Issue 15-47 December 2, 2021


Cover photo © 2021 Laura Carbone

 In This Issue 

Anita Schlank has our feature interview with Jeremiah Johnson. We have four Blues reviews for you this week including a book by Rob Bowman about Malaco Records plus new music from Chris BadNews Barnes, Chickenbone Slim and Tas Cru.

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 Featured Interview – Jeremiah Johnson 

imageGuitarist, singer and songwriter, Jeremiah Johnson has hit the ground running after the end of COVID restrictions at music venues. He earned a spot on the showcase tour for Europe’s most respected label, Ruf Records, and joined fellow guitarist Ryan Perry and singer Whitney Shay to form the Ruf Blues Caravan. The Caravan recently completed a six-week tour of Europe, one of the very few US bands touring Europe. Blues Blast Magazine had the opportunity to catch up with Johnson as he ended that tour with several showcase performances on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise.

“The European tour with Whitney and Ryan went well considering it was right after the pandemic and there were a lot of questions about whether we would be able to successfully navigate the COVID restrictions from country to country. At any point we might have gotten shut down and if we had been prevented from leaving a country, it would have ruined the tour. I think we were the most tested people on the planet—sometimes we had two COVID tests within thirty minutes.

Like other musicians, Johnson struggled during the pandemic. In addition to the financial burden, COVID also made many musicians doubt if they had chosen the right career path, especially after being told how “unessential” they were. However, Johnson created an album about those frustrations entitled Unemployed Highly Annoyed which earned him a nomination for Blues Blast Magazine’s 2021 award for Rock Blues Album of the Year.

“I had just quit my day job as an iron worker, and we had 140 dates scheduled. It was going to be the biggest year of my career. Then I kept hearing how we were in the top five least essential jobs—musicians are number four on that list, and that’s a gut punch. I know why they said that. Music brings people together and they didn’t want to bring people together, but I think everyone saw with all the online concerts that in a certain way we did prove them wrong—we weren’t totally nonessential. But I’m certainly not special when it comes to suffering because of the pandemic, and I’m so thankful to the people who donated to me, so that I didn’t lose my house.”

Johnson was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but spent ten years living in Texas before returning home to St. Louis. He was a first-place finalist in the Houston Blues Society’s regional blues challenge for three consecutive years before winning the St. Louis Blues Society’s challenge and going on to represent St. Louis at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, where he made it to the semi-finals. His 2015 release Grind was produced by Devon Allman, and his 2018 album, Straitjacket was produced by Mike Zito and debuted at #1 on ITunes New Blues Releases. Straitjacket also was nominated for the Rock Blues Album of the Year by Blues Blast Magazine in 2019, while Johnson was nominated that same year for Blues Blast’s “Sean Costello Rising Star Award”. He has had five records in the top ten of the Billboard Blues Charts, and as mentioned, this past year his album Unemployed, Highly Annoyed was nominated for Blues Blast’s Best Rock Blues Album. Johnson’s versatile style sounds like a blend between old-school Chicago blues, Jump Blues, southern blues-rock and a little bit of country. He indicated that this blend was not unusual for a musician from St. Louis.

“St. Louis blues is a blend—it’s right between Chicago and Texas. It’s like Texas style, but you do it with horn sections. Ike Turner is from St. Louis—what would you call him? It’s a blend. And I appreciated all kinds of music all my life. There is greatness in every style. I don’t call myself a traditional blues artist in any way. I’m definitely a blues-rocker or a southern rocker, with a little bit of country. Even though I grew up in a big city, we weren’t too many miles until you were out in the woods, so there are country influences too.”

imageWhen it comes to instruments and equipment, Johnson is equally eclectic.

“Well, when it comes to guitars, I’m a Delaney Guitar Artist so I have mostly Delaney’s, but I also like Newman guitars, own four or five Gibson Guitars and have a few Fender Guitars as well. If it was up to me, I’d keep buying guitars—I like them all. As far as amps, I’m more of a Plexi guy, which is a Marshall amp sound. I can play Fender amps, but I prefer a Marshall sound.”

In 2014, Australian filmmaker Gary Glenn was so impressed with Johnson that he filmed his concert at the historic Capitol Theater in Burlington, Iowa. Adding in interview segments, Glenn created a “Docuconcert” film about Johnson called Ride the Blues, which begins with Johnson riding his Harley onto the stage.

