I recently chatted with famed bluesman Walter Trout about his show at the North Atlantic Blues Festival, and this week I had the pleasure of interviewing blues-rocker Coco Montoya, who will perform at Blues, Brews & BBQ on Saturday, July 29, at the Bangor Waterfront. Both Trout and Montoya were members of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (Coco spent 10 years with Mayall’s band before launching his solo career in 1993) as featured guitarists, which proved to be a pivotal gig for the two musicians. I called Montoya to chat with him concerning not only that Bangor show, but also his new CD on Alligator Records, “Hard Truth.”

Q: I have had an opportunity to listen to your new album. Is this a fairly recent release?

Montoya: Yes, it came out in March of this year.

Q: How’s it going over?

Montoya: As far as I know we’re doing pretty well with it. It’s kind of hard for me to gauge, because I’m on the road working the album as best I can, so I’m not always aware of how it’s doing, but from what I gather it’s doing well. We had a good show last night and the night before that was pretty good, too.

Q: Excellent. So where are you now?

Montoya: We’re on our way to Omaha. We play there tomorrow.

Q: Well, you’re going to be coming up to Bangor for the Blues, Brews & BBQ festival on the 29th of this month.

Montoya: Yeah, and I haven’t been to Bangor in quite a while, so I’m looking forward to it.

Q: Now, I’m sure you’ve done the North Atlantic Blues Festival before?

Montoya: Yes, I have. It’s been quite a while, but I have done it.

Q: Do you get to Maine often?

Montoya: You know, I really don’t. I wish I did more often, but I don’t. That’s why I’m excited about getting up there and playing.

Q: It’ll be good getting you back, for sure. Now, I’ve got to let you know that one thing I really enjoyed about “Hard Truth” was the variety of sounds and styles on that CD. I love a musical journey when listening to a record — travelling along the same “road” song after song after song is a tad boring.

Montoya: Well, that’s always the intention whenever I do an album — to do the many varieties of things I like, you know? I listen to a lot of different things and I want to express those different things and not just strict blues, which I do love, too, but there are so many other things that I borrow from, you know.

Q: How do you go about choosing a song to cover?

Montoya: Well, for myself personally, I just pick what moves me, and if I feel it’s strong enough I’ll campaign for it to be on the album. I don’t have an ego problem, so if something I’ve written is really not that strong, if there’s something better that was written by somebody else, I don’t have any problem doing the better material. Sometimes it can be a very tedious and monotonous process trying to pick out songs for the album. It’s a hard thing to do; it’s a little complicated, but if you work at it and know it’s coming, eventually you get it done and move on in the process.

Q: Now, are any of the musicians on that new record in your touring band?

Montoya: No, this is one of the albums I did not use my road band on. It had to be done in a short period of time, so we had to knock it out quickly, but they are all good friends of mine, so it worked out well.

Q: Who will be in your backing band when you hit Maine at the end of this month?

Montoya: I have my friend Brant Leeper, he’s my keyboard player, and he’s been with me for going on 15 years almost; on bass we have Nathan Brown who’s been with me a long time, as well. He’s a great player who is very well versed in blues as well as jazz; he has a very melodic touch. Our drummer, Rena Beavers, he’s been with my six years now — a wonderful player. He’s well versed in the blues, as well, in fact, all these guys in my band not only are strong in the blues they love to try new things, too.

Q: It sounds like a good, solid three-piece.

Montoya: Yeah, it really is solid. All my guys are very seasoned and have been out before. They deliver every night and are great players, and if there’s a weak link, it’s me … they get me through all the time.

Q: Because “Hard Truth” is so new, I imagine you’re not thinking about the next album any time soon.

Montoya: Well, I’m always constantly thinking. In fact, once I do this run here I’m going to try to arrange some songwriting sessions to start moving on to another one. Most of my time, though is out touring and promoting this album, but like anybody else, you’ve got to start preparing for the next one.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Montoya: Well, just to let everybody know that our intention is to come up there — especially after not having been there for quite a while — and definitely give them a little piece of every album. Whatever I’m feeling is what I try to get over to the audience; so it’s about listening and feeling. So I’m hoping that they’re open and ready for us because we’re ready for them.

Lucky Clark has spent 48 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.