State Theatre Portland
Coco Montoya & Tinsley Ellis

Coco Montoya & Tinsley Ellis

Sat, April 6, 2019

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Port City Music Hall

Portland, ME

$32 Seated GA Advance / $35 Day of Show / $50 Preferred

This event is 18 and over

Buy tickets in person at the Port City Music Hall box office (504 Congress Street) Wednesday-Friday 10AM-5PM, charge by phone at 800-745-3000, or online right here. PCMH box office will open one hour before doors night of show.

Coco Montoya
Coco Montoya
"Stratocaster-fueled, fierce slash-and-burn guitar work...dramatic, smoldering Southern soul-rooted intensity. Montoya’s voice is as expressive as his guitar." –Washington Post

"Montoya is a show-stopper...Heartfelt singing and merciless guitar with a wicked icy burn...he swings like a jazz man and stings like the Iceman, Albert Collins. He is one of the truly gifted blues artists of his generation." –Living Blues

The old Willie Dixon adage, “blues is truth,” perfectly describes the searing, contemporary blues-rock of world-renowned guitarist and vocalist Coco Montoya. Taught by the “Master of the Telecaster,” Albert Collins, but with a hard-edged sound and style all his own, Montoya mixes his forceful, melodic guitar playing and passionate vocals with memorable songs, delivering the blues’ hardest truths. He earned his status as a master guitarist and soul-powered vocalist through years of paying his dues as a sideman with Collins (first as a drummer) and then with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, before launching his solo career in 1993. Five years of constant touring with Collins and ten years with Mayall turned him into a monster player and dynamic performer. Montoya has released eight solo albums—including three for Alligator between 2000 and 2007—and has played at clubs, concert halls and major festivals all over the world. Guitar Player says Montoya plays “stunning, powerhouse blues with a searing tone, emotional soloing, and energetic, unforced vocals.”

Returning to Alligator with his new album, Hard Truth, Montoya delivers one career-topping performance after another, the music immediately ranking among the best he’s ever recorded. Produced by drummer Tony Braunagel (Eric Burdon, Curtis Salgado, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt), the album features eleven songs, each delivering a hard truth of its own. From the radio-friendly, gospel-inspired celebration of love, I Want To Shout About It, to the haunting Devil Don’t Sleep to the icy-hot cover of Albert Collins’ The Moon Is Full, Hard Truth covers a lot of emotional ground. Montoya’s unpredictable guitar playing and smoking soul vocals blend effortlessly with a backing band featuring renowned musicians including bassist Bob Glaub (Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Lee Lewis), keyboardist Mike Finnigan (Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Taj Mahal), guitarists Billy Watts (Eric Burdon) and Johnny Lee Schell (Bonnie Raitt), and Braunagel on drums. Slide guitar master Lee Roy Parnell guests on Lost In The Bottle.

Henry “Coco” Montoya was born in Santa Monica, California, on October 2, 1951, and raised in a working class family. Growing up, Coco immersed himself in his parents’ record collection. He listened to big band jazz, salsa, doo-wop and rock
‘n’ roll. His first love was drums; he acquired a kit at age 11. He got a guitar two years later. “I’m sure the Beatles had something to do with this,” Montoya recalls. “I wanted to make notes as well as beats.” But guitar was his secondary instrument. Montoya turned his love of drumming into his profession, playing in a number of area rock bands while still in his teens and eventually becoming an in- demand drummer.

In 1969, Montoya saw Albert King opening up a Creedence Clearwater Revival/Iron Butterfly concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. He was transformed. “After Albert got done playing,” says Montoya, “my life was changed. When he played, the music went right into my soul. It grabbed me so emotionally that I had tears welling up in my eyes. Nothing had ever affected me to this level. He showed me what music and playing the blues were all about. I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Then fate took over. In the early 1970s, Albert Collins was booked to play a matinee at the same small club in Culver City, California where Montoya had played the night before. The club owner gave Collins permission to use Montoya’s drums. Montoya continues the story: “I show up to pick up my equipment and I see that someone had been playing my drums and I got a little angry with the club owner. So Albert called me up at the club and was real nice and apologetic. I went down to see his show and it just tore my head off. The thing that I had seen and felt with Albert King came pouring back on me when I saw Albert Collins.”

