By Carol Griswold
Photo by Tom Ineck
Sept. 26, 2017
As I stroll across the street to the Zoo Bar Friday, on an absolutely sweltering day, I hear the crisp, clear notes of a beautifully played Fender stratocaster. It’s telling me that it could be no other than Coco Montoya who’s making it sing; and the music is as hot as the air outside!
It’s 5:15 p.m, the bar is almost to capacity and it’s easy to tell that the crowd are true believers in the blues. Coco Montoya and his band are burnin’ up the place with smokin’ blues.
Montoya is joined tonight by long-time friend; musician, vocalist, and songwriter Dave Steen. A Lincoln resident since 2000, Steen has written over a dozen songs for Montoya and co-written at least a dozen more that appear across his eight solo albums. My personal favorite is “Heart of Soul” from “Ya Think I’d Know Better”. Steen even played guitar on Coco Montoya’s 2000 Alligator release, Suspicion,, and spent this evening trading guitar licks note for note with his friend.
Montoya is currently touring the U.S. and Canada behind his March 2017 release, Hard Truth, also on Alligator. I would say it ranks up there as some of the best work he has ever done. It seems that all the professional reviewers and other regular humans like you and me also agree.
Montoya has been touring for over 40 years, and for those of you who don’t know, he started as a drummer for Albert Collins; and then became a guitar disciple of the, “Master of the Telecaster”. After that gig, he toured with John Mayall before taking to the road with his own band. I like the fact that he always tries to include an Albert Collins tune on each of his albums. Getting respect and giving it back is a hard thing to come by in any profession these days.
So to end my tale of another evening spent at the Zoo Bar, by the end of the show it was standing room only. There was such great joy in the audience of very knowledgeable musical listeners who came together to listen and appreciate one of the, “best of the best”.
Whether you were young, old, or in-between, all would agree — Coco Montoya always puts on a show you will never forget. When you are that good, you don’t have to crank it to “11” on the volume scale to mask your inability to hit those notes. Soulful vocals, every note on the guitar bright, clean and perfect — having a great time and the crowd knows it, that is Coco! If you’ve never caught his act, try to. He’ll be back around — he loves Lincoln, KZUM and the Zoo Bar.
Carol Griswold is the host of Women’s Blues and Boogie, heard every Friday, 1-3 p.m., on KZUM