Coco Montoya has played regularly at the Minnesota Music Café over the last several years. The last time out he was suffering from a cold and fever, yet he still put on a brilliant display of alternately scorching, driving blues guitar and slower, soulful playing. This Thursday night he was feeling in good health and his always-great blues guitar and strong vocals showed it.
Coco started things off with some rich, full expressive guitar riffs on "Think About That." His guitar work had a jazzy, sophisticated sound that was very pleasing to the ear. Coco brought it down for some slow, soulful picking. Then he took it right back up, his guitar wailing and howling with passion as he briefly held notes that rang out in between fast, repeating licks. All night Coco played a great mix of fast, driving blues with searing guitar playing and slow, subtle blues where he could really show what a talented blues player he really is. One of the latter was the powerful, dark blues of "I Can't See the Street for My Tears." This slow, soulful blues grinder had Coco playing strong, slow chord progressions as he sang in a great wailing, then mournful voice. Coco's passionate, atmospheric playing, along with his tight three piece backing band, transports you in time and space to a lonely walk on a dark, damp deserted street on a depressing night.
Coco likes to get funky on occasion, as he did on the hip blues of "Same Old Thing." This was hip, expressive, modern blues at its best yet with very deep roots. Benny Yee's solid electronic organ playing was showcased along with the bright, expressive guitar licks ringing out from Coco's guitar. Coco had his fast guitar licks ringing out and echoing in the room, one chord ringing into the next. Coco went back to searing guitar licks on the rolling blues of "Every Day and Every Night." His scorching, expressive licks rang out loudly into every corner of the room. Coco's brilliant guitar solo was matched by his strong, passionate husky vocals. All night Coco did a good job changing tempos and moods, from slow, passionate blues grinders to mid-tempo danceable blues to energetic driving blues that drove the dancers in the crowd ever faster with enthusiasm.
On "Good Days" Coco had his guitar wailing and moaning with passion, shaking his guitar and pulling and pushing the strings to the limit for vibrato. On the funky blues of "Get Your Business Straight" he played buzzing guitar riffs rich with reverb while Benny Yee wowed the crowd with his energetic, expressive electronic organ sound. Coco also showcased his vocals here. He sang with his smooth, warm tenor and at other times his vocals rasped with raw passion. His passion continued in his smoking, penetrating guitar solo. During the second set Coco gave the crowd the fast rolling blues love song "I Need Your Love in My Life." Once again his powerful guitar carried the passion and energy of the song to the crowd. Coco's clear tenor voice and solid vocal harmonies on the refrain made for a rich, textured song that moved the crowd.
A highlight of the show was Coco's performance of "If You Love Me Like You Say." His guitar solo was a tour de force, showing off nearly everything that he can do from fast and driving to slow and soulful to simple strumming as he let Benny Yee shine on organ. Coco has to be one of the top blues guitarists in the world by anyone's estimation. His great performance at the Minnesota Music Café only reinforces that view. Be sure to catch him the next time he stops by to wow the Twin Cities with the power and the passion of his brilliant blues guitar.
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