Strong radio support and relentless touring have made blues rocker Coco Montoya one of the best-selling artists in his genre, with titles that keep turning on a consistent basis long after street date. With a razor-sharp guitar attack and a commanding, soulful singing voice to match his tireless work ethic, Coco has more than 67,000 scans under his belt over the course of his last two Alligator releases. Coco Montoya is a long-standing AAA radio favourite, with both of his previous Alligator releases charting as high as Top 20. At the same time, Coco has retained the support of blues radio programmers, who consistently place his releases in the Top Five of the Living Blues Radio Chart. Throughout his career, Coco has been a powerhouse on the road, maintaining a busy tour schedule and generating a steady flow of regional press across the country, including coverage from high-circulation dailies in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Denver, plus dozens more major, secondary and tertiary markets. National press has also been on his side, with Guitar One, Guitar Player, Billboard, Goldmine, Relix and Vintage Guitar lining up to praise his work. Produced by Little Feat's Paul Barrere, DIRTY DEAL is the rawest, most explosive release of Coco Montoya's career. Whether ripping up the jagged blues of "It Takes Time," blasting out catchy blues rocker "Love Gotcha," stoking the coals on groove-heavy workouts like "Three Sides To Every Story" or doing a slow boil in his tough-but-tender take on Johnny Copeland's "It's My Own Tears," Coco's soulful mastery of hard-hitting blues rock is on fiery display.
A grizzly-bear guitar tone and diamond-hard riffs are the strongest cards of this former Albert Collins and John Mayall sideman. Montoya turns them in often on these 11 tunes, right from the opening "Last Dirty Deal," which absolutely roars, to the climactic final solo of "There Ain't No Brakeman on This Train," which concludes the album with a flourish of six-string ferocity. Even the ballads, like "How Do You Sleep at Night," scream with edgy intensity. That's partly because producer Paul Barerre of Little Feat succeeded at capturing the essence of Montoya's live sound, but mostly because Montoya's mentor Collins put his fiery brand on his apprentice's style. It still burns, six albums into Montoya's solo career--especially when he's covering Collins's "Put the Shoe on the Other Foot," a funky shuffle full of bellowing sustained notes and stiletto melodies that reply to his singing. That song's declamatory style also serves Montoya's narrow vocal range well. And while his lyrics occasionally stumble into blues clichés--falling tears, dirty deals--his playing is unfailingly eloquent. --Ted Drozdowski