A few months later, Collins desperately needed a drummer for a tour of the Northwest and he called Coco. “When he called,” recalls Coco, “I figured we’d rehearse for a few weeks before the tour. Instead, he told me he’d pick me up in three hours.” During the tour, Albert took Montoya under his wing, teaching him about blues music and life on the road. After the tour ended, Montoya remained in the band for five more years. It was during this time that Coco began doubling on guitar. And Albert went out of his way to teach him. “We’d sit in hotel rooms for hours and play guitar,” remembers Montoya. “He’d play that beautiful rhythm of his and just have me play along. He was always saying, ‘Don’t think about it, just feel it.’ He taught me to tap into an inner strength. What a great gift he gave me.” As Montoya’s guitar playing improved, his relationship with the blues legend kept growing. “He was like a father to me,” says Coco, who often crashed at Collins’ home. When he declared Montoya his “son,” it was the highest praise and affection he could offer. In return, Montoya learned everything he could from the legendary Master of the Telecaster. Montoya often pays tribute to his mentor, recording a Collins song on almost every album he’s made. But he will only cover an Albert Collins song if he can make it his own. “One of the things Albert taught me is to interpret a song your own way,” Montoya says. “He was never impressed with people who would imitate him note for note.”

As disco began to take over and gigs began to dry up, Montoya left Collins’ band, but the two remained close friends. Montoya worked as a bartender, figuring his career as a professional musician was over. But luck was still on his side. One night in the early 1980s, Montoya was jamming in a Los Angeles bar when John Mayall walked in. Thinking quickly, Montoya launched into All Your Love I Miss Loving as a tribute, and Mayall took note. Soon after, Mayall needed a guitarist for the newly reformed Bluesbreakers, and he called Coco. Filling the shoes of previous Bluesbreaker guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor would not be easy, but Montoya knew he could not pass up the opportunity to play with another blues legend. For the next ten years he toured the world and recorded with Mayall, soaking up the experience of life on the road and in the recording studio. Along with fellow Bluesbreaker guitarist Walter Trout, Montoya was a featured member of the band, and often opened shows with his own blistering blues.

By the early 1990s, Montoya felt ready for a change. He put his own band together and hit the road, proving himself night after night. His debut as a leader, 1995’s Gotta Mind To Travel (originally on Silvertone Records in England and later issued in the USA on Blind Pig Records), became an instant fan favorite. Blues fans, radio programmers and critics sent praise from all corners. The album immediately made it clear that Montoya was a guitarist and vocalist who ranked among the best players on the contemporary blues scene. In 1996, he was nominated for four Blues Music Awards and walked away with the award for Best New Blues Artist. Two more Blind Pig albums followed, and Coco was well on his way to the top of the blues-rock world.

In 2000, Coco’s Alligator debut, Suspicion, quickly became the best-selling album of his career, earning regular radio airplay on over 120 stations nationwide. Montoya’s fan base exploded. After two more highly successful Alligator releases—2002’s massively popular Can’t Look Back and 2007’s Dirty Deal— Montoya signed with Ruf Records, cutting both a live and a studio album.

Back home on Alligator with Hard Truth, Montoya will hit the highway, playing his heart out night after night for fans hungry for the real thing. Still an indefatigable road warrior, Montoya continues to pack clubs and theaters around the world, and brings festival audiences to their feet from New York to New Orleans to Chicago to San Francisco. Across the globe, he’s performed in countries including Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, England, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Ecuador, Italy, Poland, Russia, Czech Republic and Canada. Vintage Guitar says, “Coco just keeps getting better and better...rockin’ blues with guitar that cuts straight to the heart of the matter. His guitar playing is funky and blistering; it’s perfect. Whatever he plays, he does it with fire and passion rarely seen in this day and age.”
Tinsley Ellis
Tinsley Ellis
Since his Alligator debut 30 years ago, Southern blues-rock guitar wizard, vocalist and songwriter Tinsley Ellis has become a bona fide worldwide guitar hero. The Chicago Sun-Times says, “It’s hard to overstate the raw power of his music.” Now, he makes his triumphant return to Alligator Records with a powerful new album, Winning Hand. Armed with his signature molten licks, melodic riffs and rousing, intense solos, Ellis, as his legions of fans will attest, is among the blues world’s best-loved, hardest working and most well-travelled statesmen. He has performed in all 50 United States as well as in Canada, Western and Eastern Europe, Australia and South America, earning legions of fans with his guitar virtuosity, passionate vocals and memorable original songs. Ellis is also revered as a guitarist’s guitarist, with famous friends including Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Oliver Wood, Jonny Lang and members of Widespread Panic calling on him to sit in and jam. “A musician never got famous staying home,” he says.

