Wednesday, April 15, 2015

CW Ayon Blues Redux

Much of what I do is retrospective and with seven well received albums under his belt, it's time to revisit New Mexico's native son,  CW Ayon. If the blues are epitomized by an image of the itinerant musician making his way from one juke joint to another in search of an audience then Coop fits the bill. Keep in mind, unlike many New Mexico musicians who moonlight as musicians while holding down day jobs.... CW Ayon to my knowledge is a full time musician.

Not that he's riding in boxcars or hitching rides in the back of pick-up trucks, come on, it's 2015 a man's gotta have a place to plug in his phone, tablet, laptop etc. A bluesman better have Expedia bookmarked and some plastic handy if he wants to stay on the road. CW stays busy and over the past few years he's expanded his range away our lonely corner of the state, across this great land and beyond. Case in point, Coop just returned from a successful turn at the Terri' Thouars Blues Festival.

If you judge a man by how well he's received when he's far away from home, then without a doubt CW Ayon is the real deal. Here in the sticks of New Mexico we already knew that. Now the world wants in on the fun. The French refer to CW as “Le Chant/harmonica/guitare du Nouveau Mexique” which sounds a lot cooler than “guitar picker” Not Coop's first international foray, three years ago he sallied forth to Australia with Old Gray Mule (CR Humphrey) blues picker extraordinaire out of Lockhart, Tx.   Well, Well, Well.

CW has skillfully crafted a prodigious, yet readily accessible catalog of recorded works. My aim is get ya' up to speed in seven paragraphs. Gone (2009) was recorded in Las Cruces at Nasty Cactus Studios as such it bears a heavy “rock” mix to its advantage. As one overreaching reviewer put it “If the Black Keys and The White Stripes were to have a desert-borne bastard son, he would sound precisely like C.W. Ayon” Boy Howdy! probably not the best way to get that across.

Although, I did like the “speaking in the tongues of Tecate” quip.... that's a keeper. “Gone” is still my favorite CW Ayon album. The urgency of Gone's gritty vocals, gnarly guitar and tub thumping bass drum was what first drew me in. I understand why Coop moved away from this sound It's only logical that his natural progression as a musician was bound to lead him down a different path, musically and spiritually. (that trite comparison to The Black Keys and Jack White can wear thin in a hurry)

Is What It Is (2010) and Ain't No Use in Moving (2011) finds Coop flexing his musical chops while fully embracing the Hill Country blues of Mississippi. This style of blues calls for a more subtle approach, a repetitive cadence building to a near drone, designed with one purpose in mind.... to raise the dead and breath fire into the living. “Didn't move her head, Didn't move her hands, Didn't move her lips... just shook her hips” Please, no walking dead on the dance floor and what'd I tell ya' 'bout snappin' photos in my juke joint goddammit!

This brings us to Lohmador (2012) an album that firmly established CW Ayon as a force in the tight knit community of New Mexico-based musicians. Lohmador is an album of subtle nuances and it would be easy to miss the Native American influences that CW effortlessly throws into the mix. It also serves notice that CW Ayon is in no way a novelty “one man band” Far from it, with Lohmador Coop blazed a trail across the genre strewn landscape of America sewing the seeds of innovation.

The Blues & Native American music are not all that dissimilar and CW continues to work Native influences into his music and live performances. Vincent Craig's classic Rita (aka The Candy Bar song) is part of his repertoire. “She said, you got to steal a candy bar” from his Dine homeland to Alaska, Craig's legend as a comedian/singer/songwriter grew word of mouth. Also known for creating the comic strip super hero “Muttonman” Craig sadly passed away in 2010. Long live the Muttonman.

It all points towards CW Ayon's continuous growth and maturity as a musician. Live at the Rio Grande Theatre (2013) shows CW working his way through a set of album tracks and concert favorites in front of a sedate hometown crowd in Las Cruces, N.M. Whether, it's up close at Sparky's in Hatch, N.M. or at the Terri'Thouars Blues Festival, Coop is so steady and consistent during a performance that it's hard to find fault.... if by happenstance you're looking for any
Setting Son (2014) shows continued progression in a genre that measures progression in generations rather than albums. “Setting Son” features Coop's best vocal work yet.... the vocals flow with an urgent energy that in all seriousness brings to mind a modern-day Robert Johnson. Throw in some vibrant slide guitar and it's easy to see that signing with the Chi-Town label, Solitary Records has had a powerful effect on the finished product.

Enough to Be Proud (2015) still has that new car smell and to be honest I'm still digesting the tracks. I will say this, it's powerful and though not a radical departure from Setting Son, it does have a self propellant, kinetic drive that pulls you from one track to another with ease and comfort. CW's vocals lack the concise clarity of Setting Son but that's offset by his superb playing. Blues for the people, by the champion of the people and just like that chicken wing, it ain't nothing but good.

CW Ayon's music is available on CD Baby, Bandcamp, Solitary Records, YouTube and Frogtoons....