There are great blues players and then there is Coco Montoya. He’s a purveyor of a historic blues lineage that stretches back to his formative years with Albert Collins, but he transforms it into his own exciting blues hybrid, complete with soulful interpretive singing and stinging guitar lines.
Tonight’s Beaverwood show is memorable for the cross generational blues connection that sees Laurence Jones rip things up with a fiery show, while Coco leans into his solos and builds them up incrementally with varied tones, subtle tempo and chord changes, exquisite dynamics and intricate playing that speak to us conversationally
A Coco Montoya show is a celebration of all that’s good about contemporary blues. He lives for an essential feel, a sweet tone and constantly searches for lyrical meaning while never wasting a note.
On the majestic groove of ‘Don’t Go Making Plans’, he’s a one man physical theatre. He leans into the song and towers over his over his guitar to emphasize a note, while eyeballing the front row as if to ask them, did you dig that?
He revels in his band’s exquisite interplay and glues together disparate elements of funk, soul, rocking shuffles and perfunctory break downs that he resolves with subtle tonal nuances.
He’s arguably one of the most authentic blues guitarists of our day, if only for his relentless search for emotion and feel. There’s Albert Collins style cool, Albert King like string bends, and enough fire in the climactic moments to remind us of his hey-day alongside Walter Trout in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.
He sets an incredible high standard with the harmony drenched ‘Wish I Could Be That Strong’, on which Brant Leeper’s keyboard sweeps nicely underscores the melody. There’s plenty of variety and a nice ebb and flow to the set, as Coco slips into a funky, tightly wrapped Latino rhythm on ‘Hey Senorita’. It’s a song full of sustained notes and sudden contrasting note flurries over Renee Beever’s crisp cymbal work.
His signature tune ‘I Want It All Back’ provides the best example of how a gentle undulating melody with an MOR feel is transformed into something more essential, by a melodic hook and a sudden uplifting solo, full of delicate touch and tone. Then there’s the sultry shuffle ‘Love Jail’, which is full of conversational guitar parts and a tip of the hat to his mentor Albert Collins, who was definitely in the house tonight!
Brant Leeper switches from piano to a B3 organ sound on a slow blues – which may be ‘You Don’t Love Me’ – full of cool dynamics, from Coco’s volume swells and chicken squawks to Brant’s keyboard dexterity and the peerless rhythm section of Nate Brown and Rene Beevers.
The whole evening rushes by in flash, before Laurence Jones returns for a beautifully paced jam on the encore. A sharply drawn contrast between Coco’s Collins style cool and Laurence’s ripping intensity melds into joyous double lines that provide an explosive finish worthy of a great night.
It’s been five years since Coco was last here, let’s hope he doesn’t leave it so long next time round.
Review by Pete Feenstra
All Photos by Mark Hughes (c) MHP
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