Coming In Hot
Coco Montoya played drums with Albert Collins and The Icebreakers. After being mentored by Collins he switched to rhythm guitar. He stayed with Collins for five years before becoming the lead guitarist in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers for ten years. Montoya started his own band in 1993 and soon signed with Blind Pig Records. He released his debut album “Gotta Mind To Travel” in 1995 and it resulted in four Blues Music Award nominations with a win as Best New Artist. He recorded two more albums for Blind Pig before switching labels and signing with Alligator Records where he released three recordings: 2000’s “Suspicion”, 2002’s “Can’t Look Back” and 2007’s “Dirty Deal”; he left to record two albums for Ruf Records before returning to release “Hard Truth” in 2017.
This is Montoya’s fifth album for Alligator and tenth overall. Montoya, who is also a passionate vocalist, is a “force” on guitar and plays left handed with the strings upside down. Once again the album is produced by Tony Braunagel who plays drums and percussion. The band is rounded out by Mike Finnigan, piano, Hammond organ, and Wurlitzer; Johnny Lee Schell or Billy Watts, rhythm guitar; and Bob Glaub or Mike Mennell, bass. Background vocalists include Kudisan Kai and Maxan Lewis.
Montoya opens with “Good Man Gone”, from Tom Hambridge and Richard Fleming, first recorded by Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns, it features both a great vocal and solo. The only original on the recording is the title track, “Coming In Hot” written by Montoya with his writing partner Dave Steen; included is some great guitar phrasing from Montoya with Jon Cleary sitting in on piano.
It’s always a pleasure to hear Montoya’s interpretations of songs he selects to cover as he learned to interpret songs his own way from his mentor Collins. Montoya often includes one of Collins’ songs and this time it’s the “Lights Are On, But Nobody’s Home” first recorded in 1986. Montoya opens with an icy Collins like guitar solo, followed by a passionate vocal. The band, grounded by the Braunagel led rhythm section and Finnigan’s B-3, make this version a seven minute masterpiece.
“Stone Survivor” from the late David Egan was included on The Phantom Blues Band’s 2011 album “Inside Out”; band members included Braunagel, Finnigan and Schell. “What Am I?” features a beautiful vocal from Montoya on a ballad, written by Johnny Neel and Warren Haynes and, recorded by Neel several times. “Ain’t It A Good Thing” credited to Don Robey was first recorded by Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1963, featured is Shaun Murphy who shares the vocal. “Water To Wine” credited to Greg Washington was recorded under his professional name DC Bellamy in 2000; Montoya passionately sings “cause what she’s got, that thing changes water to wine”.
“Trouble” a 1974 blues rock tune written and recorded by Frankie Miller, was arranged and produced by Allen Toussaint; this is another ardent performance from Montoya. “I Wouldn’t Want To Be You”, from songwriters Randy Sharp and the Grammy winning Jeff Silbar was recorded by country music superstar Reba McEntire in 1994; Montoya’s introspective vocal makes it a perfect vehicle for his blues, as Wally Ingram provides the percussion.
“Stop Runnin’ Away From My Love credited to keyboardist Jeff Paris features a great vocal from Montoya, this time with the background singers. “Witness Protection” written by Allison August first appeared on her 2016 recording, with an appearance by special guest Montoya; it is reprised here and is another emotive performance as Montoya sings “your love is like a poison trying to get me down”.
Montoya knows how to rework a song and make it his own. His passion and artistry, combined with stellar musicianship and production, make this his best album yet. This is an award winning effort.