, the late and great Texas blues legend Albert Collins. 24 years after he kicked off a solo career in 1993, Coco has made nine albums and toured constantly and globally. His new record, “Hard Truth”, is a triumph and features a fitting tribute to his mentor on Albert’s “The Moon Is Full”, and you can hear Collins’ influence on the first cut here, “Before The Bullets Fly”.
The collection showcases Coco’s mastery of his art; as a guitarist, a soulful vocalist and a superb songwriter. Back home on the Alligator label, after he cut three albums for Bruce Iglauer’s famed Chicago record company between 2000 and 2007. Coco’s Alligator debut, “Suspicion”, quickly became the best-selling album of his career. After two more highly successful Alligator releases, 2002’s massively popular “Can’t Look Back” and 2007’s “Dirty Deal”, Montoya signed with German label Ruf records, cutting both a live and studio album.
Lots of blues passion and fire across this commanding release, produced by Tony Braunagel, who also took up residence on the drum stool for the recording sessions. He’s played behind the bands of such stars as Taj Mahal, Robert Cray and Curtis Salgado. The rest of the band here is made up of Coco’s mates: Bassman Bob Glaub, who has played for Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Lee Lewis and many more. Keyboard man Mike Finnigan, who has played with among others, Jimi Hendrix, but these days spends much of his time in Bonnie Raitt’s band. Guitarists Johnny Lee Schell (Etta James, Melissa Etheridge etc) and Billy Watts (Eric Burdon). Slide guitar master Lee Roy Parnell traded licks with Coco on “Lost In The Bottle”. The album was mixed by the legendary John Porter (BB King, Santana etc).
11 songs, just under 52 minutes in duration, his guitar playing never sounded stronger; from a whisper to a scream; a master at work. Lots of power and control, neither ever at the expense of the other. He has absolutely nothing to prove, but some of his licks really are other-worldly – like his fingers may have been saying, “enough already”, but his brain wasn’t listening. Those soulful pipes well on point, too.
Stand outs include the radio-friendly, gospel-inspired shout-out to love, “I Want To Shout About It”, and the haunting “Devil Don’t Sleep”. The old Willie Dixon adage, “blues is truth,” perfectly describes Coco’s searing, passionate contemporary blues-rock on this album. He is totally plugged in and fully emotionally connected to the material.
At 65-years-old and sober for many years, his stock was never so valuable or as powerful. With countless young (and they get younger!) pretenders to the blues guitar throne, coming up all over the world every week it seems, I do not think Mr Montoya need worry just yet. But some of these brash young guitar slingers might just wish to re-think their career path, after they hear this!!! Now that is the hard truth.
By Simon Redley
(1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’