“’Just play what you feel, be real about it, and enjoy yourself.’ That’s what Albert Collins taught me,” says the award-winning guitar virtuoso and soul-deep singer Coco Montoya. The self-taught, left-handed Montoya mastered his craft under Collins’ tutelage. Incorporating lessons learned from his mentors, the iconic Collins (for whom he originally drummed), and UK legend John Mayall, Montoya puts his own stamp onto every song he performs. Since his first solo album in 1995 (which won him the Blues Music Award for Best New Artist), Montoya’s endlessly inventive guitar work and passionate, hard-hitting vocals have kept him at the top of the blues world. With his new Alligator Records album, Writing On The Wall (his sixth for the label), Montoya delivers what he is already calling one of the best records he’s ever made. For the very first time on Alligator, he decided to bring his road-tested band—noted keyboardist and songwriter Jeff Paris (Keb’ Mo’, Bill Withers), bassist Nathan Brown, and drummer Rena Beavers—into the studio with him. Between the camaraderie of the long-time bandmates and the sheer talent of all involved, the results have left Coco, in his words, “over the moon.”
“I am so proud of this one,” Montoya says of Writing On The Wall. “We recorded in Jeff Paris’ studio and everything just gelled together. And the band inspired me; they all gave extra effort at every turn. Jeff, Nathan and Rena played so great, they ended up making me play even harder. They made me sound better than I am!”
Henry “Coco” Montoya was born in Santa Monica, California, on October 2, 1951, and raised in a working-class family. Growing up, Coco immersed himself in his parents’ record collection. He listened to big band jazz, salsa, doo-wop and rock ‘n’ roll. His first love was drums; he acquired a kit at age 11. He got a guitar two years later. “I’m sure the Beatles had something to do with this,” Montoya recalls. “I wanted to make notes as well as beats.” But guitar was his secondary instrument. Montoya turned his love of drumming into his profession, playing in a number of area rock bands while still in his teens and becoming an in-demand drummer.
Still an indefatigable road warrior, Montoya continues to tour virtually nonstop, bringing audiences to their feet from New York to New Orleans to Chicago to San Francisco. Across the globe, he’s performed in countries including Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, England, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Ecuador, Italy, Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic and Canada.
Now, with the dynamic Writing On The Wall and a tour calendar busting at the seams, Coco Montoya is as excited as he’s ever been to perform the new songs live with his burning-hot band. Montoya’s well-earned reputation as an eye-popping live performer precedes him. Vintage Guitar states, “Coco keeps getting better and better. He plays with fire and passion rarely seen in this day and age.” Billboard declares, “In a world of blues guitar pretenders, Coco Montoya is the real McCoy. He exudes power and authenticity. Be prepared to get scorched by the real thing.”
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