Coco Montoya brings hot blues to The Palms on Friday, Jan. 10

Coco Montoya, who honed his playing with Albert Collins and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, will perform at The Palms Playhouse in Winters on Friday, January 10. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $25 ($20 with student ID). Yves Bougardier/Courtesy photo

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Taught by blues legend Albert Collins and schooled by a decade on the road with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Coco Montoya’s forceful, melodic guitar playing and passionate vocals power his sound.

Montoya will bring his soulful blues and newest album, “Coming in Hot,” to The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St. in Winters, on Friday, Jan. 10 starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, $29 at the door, and  $12 with student ID.

Living Blues claimed Montoya “is one of the truly gifted blues artists of his generation,” and the Washington Post asserted, “Montoya’s voice is as expressive as his guitar.” According to Guitar Player, Montoya plays “stunning, powerhouse blues with a searing tone, emotional soloing, and energetic, unforced vocals.”

Not bad for a guy who started as a drummer and picked up guitar along the way.

Years of hard work and constant touring fueled Montoya’s transition from drummer to his current standing as a top-drawing blues-rock guitarist and vocalist.

It all started with a chance meeting in the mid-1970s with storied bluesman Albert Collins, who offered Montoya a gig as his drummer. Collins became Montoya’s mentor, teaching his new protégé the secrets of his “icy hot” style of blues guitar.

Five years later, British blues icon John Mayall heard Montoya playing guitar at a jam session and was blown away. Mayall recruited him as his guitarist in the legendary Bluesbreakers to take the position once held by Eric Clapton. Montoya spent the next decade touring non-stop, proving to be a world-class guitarist in one of the most renowned blues bands in existence.

Montoya stepped out on his own in the early 1990s and has been touring and recording heavily and to acclaim since.

Montoya is mostly a self-taught guitarist who plays with a rare emotional intensity. Playing left-handed and with the guitar upside down like Albert King, Montoya learned his guitar techniques from his years with Collins.

“I never had a lesson in my life,” Montoya said. “I would watch other guitar players to catch what they did. I would wait for that one moment when they would do it, and just stare at them and try and remember where their hand was, where their fingers were.

“People ask, ‘Did you take lessons from Albert?’ It’s more from just hanging out in the hotel rooms. He would grab his guitar and I would pick up one and we’d play. I just learned by listening, all by ear. I just play it the way I hear it. He was always saying, ‘Don’t think about it, just feel it.’ He taught me to tap into an inner strength. I don’t know all the licks in the world, but I know the ones I can express happiness or sadness or emotion.”

Alligator Records released “Coming in Hot,” Montoya’s 11th album, in August. With 11 songs by writers including Montoya and Dave Steen, Tom Hambridge and Richard Fleming, Warren Haynes, Frankie Miller, Jeff Paris and Albert Collins, the album’s tracks range from blistering, hard-rocking blues to potent shuffles to fervent, moving ballads. Montoya delivers each song with uncompromising, dynamic energy.

Montoya performs with Nathan Brown on bass, Rena Beavers on drums and vocals and Jeff Paris on keyboards and vocals.

Tickets are available at Pacific Ace in Winters, Armadillo Music in Davis, Davids’ Broken Note in Woodland, online via The Palms’ website and Eventbrite and at the door if not sold out.

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