Coco Montoya
@ The Fine Line, October 16, 1997
By Ann Wickstrom

Coco Montoya - 10/16/97
The Fine Line
Photo © 1997 by Jimmie Barghini
All rights reserved
When Coco Montoya smiles, he lights up a room. When he plays, he sets it on fire. From the moment Coco put one of his red-tipped boots forward and launched into the show, I was certainly feeling the heat. The crowd for this show was easily four times that of the last time he played in Mpls. - July 1996 at the same venue. Oddly enough, when I spoke to Coco about this subject, he said it didn't matter to him how many people attend his shows; whether it's ten or hundreds, he doesn't care.

At any rate, few people in this town seemed to know who he was at that time. Even die-hard blues fans were saying, "Coco who?". I expected that his appearance last summer at the Bayfront Blues Festival would gain him an entirely new legion of fans and bring about a huge rise in popularity. Guess it did.

After a funky set from openers Wallace Hartley & the Titanics, Coco and his mates plugged in and started the show off with the fast-paced instrumental "Cool Like Dat" from the new CD Just Let Go. I was a bit dismayed because it is one of my favorite Coco Montoya songs. I didn't expect to hear it so early in the evening, and I wondered, "Where can it go from here?"

I definitely wasn't disappointed as the show progressed. He played four tunes from his first CD (an absolute gem by the way): "Gotta Mind to Travel", "Too Much Water", "Am I Losing You", and "Love Jail". "Love Jail" included an extended jam featuring keyboard player Benny Yee. In fact, Yee seemed to steal the show several times throughout the evening. Coco gave him free rein to "go for it" many times, and he did.

Coco Montoya - 10/16/97
The Fine Line
Photo © 1997 by Jimmie Barghini
All rights reserved
During what must have been a 15-minute version of "Fool in Love", Coco roamed throughout the crowd and played directly to fans upstairs, in the back of the room, and everywhere in between. The cool thing about this was that even though he could have, he did not use a wireless setup; he dragged that big 'ol cord behind him in the style of his mentor, Albert Collins.

In addition to "Cool Like Dat", we also heard "Fear No Evil", "Give it to a Good Man", and "Never Seen You Cry Like This Before" from the new CD.

One of the nice things about seeing Coco Montoya live is that he can be delightfully unpredictable. He is not all blues, and sometimes that can be refreshing. You never know when he'll pull a romping rock 'n roll tune out of his hat. He did that several times at this show, and it filled the dance floor in a big hurry. The evening also included a touching dedication to friends he has lost or is losing: Johnny Clyde Copeland, Luther Allison, Jr. Wells, and James Armstrong.

Coco Montoya's guitar playing is solid and sure. He brings a biting tone to his Strat and he can sustain a note, especially in the slow tunes, like no one I've ever heard. I have never heard him falter in any way.

It is his vocals, though, that truly demonstrate what a "natural" he is. That term can be overused, but it is simply the best way to describe Coco. His voice has a quality to it that gives this listener goose bumps. Perhaps you can relate?

At the end of the night, I asked Coco if he would be coming back to Mpls. He said, "I will be glad to come back, if you folks will have me." I don't think we have a problem here. When it happens, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go directly to the Coco Montoya show and prepare yourself for a great time. And don't worry if you get stuck in the back of the bar. Coco will find you.

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Copyright © 1997 by Ray M. Stiles
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.