Coco Montoya
Just Let Go
Blind Pig 5043
Coco Montoya's third album for Blind Pig in as many years shows a great artist who's getting a good feel for his own strengths and skills and how to show them to best advantage.

His piercing guitar tone lends itself well to spooky, minor-keyed tunes like "What's Done Is Done," co-written by Montoya and David Steen. Montoya and Steen also penned the shuffle "My Side of the Fence," featuring a marvelously strong vocal.

Montoya has a wonderful and distinctive vocal instrument and seems to be getting more comfortable and confident with it; he duets with two extremely strong singers and holds his own with style and flair in both cases. On Steen's "Give It to a Good Man," he trades verses with Ernie Cate, and Cate's rich, light, soulful vocals beautifully balance Montoya's fiery tenor. (The other half of the Cate Brothers, guitarist Earl, plays lead guitar on this cut and on the instrumental "Mother and Daughter.")

On another Steen tune, "Nothing's Too Good for My Baby," Montoya harmonizes a lead vocal with Shaun Murphy (most recently heard with Little Feat). His voice blends pleasingly with her thick, pretty alto in this upbeat shuffle.

About half the songs on the album are recorded with Montoya's touring band (Benny Yee, keyboards; Steve Ehrmann, bass; Marty Binder, drums), the other half with keyboardist Ernest Williamson, bassist Dave Smith and drummer Steve Potts, as on his last album, Ya Think I'd Know Better. And like that album, Jim Gaines produced this one. But what makes Just Let Go a superior work is the material.

Another thing Montoya is known for is his reading of deep, slow blues numbers, and he does a fine job with Albert Collins' "Do What You Want to Do." The title cut, by Montoya and Steen, is a little on the poppy side, but maybe that's a California thing. And one can't help but see the crossover potential in such a song, and that might not be bad. I'd trust Montoya to suck 'em in with a more commercial number, then blindside those unknowing MTVers with a double-dose of blues. He might just be the man for the job.

Montoya is one of the top guys in contemporary blues, and this latest offering comes across with all of the energy, smarts and talent of his live performances.

-- Jennifer Zogott

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Boulder, CO, USA.