A selection of new and reissued guitar releases, including Album Of The Month
Our usual fine spread of recent guitar releases.
CoCo Montoya HArD trutH Alligator Records ✪✪✪✪✪
Coco Montoya is blues sideman royalty, having drummed for Albert Collins, spent 10 years as John Mayall’s guitarist and guested on albums by Bo Diddley. Coco’s a leftie, and one of those rarified blues guitarists (Albert King, Otis Rush and Doyle Bramhall II also among their ranks), who plays his guitar strung upside down. He’s a powerful player and if you were to mix various Kings with Robert Cray and Robben Ford, you might get a clue as to how he sounds. Before The Bullets Fly is a classic tale of a man on the edge of danger – great guitar and lovely B3 Hammond. Lost In The Bottle speaks for itself – powerful Coco solo and great slide from Johnny Lee Schell. Lovely feel throughout, especially on the Cray-like Old Habits Are Hard To Break, and Devil Don’t Sleep. This is grown-up blues about grown-up matters, from a guy who’s been round the block a few times and can bring all his experience to bear in a set that’s both satisfying and authentic.
Dennis Coffey Hot Coffey In tHe D Resonance Records ✪✪✪✪ ✪
The slick licks on The Temptations’ Cloud 9 and Ball Of Confusion made Dennis Coffey one of the most infectious studio guitarists around. As part of Motown’s Funk Brothers, he brought an edgy rock-funk vibe to R&B and his ‘71 instrumental, Scorpio further enhanced his reputation. This new release is a live trio recording made in Detroit in 1968 at the height of his powers. And it shows. Seven extended performances see him improving around classics like Jimmy Webb’s By The Time I Get To Phoenix and Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage. He switches from single notes to octaves, double-stops to tasty chords, sometimes stomping on a fuzz or wah (The Big D - a great funk stomper). In an exposed trio setting (drums, B3 organ, guitar), Dennis has lots of room to express himself and much to say harmonically and rhythmically. Standout track is Bacharach’s The Look Of Love; nearly 12 minutes of groove, dynamic range and phrases that run the gamut of tender through to busy exclamations. Great stuff!
Duke RobillaRD Blues full CIrCle Dixiefrog Records ✪✪✪✪ ✪
Robillard always sounds great! From his time with Roomful Of Blues and later with The Fabulous Thunderbirds (replacing Jimmie Vaughan), he’s exhibited a touch that combines jazz, swing and rock and roll elements, with blues, for a style that nods to both the Vaughan Brothers and earlier masters like T-Bone Walker. With Blues Full Circle, Duke harks back to Roomful Of Blues with a mixture of new and old songs. Lay A Little Lovin’ On Me has a great throaty overdrive lead tone that Duke bends, slides and vibratos. Mourning Dove is played with such clipped precision you’d think Albert Collins was alive and well again! Among the guests, Duke plays alongside Jimmie Vaughan and Double Trouble on Shufflin’ and Scufflin’, a swinging blues instrumental that conjures visions of a hot and smokey jazz-blues venue in New Orleans. Tasty, old-school blues indeed!
Jay GRayDon AIrplAy for tHe plAnet Sonic Thrust Records ✪✪✪✪ ✪
This is a sparkling remix of an album that was first released in 1993. For many, Jay Graydon is the ultimate guitarist, LA session supremo, songwriter, arranger and producer, as famed for his work with Steely Dan (‘that’ solo on Peg!) as co-writing hits such as After The Love Is Gone by Earth, Wind And Fire. Here, not only do you get rich solo tones but also among the songs a great re-working of that EWF classic. With vocalists like Joseph Williams (Toto) and Bill Champlin (Chicago), the music is pure LA but laced with Steely Dan harmonic savvy. Walk The Wire features great whammy bar dips; She Just Can’t Make Up Her Mind screaming harmonics and snaky jazz-rock runs; and Show Me The Magic has a great swing rhythm underpinning his phrasing. If you love bands like Chicago, Toto and Dan, with killer guitar work, this one’s for you!
RovinG CRows Bury Me nAkeD Roving Crows Records ✪✪✪✪ ✪
Folk today is huge! Solo artists like Kate Rusby and Seth Lakeman, and harmony groups like The Unthanks, sit happily alongside the raunchier Bellowhead and the Mumfords. Roving Crows have been around eight years but this is their first release in four. Paul O’Neill plays guitars and sings, Loz Shaw a host of instruments including guitars and banjolina, Caitlin Barrett is on fiddle and vox, while Tim DownesHall drums. The title track is almost psychedelic with its Sgt Pepper-like opening and Stephen Stills-ish guitar licks; New York Love Song is as much Istanbul as the Big Apple, but it’s such an infectious sound; the exciting instrumental Fire Sky again mixes Celtic with the Middle East, this time led by Barrett’s insistent fiddle. Things close with a heartfelt take on Jimmy MacArthy’s beautiful Ride On, with Barrett taking lead vocal. We just wish they were down the local pub tonight!
kRissy Matthews lIve At freAk vAlley Proper Records ✪✪✪✪ ✪
Although still just 24, Matthews has been touring for 12 years and writes no-nonsense blues-rockers on life and love. Recorded last April at the Freak Valley Festival in Germany it’s a balls-to-the-wall power-trio fest. There’s no overdubs, so what you hear is what they played – ‘they’ being Sam Weston (bass, vocals), Max Maxwell (drums, vocals) and frontman Krissy. With power and swagger, he’s a kind of Angus Young, Gary Moore cross, and from the outset his confidence is scary: Feeling The Blues’s solo is certainly worthy of Angus, as is that vibrato! Unison guitar and vocals are great on All Night Long, Krissy’s solo is fast and frantic and the band is crisp and tight. The cover of Hendrix’s Freedom is a highlight, culminating in a raucous solo that’s more Gary than Jimi. The nine-minute closer is Bubbles And The Seven Phones, a song about a late pal, through which Matthews pours all the emotion he can. UK dates coming soon, so check these guys out if powerful blues-rock is your thing.