Coco Montoya’s double CD set on RUF Records, Songs From The Road, is the next best thing to being there from this great guitarist and his crushing band. Push play and your front room transforms into the front row. Shut your eyes and you almost feel the crush of the crowd, the heat of the tube amps and the security barrier at your chest. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Triple Door. Please welcome… Coco Montoya!”
This release sticks to the winning formula of Ruf Records’ Songs From The Road concept, showcasing a classic Coco Montoya show at Seattle’s famous Triple Door venue on August 17 and 18, 2013 with producer Jim Gaines taking charge of a mix that’s as potent as the performance.
There’s nothing like a live recording. With no smoke, mirrors or safety nets, Coco is rightly celebrated for his studio cuts. The cheers that introduce, “I Got A Mind To Travel” and the hysteria that signs off “My Side Of The Fence” proves the bandleader can patently deliver the goods live.
Alongside Jim Gaines, Coco had a dream-team of compadres flanking him that night in Seattle, with Brant Leeper swirling it up on keys, Nathan Brown holding it down on bass and Rena Beavers driving these 14 songs from the drum stool. For the fans, needless to say, the star of the show was the man at the mic with the iconic ‘upside-down’ electric guitar, streaking through a solid-gold setlist of originals that left the Washington crowd breathless.
Montoya’s first major appearance was in the mid-’70s lineup of Texas-blues great Albert Collins. “He would grab his guitar and I would pick up one and we’d play,” recalls Coco of absorbing the secrets of Collins’ ‘icy-hot’ guitar style. “I just learned by listening, all by ear. I just play it the way I hear it. Albert was always saying, ‘Don’t think about it, just feel it’. He taught me to tap into an inner strength.” Then in 1984, Brit-blues godfather, John Mayall, spotted Coco performing in a bar and quickly drafted him to partner with Walter Trout in a rejuvenated Bluesbreakers, where he stayed for ten triumphant years.
Songs From The Road mines the material that Coco has written since striking out on his own in the mid-’90s, rocket-fuelling 14 of his best solo songs.
Signing with the Alligator label in the post-millennium, Coco’s solo stock continued to rise, and those albums are also well represented on Songs From The Road.
If you appreciate his studio cuts, then you’ll love these live readings. And if you’re yet to discover the genius of Coco Montoya, Songs From The Road’s cherry-picked setlist is a great place to kick-start your collection. Play it loud.