Thursday, June 21, 2012

C.W. Ayon- Lohmador

C.W. Ayon (pronounced I-Own) is a New Mexico delta blues trailblazer. I know that sounds crazy, but thanks to Cooper Ayon the stark hill country blues of the Mississippi Delta have found a home in New Mexico. For C.W. this isn't an affected style worn simply for fashion, Coop is the genuine article, he's literally a one man crusader out to spread the gospel of blues.

In the past CW Ayon has been compared to the White Stripes or the Black Keys, that's no longer the case. With his latest album "Lohmador" Coop has gracefully come into his own style. The most pleasant surprise about CW's new album is that his vocals, often buried in the thump & growl of his previous albums, are in full effect. 

 In terms of studio production, "Lohmador" really hits the bull's eye.  The mix on "Lohmador" really favors Coop's strengths while, mitigating the  repetitive tendencies so common in the "one man band" genre.  The result is a sublimely textured musical document that flows with a fluidity rarely found in the aforementioned musical tradition.

The album takes its name from that treacherous spot in Las Cruces, where Lohman, Amador & Main St. (the main arterial roads through Coop's hometown) insidiously come together with Amador and Lohman forming  a two way thoroughfare that connects I-10 with I-25. In essence, it also connects Southwestern New Mexico with the Northern half of the state. 

It's hardly the modern equivalent of the crossroads where Robert Johnson found his love in vain. Nor is it picturesque or quaint, and if you're not paying attention you could find yourself in the wrong lane going the wrong way.  However, in the city of the crosses, Lohmador is the heart,  everything flows through it.

 The growth and span of Coop's talent over the past year is awe inspiring.  CW has grown by leaps and bounds with each successive album he's released (this is his fourth) And yet....  "Lohmador" is a great leap forward, a musical document that exceeds all expectations. CW accomplishes the task of changing direction while still continuing down his chosen path.

"Lohmador" follows on the heels of a successful barnstorming  tour of Australia (as part of the blues duo, Old Gray Mule, w/ guitarist extraordinaire, C.R. Humphrey) and a series of juke joint gigs and jam sessions with the likes of Lightning Malcolm, David and Kinney Kimbrough (who declared him an honorary Kimbrough after playing with him in Austin, Tx.)

My Favorite Tracks:
"Make me Wanna" rolls out with a forceful swagger "when you call my name you make it sound so sweet" while the next track  "Where I'm From" strolls on with quiet determination "well I think that I'll just go on home, back to that land that you know I'm from" Coop softly and deftly, brings it on home. 

 "I got a woman and she treats me right, I wanna love her every day and night" As "Well, Well, Well" spins on the turntable, you may ask  "I thought you said he didn't sound like Jack White anymore?" please allow me to stick a fork in my thoughts,  Sure... this could be an outtake from a White Stripes album, but since when is that such a bad thing?

Coop channels Eric Clapton on "Been Waiting" which is a departure from what we've come to expect from Coop, in that it leans more to the British blues rock tradition than the Delta blues. "Baby we've been waiting.... girl we've been waiting on this for so long"  Like a slow, hanging curve ball, it's a nice change-up from the customary fastball. 

"End of my Rope" deftly mixes the two styles "girl you got me hanging on down by the end of my rope"  with a healthy dose of Lightning Malcolm style guitar thrown into the mix. "Let's Get Gone" is classic juke joint blues "the way you move just knocks me out" Coop finds the groove and clamps down like an angry gator.

"Broken Too" merges Native American and delta blues musical traditions into a mesmerizing song  that is drop dead fucking gorgeous.  A great concept seen to fruition by masterful execution.  "Broken Too" features some of CW's best guitar work ever. Coop's been soaking  in the influences and it really shows in his guitar playing throughout the album.

"I Need You Now" is juke joint blues in the style of Lightning Malcolm and Cedric Burnside. The thing that really blows my mind about this generation of hill country blues players, is how versatile they are.  CR Humphrey plays killer guitar, but he'll get behind the drum kit and bang.  Lightning Malcolm will do the same or step back and play bass if asked to.

Cedric Burnside will leave his drum set and pick up a guitar and play with the best of them. CW sits in with Old Gray Mule as the drummer, but on his own, he easily switches over to guitar and vocals, amazing!  "Solitary Man" is not the Neil Diamond song, it's a Coop original "Well girl when I try to make you understand, what it takes to be your solitary man" I can't add anything more to that.

There's a hundred banjo pickers in Santa Fe & Albuquerque,  don't get me wrong... I love the sweet sound of a dulcimer, mandolin or banjo as much as the next fella. But, in a land where you're far more likely to find buffalo grass than bluegrass, the music of Appalachia just can't match the seductive allure of the blues. 

Solitary Records, an underground/independent label based in Oak Forest, IL. ( founded by Jahshie P. of Outlaw Radio) is set to release "Lohmador" on July 31st., though you can pre-order from their website now or preview the album on CW's Bandcamp page. Don't be gauche and listen without buying, for $10 U.S. you get your money's worth.

If you're into the underground/outlaw country movement, check out Jahshie P's Outlaw Radio on the web. Solitary Records, with a small but powerful roster of cutting edge artists is also worth looking into. AND! (that's a big "and") If you haven't already, you need to get acquainted with Old Gray Mule and Mr. C.R. Humphrey, you won't be disappointed.