The scheduling gods have made a tough go of it for blues fans Wednesday in Durango.
Afficionados will have to choose between heading to the Abbey Theatre to catch rising star Janiva Magness or veering
a block west, where stalwart Coco Montoya will be entertaining the crowd at Purple Haze Bar & Grill. It's a tough
decision to be sure, but if there's a silver lining it's that you really can't go wrong no matter what you decide.
And if it just becomes too difficult, just flip a coin and know that you made the right choice.
Magness is on the road to promote her ninth solo album and second Alligator Records release, "The Devil is an Angel
Too." She's a straightforward blues singer with enough hard knocks in her past to provide a career's worth of
material. As a teenager, she had to overcome the suicide of both parents, which led to stops in numerous foster homes
and giving up a baby for adoption as a 17-year-old.
That's how one might get the blues. What Magness has done with it is turned the hard times into a successful and
award-winning career. In 2009 she, following the legendary Koko Taylor, became only the second woman to be named the
B.B. King Entertainer of the Year at the Blues Music Awards and is a three-time winner for Contemporary Blues Female
Artist of the Year. She's also a tireless volunteer for foster-care reform and an advocate for foster children, looking to give back and improve the system that was responsible for so much of her development.
Montoya's is a name likely more familiar to the casual blues fan. Now known for his unique guitar playing style -
he's a lefty who plays a right-handed Stratocaster turned around and upside-down - Montoya got his start with blues
legend Albert Collins as a drummer in Collins' band. Collins taught Montoya to play the guitar, and he did it so well
that Montoya landed a 10-year gig with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in the 1980s.
Since then, he's put out a string of solo records on the Blind Pig and Alligator labels, both of which are known for
showcasing the talents of the best in contemporary blues artists. While he's yet to have a breakthrough mainstream
hit, his shows are chock full of classic blues covers and his own high-energy originals. It's great "barroom" music -
if you know what that means, you'll get it and love it, and if not, you probably never will.
It takes a special kind of music lover to buck the mundane inertia of midweek and head out to the clubs for a night
of hard rocking and hard living. If two of the biggest names in modern blues aren't enough to motivate you, maybe
you're just not that special.