“That came about because some wonderful people came and saw me play and they thought that I had the potential to be very successful and wanted to know if they could help me. I was blown away by that—couldn’t believe someone offered to do that. Sometimes I am embarrassed when I watch myself in the interview part of it. I was convinced at that time that it was impossible to have a relationship and family because you’re just gone all the time. Everyone else is going camping and you can’t go—most women get tired of that. But now I’m in a wonderful relationship and we have a son, so it is possible. I think the film did help me too. I think it helped me get signed with Ruf Records, because I know Thomas Ruf saw it.”

In the Docuconcert, Johnson also talked about the problematic relationship he had with his father. His parents divorced when he was six years of age and his relationship with his father has been non-existent for nearly a decade. His father’s decision to cease contact has been very difficult for Johnson to understand.

”I have reached out to my dad but heard nothing back. I know he’s out there because he donated money on my online concerts—that’s the only way I know he is alive. I still love him and appreciate everything he did for me. I was able to attend a visual and performing arts school taking art and music and playing clarinet in the jazz band. Then my father took me to see a concert with Alvin Lee from Ten Years After and I walked away from that knowing what I wanted to do—to play guitar and write songs and be a bluesman. I know there are a lot of children who never had a relationship with their father at all, so I still appreciate all the lessons he taught me, and I will always be thankful for our time together.”

Family relationships have always been important to Johnson, and his relationship with his grandmother inspired two songs, “Southern Drawl” and “Long Way Home” while his son, Leonardo Stone Johnson inspired the song “Leo Stone”.

image“My grandmother passed away from dementia and the song “Long Way Home” is about the last three minutes that she briefly remembered who I was. I know now if I could go back to those three minutes, I would have said something important. She recognized me but was shocked that I had grown so tall and had facial hair. I still play that song. Then I had had literally just finished writing the song “Leo Stone” when my fiancé called for me to take her to the hospital to give birth to my son. The first time we played it back in the studio every one of us was in tears. It was a very touching moment.”

Some songwriters report that they constantly write down ideas for song lyrics throughout each day, while others sit down to write an entire album of lyrics at one time. Johnson indicated that he is a combination of both of those styles.

“I’m always taking notes down—every time I get an idea I save it in notes on my phone, and sometimes a whole song will just come to me. But when it comes time to make an album, I will sit and analyze what I have written and go through my notes and create the whole thing. You can’t always use what you wrote. Sometimes you go through a sad mood and have nothing but sad song notes. I like to have a flow to the album with some upbeat stuff. Also, not all the songs I’ve written turn out to be bluesy. I have probably an entire album’s worth of countryish bluesy acoustic songs that I could do, but that’s probably not a good fit for Ruf Records.”

Johnson is making revised plans for his tour schedule now that the Ruf Blues Caravan has ended.

“I like horns and for a good chunk of my career I carried a trumpet and sax player with the band. But that means you deal with more personalities and attitudes, and after COVID it’s difficult to pay for that many hotel rooms. It’s hard enough with only three. But I’m going to hit it real hard in the US this next year. I hope to hit Texas hard—I’d like to spend more time there. I’d also like to shoot a DVD somewhere in St. Louis in a nice theater. But I also intend to spend a little bit more time with my family. Leo is two now and I want to have a weekend off with my family every third week or so. You never know when you can’t be with your family again and I’m not going to let that slip away. I’ve seen some guys be very successful at family life and I’m going to try to make that happen. At one point in my life, I didn’t believe it was possible and I know it’s going to be hard work, but I’m going to make it happen. Besides, being with your family can give you great stuff to write about—those are subjects the average person can relate to as well, so I’m not looking at that time as taking away from my career. It will add to my career and make me a happier person and help me write better songs.”

Johnson’s former record producer, Mike Zito has known him for over 25 years and described him as “a heart and soul artist that leaves it on the stage every night.” His co-artist from the Ruf Blues Caravan, Whitney Shay, has no doubts about Johnson’s bright future. She stated, “It’s been such a pleasure to get to know Jeremiah over the last couple of years. He’s such a talented, hard-working musician, and a genuinely good guy. I’m so glad that we all finally got to finish out our big tour together, and I wish him the best in his career to come. I know he’ll accomplish great things.”

You can check out what’s new with Jeremiah Johnson, and find his tour dates at

Interviewer Anita Schlank lives in Virginia, and is on the Board of Directors for the River City Blues Society. She has been a fan of the blues since the 1980s. She and Tab Benoit co-authored the book “Blues Therapy,” with all proceeds from sales going to the HART Fund.