Recorded in Nashville and produced by Ellis and keyboardist Kevin McKendree, the ten brilliantly performed, fervently sung tracks on Winning Hand include nine originals, ranging from blistering blues to heart-pounding rock to soulful ballads. As his only cover song, Ellis pays tribute to his greatest guitar-playing and songwriting influences with a Freddie King-inspired version of rock legend Leon Russell’s Dixie Lullaby. “Guitar, guitar, guitar is what this album is all about,” says Ellis, who recorded primarily with his 1959 Fender Stratocaster, his 1967 Gibson ES 345 and his 1973 Les Paul Deluxe. Guitar World says, “Ellis’ playing sparkles with depth and subtlety. Whether playing deep, slow blues or uptempo rockers, Ellis rides a gorgeously fat, pure tone.”

Born in Atlanta in 1957, Ellis was raised in southern Florida. He discovered the blues through the back door of British Invasion bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream and The Rolling Stones as well as Southern rockers like The Allman Brothers. One night he and a friend were listening to records when his friend’s older brother told them if they liked blues, they should really be listening to B.B. King. As luck would have it, King was in town for a week, and the upcoming Saturday afternoon show was just for teenagers.

Tinsley and his friend went, sitting transfixed in the front row. When B.B. broke a string on Lucille, he changed it without missing a beat, and handed the broken string to Ellis. After the show, B.B. came out and talked with fans, mesmerizing Tinsley with his warmth and kindness. Tinsley’s fate was now sealed; he had to become a blues guitarist. He saw Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and every other blues artist who came through town, always sitting up front, always waiting to meet the artists, take photos, get autographs. And yes, he still has B.B.’s string.

Already an accomplished teenaged musician, Ellis left Florida and returned to Atlanta in 1975. He soon joined a gritty local blues band, the Alley Cats. In 1981, along with veteran blues singer and harpist Chicago Bob Nelson, Tinsley formed The Heartfixers, a group that would become Atlanta’s top-drawing blues band. After cutting a few Heartfixers albums for the Landslide label, Ellis was ready to head out on his own.

Georgia Blue, Tinsley’s first Alligator release, hit the unprepared public by surprise in 1988. Critics and fans quickly agreed that a new and original guitar hero had emerged. The Chicago Tribune said, “Tinsley Ellis torches with molten fretwork. Ellis takes classic, Southern blues-rock workouts and jolts them to new life with a torrid ax barrage.” Tinsley’s next four releases—1989’s Fanning The Flames, 1992’s Trouble Time, 1994’s Storm Warning, and 1997’s Fire It Up—further grew his fan base and his fame. Features and reviews ran in Rolling Stone, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and in many other national and regional publications.

Guests including Peter Buck (R.E.M.), guitarist Derek Trucks (who made his recording debut with Tinsley at age 14) and keyboardist Chuck Leavell (The Rolling Stones) have joined him in the studio. Ellis’ song A Quitter Never Wins was recorded by Jonny Lang, selling over a million copies. He in turn has made guest appearances on albums by The Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, Colonel Bruce Hampton and others. Producers Eddy Offord (John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Yes) and even the legendary Tom Dowd (The Allman Brothers, Ray Charles) helped Ellis hone his studio sound.

A move to Capricorn Records in 2000 saw Ellis revisiting his Southern roots. In 2002, he joined the Telarc label, producing two well-received albums of soul-drenched blues-rock. He returned to Alligator in 2005, releasing Live-Highwayman, which captured the crowd-pleasing energy of his live shows. He followed it with two more incendiary studio releases, 2007’s Moment Of Truth and 2009’s Speak No Evil. He has since self-released four successful albums on his own Heartfixer label.

Over the course of his career, Ellis has shared stages with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, The Allman Brothers, Leon Russell, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins and many others. Whether he’s on stage with his own band or jamming with artists like Buddy Guy, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule or Widespread Panic, he always plays with grit, soul and unbridled passion.
Venue Information:
Port City Music Hall
504 Congress St
Portland, ME, 04101