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CW Ayon may call the Southwestern deserts of New Mexico home but his soul is deeply rooted in the Blues and grooves of the Mississippi Hill Country. With a rather simple kick/snare and tambourine setup he lays down solid beats while picking out some catchy hooks on anything from acoustic to resonator guitars. Sometimes dropping in a bit of harmonica for good measure. All the while building a sound and playing style that is deceptively larger than it seems.
Cooper “CW” Ayon has lived in various places around his beloved state New Mexico, but hails originally from Reserve. His wife, Carol, is a trained musician who taught him how to play the guitar. He excelled with this instrument before he could learn to read notes and joined a few Las Cruces bands in 2004, including the Dirty Clydes.
In these bands, he played rock music and covers and — being a blues man — tried to add as much blues as he could. After the bands split, Ayon struck out on his own, literally, as his own drummer, guitar player and singer.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate in having steady gigs,” he said about the uniqueness of his sound. “I’ve been doing it for six years now and it’s pretty constant.”
Since 2009, Ayon released original albums under the Solitary Records label out of Chicago every year. He took a recording break in 2013, but recorded a live album from the Rio Grande Theatre. He’s back with “Setting Son” in 2014.
In 2010, he won a best blues award for his song “Seen My Baby” at the New Mexico Music Awards and another in 2013 for “End of My Rope.”
During live shows, some of the most popular songs that get the crowd going are “You Are My Sunshine” cover and “Well Well Well,” he said.
A new crowd favorite is “Rita,” also known as the candy bar song, by Vincent Craig, a Navajo musician and comedian. While living in the little town of Reserve, the Ayon family could only catch one radio station from the Navajo reservation. It frequently played Craig’s songs and “Rita” became a family favorite.
“I like to introduce people to someone they never heard before,” he said about Craig.
Ayon has Native American roots. His father, Pete Ayon, is southern Cheyenne and his mother, Linda Day, has a mix of Native blood coming from Oklahoma, he said.
Starting when he was a teen, Ayon and his brothers — including a twin brother, attended powwows with their father, who is a gourd dancer. They take part in this dance, too, and the last powwow Ayon was at was sometime last year, he said.
Although he has indigenous roots and does his long black hair in braids, he does not mean for it to come through in his music — although some people swear they can hear it, he said.
Ayon’s influences are Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Robert Belfour, the original founders of hill country and blues.
Ayon lives on the northwest side of Las Cruces with his wife and their two daughters, Zoe, 16, and Mia, 12.