Coco Montoya is one of the hardest working men in the blues industry. His brand of blues rock has proven to be a crowd favorite wherever he plays – and he plays just about everywhere. His latest Alligator release, Hard Truth, is just hitting the stores now and it’s already generating good buzz and getting some major air play.
I’m glad to see him back on Alligator. That’s a label that seems tailor made for his kind of music. Plus, they’ve got the people that really know how to get the word out. We’re already planning shows that will feature several songs from this album, and I’ve got a few older titles up my sleeve that I would love to trot out for your listening pleasure.
Montoya has assembled a talented group of players for this one. Aside from him taking lead guitar and vocals, he’s surrounded by Mike Finnigan on keys; Billy Watts and Johnny Lee Schell on rhythm guitar and Schell on slide for one song; Bob Glaub on bass; and producer Tony Braunagel on drums. Special guest Lee Roy Parnell adds slide guitar for one song.
Backing vocalists are Teresa James, Deb Ryder, Billy Watts, and Mike Finnigan.
Montoya’s initial track, Before The Bullets Fly, jumps right in with his trademark staccato guitar work. His vocals are good, with enough edge to pull the song together. It’s a solid opening and it’s obvious that Montoya is in good form. Listen for Mike Finnegan’s keyboard break.
He follows up with the swinging I Want To Shout About It. It’s a fun number with a good rhythm from the band and decent vocals. Listen to Montoya’s guitar work, it mixes extremely well with Finnegan’s keys giving the song a jazzy feel to the blues. This is one of Henry’s favorites on the album and he’s chosen it for an appearance on Time For The Blues.
The band gets crunchy with the powerful rock blues song Lost In The Bottle. That’s a title that belongs to a blues song! He delivers the message loud and clear. It’s the story so many of us have told at one time or another and Montoya comes through in a strong way.
He slows things down, but keeps the intensity high on Old Habits Are Hard To Break. This is another dark song and he reaches deep in order to pull out the emotions. It’s an excellent song and one that should get a lot of air play. I guarantee that if I can find a spot on an upcoming show, I will use it gladly.
Next up is the rocking I’ll Find Someone Who Will. Braunagel’s drums drive the song forward providing the canvas on which the other musicians paint. It’s a good straight ahead song, easily at home in both the blues and rock worlds.
You know a title like Devil Don’t Sleep isn’t going to belong to a tender love ballad. This one is strictly blues and it has a solid swamp feel to it. The lyrics are poetic and paint a dark picture that doesn’t let go of you. I really like this one a lot and Montoya makes it a song to remember. Yeah, I’ve got to play this one.
Everybody gets a little funky on The Moon Is Full, and Montoya whips out a very cool run right at the start. This one give me a BB King vibe, and that’s never a bad thing. I like Montoya’s voice, he’s got the shout down well and he’s got a strong edge to his vocals. Good song.
Another song that’s going to appear on Time For The Blues is Hard As Hell. The band is in great form and Montoya throws in some serious guitar licks in between vocals. There’s strong rock mixed with the blues and it creates a very cool effect. More great guitar work opens up ‘Bout To Make Me Leave Home. This is most definitely a blues song, both in lyrics and attitude.
Montoya slows things down some with Where Can A Man Go From Here? This is a terrific song, and Montoya is at his most vulnerable standing behind the microphone. Finnigan and Braunagel provide most of the instrumentation and Montoya adds his six-string pyrotechnics every few bars, but it’s his powerful vocals that make this song so great.
Lastly, Montoya brings the album to a close with Truth Be Told. It’s a rocking blues number that sums up his philosophy on this album nicely. It plays to everyone’s strength and the music is strong and Montoya’s vocals are well delivered. Good ending.
Lately it seems like I’ve been talking a lot about the importance of a good producer on an album. A good producer can make a good album sound great, and a great album a classic. Tony Braunagel is just such a producer. He’s worked with so many of the greats and has a perfectly tuned ear for what makes a song work.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s starting out with one of the great players and singers in the business. Hard Truth is a great album and a good investment to your album collection. I would listen to just about anything Montoya released, and this is one I will listen to frequently.
Be sure to browse his website at https://www.cocomontoyaband.com/ for more information about the album, his previous work, and his tour plans. The album is just hitting stores now, so you know he’ll be out promoting it. Of course, he’s almost always on the road somewhere, so if you get the chance to catch him live, grab it!