Coco Montoya
" I Want It All Back "
Ruf Records

Blueswax 8
Rating 8

New Label, New Groove, (04/01/10)

A most definite change of direction has taken place on Coco Montoya's latest release on Ruf records. Obviously, a lot of this comes from Coco getting a lot more artistic freedom, plus the presence of co-producers Jeff Paris (who also engineered,) as well as Mr. Keb' Mo' who additionally plays rhythm guitar on each and every track. This first class recording is also enhanced with a top notch rhythm section consisting of the aforementioned Jeff Paris who worked with Keb' Mo' and Rod Stewart on various keys, bass palyer Reggie McBride (Stevie Wonder, Funkadelic, Rare Earth, Jimmy Smith, Ry Cooder, Tommy Bolin, Van Morrison, Keb' Mo', Chris Spedding, Eric Burdon, Arthur Adams, Lyle Lovett, Rod Stewart, and more), and session drummer extraordinaire Steve Ferrone who owns four pages of credits at, and far too many to list here. This extremely talented unit works its magic on each and every tune. While "I Want It All Back" won't earn Coco his long overdue award to garner a BMA for best guitarist, there's an awful lot to like here. This time there's more focus on Montoya's vocals plus the tight band's outstanding musicianship, well thought out song selections, and top-shelf production values, a rare quality for a twenty-first century Blues-based recording.

Things start on funky/Latin mode with "Hey Senorita" covered by the '50s doo-wop group The Penguins. It is immediately apparent that this is not going to be like any prior Coco disc. But it works sumptuously. The rhythm section sparkles, Coco's guitar is not at full throttle, but he tastefully plays off Paris' keys, and Montoya's vocal and background vocals shine. The title track written by photographer, guitarist, producer, and songwriter David Steen has a soulful sheen, centers on the vocalist, and a sweet and sparse guitar solo by Montoya.

Dozier, Gorman, and Holland's "Forever" (made somewhat popular by the Marvelettes) is a tender ballad that's given a mildly Bluesy feel with a Larry Carlton "Sleepwalk" feel from Coco's tempered guitar that's just gorgeous. Then there's two Gary Nicholson songs, "Cry Lonely" and "As Close As I Have Come." Gary is best known for his work with Delbert McClinton, and whom Montoya has previously covered. Both are both laidback and understated ballads that provide a glimpse into Coco's affection for this great songwriter's talents. Jeff Paris contributes his somewhat poppish yet powerful "The Life of My Broken Heart." Smokey Robinson's "The One Who Really Loves You" is also covered, where the highlight is a somewhat lengthy and breathtaking (once again Larry Carlton'esque) gentle guitar solo by Montoya.

You knew there'd have to be some barrelhouse Blues eventually as "Fannie Mae" rips and adds Honey and Rod Piazza. Montoya's only compositional contribution co-written with Little Feat's Paul Barrere is "Don't Go Makin' Plans." It's downright funky, especially with Jeff Paris' nice Kurzweil PC2 horns which are remarkably authentic.

Reggie Burns and Steve Ferrone really nail the pocket here with a nice if brief solo by Montoya. Jeff Paris' second song "She's Gonna Need Somebody" segues perfectly, another soul-funk tune that percolates well and offers some wah-wah guitar. Jackson Browne and Danny Kortchmar's smash hit "Somebody's Baby" closes the disc in a somewhat sappy way. You're not going to believe this, but it could fit on smooth jazz radio formats, hmmm.... Those expecting a fired-up guitar romp might be disappointed, but try to take note of the subtle beauty this CD offers. Though I'm not certain how Coco's latest will work for his tried and true Blues DJ's, (I am sure Bruce Iglauer would not have approved this recording for Alligator,) but kudos to everyone involved for making I Want It All Back a smart move that provides a distinct departure from Montoya's previous Blind Pig and Alligator output. Hopefully Ruf Records will target AOR radio, as I suspect that everyone might be in for a very pleasant surprise because this is one very satisfying and tasteful disc. Which begs the question, what's next for Coco Montoya? Stay tuned. I'm sure it will be interesting.

Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at Bob maybe contacted at:

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