Over the course of his almost 40-year career, guitarist and vocalist Coco Montoya's explosive guitar playing and soul-driven voice have propelled him to the upper reaches of the blues-rock world. From his early days as a drummer to his current status as one of the top-drawing guitarists and vocalists on the blues-rock scene, Montoya has forged his reputation through years of hard work and constant touring. And it all started with a chance meeting in the mid-1970s with legendary bluesman Albert Collins, who offered Montoya a gig as his drummer. Collins took an immediate liking to Montoya, becoming his mentor and teaching his new protege secrets of the Collins "icy hot" style of blues guitar. Five years later, John Mayall happened to catch Montoya at a jam session and was blown away. As a result, Montoya spent 10 years touring the world with the legendary Bluesbreakers.
After three records with Mayall as a member of the Bluesbreakers, Montoya decided in 1993 it was time to take the lessons from his two musical fathers and begin to sculpt a solo career. In the early '90s he signed to Blind Pig Records and released three critically acclaimed discs, Gotta Mind To Travel (1995), Ya Think I'd Know Better (1996), and Just Let Go (1997). In the middle of his Blind Pig days, he also received national recognition when he was named the Blues Foundation's Best New Blue Artist at the 1996 Blues Music Awards. In 2000, he took his music up a notch and signed with Alligator Records, the country's top blues label. In his seven years with Alligator, Montoya released three more outstanding records: Suspicion (2000), Can't Look Back (2002), and Dirty Deal (2007).
Today, in 2013, Montoya has found a new home in the old world. Europe's premier blues label, Ruf Records, signed the guitar giant in the late '00s and is poised to bring his sound to a worldwide audience. As Billboard put it, "In a world of blues guitar pretenders, Coco Montoya is the real McCoy. Be prepared to get scorched."
With a career that spans over three decades, John Hammond is one of handful of white blues musicians who was on the scene at the beginning of the first blues renaissance of the mid-'60s. Some critics have described him as a white Robert Johnson, and Hammond does justice to classic blues by combining powerful guitar and harmonica playing with expressive vocals and a dignified stage presence. Within the first decade of his career as a performer, Hammond began crafting a niche for himself that is completely his own: the solo guitar man, harmonica slung in a rack around his neck, reinterpreting classic blues songs from the 1930s, '40s, and '50s.
As with Dr. John and other blues musicians who've recorded more than two dozen albums, there are many great recordings that provide a good introduction to the man's body of work. Gems from his extensive catalogue include I Can Tell (1967), Southern Fried (1968), Source Point (1970), and selections from his recent string of albums for Pointblank/Virgin Records, including Got Love if You Want It (1992) and Found True Love (1996). Of course, his self-titled 1964 debut for Vanguard is peerless as well. In many ways, Hammond's most recent release, Rough & Tumble (2009), harkens back to that first recording Vanguard recording from almost 50 years ago. Over time, Hammond has become a force of nature onto himself - his guitar playing has become stronger, and the passing years have deepened his expression. Whether listening to Hammond on record or seeing him perform live, one still gets the sense that some of the best is still to come from this energetic bluesman.
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