Album review: COCO MONTOYA – Songs From The Road

Coco Montoya - Songs From The Road

Ruf [Release date 17.05.14]

Coco Montoya’s ‘Songs From The Road’ stands or falls by his record company’s claim that it transports you to the front of the crowd at his two appearances at The Triple Door in Seattle.

Happily this double live album does precisely that, as Coco has the engaging personality, ringing guitar tone and road drilled band to bring to life the narratives and melodies of his songs, and for the rest he lets his guitar do the talking.

The songs form a crucial a backbone to a set in which the solos and instrumentation supports rather than dominates the material. The former Albert Collins and John Mayall’s Bluesbeaker undoubtedly has blues running though his veins, but he’s also a writer who is perpetually in search of a melody to suit his tone.

And the fact that he’s also branched out to collaborate with the likes of Little Feat’s Paul Barrere, bluesman Doug McLeod and The Hawks’ David Sleen, suggests he’s restless in his desire to nail the perfect blues song.

‘Songs From The Road’ is a fine recording on which producer Jim Gaines probably didn’t have to work too hard on the sequencing as the balance of the album mirrors Coco’s live set.

Coco opens with a homage to his former employer on Albert Collins, on ‘I Got A Mind To Travel’ – as with many of AC’s songs, it was actually written by his wife Gwendolyn – but the tone and sustain are unmistakeably Coco’s take on Albert.

‘Hey Senorita’  employs a similar strident tone, but is framed by a Latino feel, while the soulful ballad ‘Too Much Water’ is the first of two co-writes with Doug McLeod, which much like the later ‘Good Days Bad Days’, finds him unafraid to share his emotions, via a heartfelt vocal and weepy toned solo.

Coco also tells us that the mighty shuffle ‘Love Chair’ is actually written for Albert Collins, and he again indulges in subtly crafted sustain and a ringing tone over a cool band accompaniment.

He swaps tones again on the funky groove of the Montoya/Barrere composition ‘Don’t Go Making Plans’, which slips into jam mode over a metronomic pulse, punctuated with bass accents.

It takes maturity, style and an unbreakable belief in the songs to pull off a gig like this. At various points in the night Coco brings his crowd to a hushed silence, before ultimately stoking the fire and bringing them back to fever pitch, as he puts the emphasis on the harmonies and the hook of ‘I Want It All Back’.

The subsequent 3 song encore starts in a surprisingly laid back style, as Coco unusually plays slide on ‘You’d Think I’d Know Better By Now’. But for all the restraint, polish and feel, he finally heads for a climactic finish with the magnificent ‘My Side Of The Fence’, a mega shuffle with magical guitar work and inspired band interplay.

If you enjoy subtle guitar-led blues and heartfelt vocals that evoke the meaning of his soulful blues then you will enjoy this album. Coco’s ‘Songs From the Road, is one of the best albums in the series so far.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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