Coco Montoya

Alligator Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


To call Coco Montoya a blues musician is not a totally accurate description.

Oh, sure, he earned his stripes at the feet of the late blues master Albert Collins. But on Montoya's new album Suspicion, he proves that he's really an r&b artist at heart - and, for the most part, this approach to the music on a label known best for its blues work is a shot in the arm.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Montoya's vocals are as smooth as a cold beer on a hot night, and his guitar playing is incredibly fluid, making the six-string sing as if it was a featured vocalist. Whatever Montoya learned from Collins, he obviously was paying close attention.

But if you put this disc in the player expecting nothing but killer 12-bar exercises, grab something sturdy and hold on tight. Montoya puts himself and his backing band through a powerful musical workout, encompassing not only the blues, but r&b/soul ("I Need Your Love In My Life," "Fool"), on-the-border pop ("Nothing But Love") and even some Southern-fried boogie a la Dr. John ("Casting My Spell").

What's interesting is not just that Montoya handles the changes with ease or that the stylistic switching sounds completely natural. What's interesting is that these deviations from pure blues are what make Suspicion a special release. For some reason, when Montoya gets down to some serious 12-bar work, the magic seems to dissipate as well. Tracks like "Get Your Business Straight" and "Trading One Fool For Another" just don't have the same excitement and energy as other tracks do.

Admittedly, Montoya saves face on other tracks like "Beyond The Blues" and "What I Know Now," but one has to wonder why things go south, even for the briefest of times, when Montoya switches to the blues. Maybe it's because he's now focusing on what is expected of him, not on the way he crosses musical boundaries as if he was leaping over a piece of paper on the floor.

Suspicion is an exciting disc from an artist whom I think we'll be hearing a lot more from in the next few years. Even with the occasional lag in excitement, this disc is a powerful sign of things to come.

Rating: B+

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Alligator Records, and is used for informational purposes only.