"Who is he?" That's what people wanted to know when Cooper (CW) Ayon opened for Vieux Farka Touré in April 2018. Roots and Wires' promoter John Henderson said he was approached by at least 50 people …
"Who is he?" That's what people wanted to know when Cooper (CW) Ayon opened for Vieux Farka Touré in April 2018. Roots and Wires' promoter John Henderson said he was approached by at least 50 people who were wowed by the opening blues player. Ayon came back to open for another show featuring Tinariwen, but now is your chance to hear a full evening of CW Ayon showcased as his own one-man band.
For the first time, Roots and Wires presents CW Ayon as the featured performer in the heart of downtown Taos. Today (Sept. 12) from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., the free show takes place at The Taos Inn's Adobe Bar, 125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
The Las Cruces-based musician has won two New Mexico Music Awards and has been garnering attention around the state for his Mississippi Hills-style blues.
During our phone interview, I asked Ayon about his early music influences. He told me that in the small town of Reserve, where he grew up, there was only one radio station that came in from Gallup. The station played all country music, and occasionally "Rita" (aka "the candy bar song") sung by Diné musician Vincent Craig - a song that Ayon likes to include in his own sets. Ayon's mother played country-style and bluegrass guitar, and there were community dances to country music. But, it wasn't until Ayon was a preteen that he discovered the blues.
When he came across a cassette of Muddy Waters and other blues musicians, it was a life-changing event. "The first time I heard that, it totally blew me away," Ayon said.
His passion turned into a lifelong love after Ayon learned to play guitar from his wife, Carol. He steeped himself in the blues, listening to Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Lee Hooker and eventually two musicians from the northern Mississippi hill country: R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough.
"They had this style of blues that they called hill country. It was really trancelike and there were no major chord changes in it and it was all about the boogie and the groove … Burnside and Kimbrough, those two guys are my guitar heroes."
It was about the time when the band that Ayon was in fell apart, that he saw a one-man band blues musician at the Silver City Blues Fest. "I thought I'm going to give that a shot," said Ayon.
Ayon told me he practiced in his garage for a couple of years, and then performed in his first one-man band show around 2009. "I've been doing it ever since," said Ayon.
His shows feature percussion, guitar, vocals and harmonica. Lately, he has teamed up with an upright bassist for some of his shows, though he will be playing solo in Taos.
As stated on his website, Ayon released several original albums with Chicago's Solitary Records label. He won the New Mexico Music Award's best blues award for "Seen My Baby" in 2010, and another for "End of My Rope" in 2013.
Ayon told me he has made his own special connection with the Mississippi hill country. He traveled there with a musical friend of his for the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi, several years ago. As it turned out, he was able to play a gig at a local bar, and from there he connected to some of the hill country musicians.
"It was like going to blues school," said Ayon. "It also looks a lot like Las Cruces, other than no mountains. I felt really at home there."
Over the years, Ayon has played shows with T-Model Ford, Cedric Burnside and other hill country musicians. His first time playing a Roots and Wires show in Taos was about four years ago when he opened for Bilbo Walker. But, Ayon has a long history with Taos. He used to come here as a kid for the Taos Pueblo Powwow. For more on Ayon, visit cwayon.com.
On Friday (Sept. 13) from 8-10 p.m. Roots and Wires will also present the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio at Revolt Gallery, 222 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, for free as part of The Paseo Festival. The concert is a co-production with the Taos Jazz Bebop Society and Arroyo Seco Live.
The Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio started out in 2015 with a weekly show at The Royal Room in Seattle, but has quickly grown to be nationally and internationally known. The Trio is Delvon Lamarr on organ, Jimmy James on guitar and Michael Duffy on drums. For more visit, delvonlamarrorgantrio.com. For more on the Taos Inn show, call (575) 758-2233.
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