Coco Montoya
Ruf Records

Known primarily as a guitarist—on his own and with the likes of John Mayall (he broke into the business as a drummer for Albert Collins)—Coco Montoya comes charging out on I Want It All Back with his axe blazing and his voice on full display. Yes, his voice. Working with the producer tandem of Keb’ Mo and Jeff Paris, Montoya is dealing some blues, some country, some elegant southern R&B and more here, and making it all work. No one is going to mistake him for a great singer in terms of all the tools he can deploy vocally, but he makes everything work by believing in himself and in his songs. On the smooth grooving title track, enriched by Paris’s Yamaha keyboard and B3, when he sings about rebounding from a broken heart and cries, “it’s all right, it’s okay, I’m gonna make it anyway,” it has the force of prophecy about it, and the moment is immediately underscored by a rousing gospel chorus and Montoya’s rich guitar soloing. One of the album’s real beauties comes by way of Gary Nicholson and the country-inflected soul of his poignant “As Close As I Have Come,” a touching look back at a good woman who got away made all the more resonant by the straightforward plainspokenness of Montoya’s voice; the same might be said about the wonders Montoya works on Paris’s “The Life of My Broken Heart,” wherein his mix of regret and resilience lends heft to his plea for a second chance, articulated just ahead of a complementary stinging guitar solo over the humming, B3-rich soundscape. Arguably his finest vocal moment here comes when he unburdens himself of a tender, warm-hearted reading of Lamont Dozier’s “Forever,” a soothing vow of commitment writ large in a laid-back soul groove with velvety backing voices, a burbling B3 and Montoya’s own expressive guitar serving as a second voice to his own. And for a change of pace, try the stomping, churning variation on Buster Brown’s classic “Fannie Mae,” with Montoya crying out the lyrics, Paris adding heft with the B3 and none other than Rod Piazza honking and moaning away on harp like nobody’s business, and even engaging Montoya’s guitar in a brief bit of spirited dialogue about halfway through. Add in Montoya’s own funky blues workout, “Don’t Go Makin’ Plans,” and a surprising sign-off by way of a treatment of Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby” that finds a scintillating nexus between California soft-rock and southern soul, and you have an eminently tasty musical stew. And as with all good stews, one helping is never enough. Montoya may need to cook up another batch real soon. —David McGee

I Want It All Back is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024