Monster Mike Welch and Mike Ledbetter decided it was the Right Place, Right Time (Delta Groove, 2017) to record together, and hopefully this won’t be a one-off collaboration. Boston-based Welch has been a member of Sugar Ray and the Bluetones since 2001, plus an in-demand guitarist performing and recording with numerous major blues acts; and Ledbetter’s distinctive vocals have fronted Chicago’s Nick Moss Band for the past 8 years. This is a solid effort, mostly up-tempo blues shuffles with a tilt towards R&B. 12 tracks with 5 originals. Laura Chavez (the late Candye Kane’s guitarist) joins in on 4 tracks, and 3 of those 4 are my disc top picks – “How Long Can This Go On,” the Ledbetter penned “Big Mama” and the Welch instrumental “Brewster Avenue Bump.” Anthony Geraci also supplies some excellent keyboard work throughout. Other highlights include Elmore James’ “Goodbye Baby” and Willie Dixon’s “I Can’t Stop Baby” featuring some impressive vocal highs from Ledbetter.
Hard Truth (Alligator Records, 2017) is Coco Montoya’s ninth solo album after many years learning his craft under the guidance of two blues legends, Albert Collins and John Mayall. This is classic Coco, and fans of the man should find plenty to appreciate here. Montoya’s fiery passionate guitar and soulfully passionate vocals make him one of the best performers on the scene capable of straddling that fine line between blues and hard rock. Always more of a song interpreter, there are just two Montoya co-writes among the 11 tracks, including one of my disc favorites – “Hard As Hell.” Other highlights are “I’ll Find Someone Who Will” with songwriter/performer Teresa James on backing vocals, “Old Habits Are Hard To Break” and a nod to mentor Albert Collins cover of “The Moon Is Full.” Mike Finnigan – keys, Johnny Lee Schell – guitar, Bob Glaub – bass and Tony Braunagel – drums are among the friends onboard for this recording.