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 4

imageChris BadNews Barnes – BadNews Rising

Vizztone Label Group – 2021

10 tracks; 40.47 minutes

Chris Barnes made his name doing comedy on shows like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm but since 2017 he has reinvented himself as a blues singer specializing in hokum songs. ‘Hokum’ is defined on Chris’ own website as “a particular song type of American blues music – a humorous song which uses extended analogies or euphemistic terms to make sexual innuendos”. After an initial album in 2017 Hokum Blues which revisited songs from the original masters of the style, Chris was recorded live on the LRBC and now gives us an album of original music written by Chris and producer Tom Hambridge (with help on three tracks from John Hahn, Terry Abrahamson and John Murray), many drawn from that hokum tradition, particularly songs with titles like “Texas Weiner” and “I Like Cleavage”!

The album was produced by Tom at his Nashville studio with Tom in the drum seat, alongside session regulars like Kevin McKendree on keys, Tommy MacDonald on bass and Pat Buchanan on guitar and occasional harmonica; horns are added to some tracks by Max Abrams (sax) and Steve Patrick (trumpet) and B/V’s are courtesy of Rachel and Sarah Hambridge.

With his rough-hewn vocals Chris starts with two autobiographical songs. “You Wanna Rock? You Gotta Learn The Blues” starts with echoey slide and works over a slow and steady Mississippi beat as Chris describes how the blues is the base of every type of rock music, echoing Willie Dixon’s famous line that “the blues are the roots and the other musics are the fruits”. Chris recalls vividly “When Koko Came To Town”, transforming his usually empty club (“I’d hook ‘em with the hokum, get paid in Jack and Coke”) into a sold-out night, the horns adding additional fire to a fine tribute to the late Queen Of The Blues.

The band adds a touch of funk to the music as Chris tells us that he’ll be “scattin’ in Latin” on “Quid Pro Quo” before “My Baby Be Cray Cray Cray” opens with Kevin’s piano and the horns before Chris offers marital advice to his nephew about his apparently rather dangerous wife! A change of pace comes with “I Slow Danced With Joni Mitchell”, a lovely tune with Pat’s ethereal slide set against acoustic guitar and piano, another autobiographical song in which Chris recounts some of his early life, seemingly influenced by the music of the time (“I got sober with Slowhand”).

The introspection of that tune gives way to more of the hokum style as Chris boasts that “Chicks Dig Me”, set against heavy guitar chords and fiery B3 work. It seems that Chris is attractive to every type of girl: “Nurses and barmaids, small town librarians, middle school teachers, even handsome lesbians”! Pat’s harp features on the slow groove of “The Creamy Caramel Cafe”, a place that Chris frequents to meet the divorcee who runs it, an opportunity for plenty of innuendo involving desserts! “Kettle Black” rocks it up again with thunderous drums and guitar as Chris complains about criticisms when the critic does the very same thing.

The album closes with the two songs mentioned earlier: “Texas Weiner” is a classic piece of comic writing as Chris’ girl has been attracted to the local hot dog salesman, all played to a rocking tune with the girls adding some fun backing vocals – you can’t help but smile and sing along! The horns return for “I Like Cleavage” in which Chris uses the female attributes as a metaphor for balancing left and right:”it’s the merging of both sides, the pairing of the two. We can all be bosom buddies and share the same view; I support cleavage and hope you do too”! If you are easily offended these two tracks will probably upset you, but they are certainly comic and brilliantly performed by the band.

This is definitely Chris’ best disc to date. Take with a large pinch of salt lyrically and then enjoy.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 4 

imageRob Bowman – The Last Soul Company: The Malaco Records Story

The Malaco Press, a Division of Malaco, Inc.

192 pages Hardcover edition

Over the last 75 years, the world has seen hundreds of record companies rise up, only to fade away, sometimes in the proverbial “blink of an eye”. In the realm of blues and soul music, independent labels like Chess, Stax, Hi, Modern, Excello, and Specialty Records put out many records that are now considered classics in those genres. And all of those labels eventually faded away, victims of bad business decisions or a tempting offer to sell their catalog.

As labels are bought and sold, often ending up in the hands of a huge entertainment conglomerate, one company has managed to survive for fifty years as a true independent entity. From its beginning as booking agency, Malaco grew to be a force in the soul blues arena, and perhaps even more importantly, in the gospel music industry. The compelling tale is the focus of this handsome tabletop book loaded photographs of the label’s amazing roster of artists and many of the key employees central to the label’s success.

The author, Rob Bowman, wrote the definitive book, Soulsville U.S.A: The Story of Stax Records, in addition to contributing liner notes for more than 250 recordings, winning a Grammy Award in the process. In 2020, his body of work was recognized by the Blues Foundation in Memphis with their “Keeping The Blues Alive” Lifetime Achievement Award. His insights throughout the book help readers gain greater appreciation for all that the label has accomplished, and his personal favorites among the label’s many releases will have you checking songs out on your favorite music service as you enjoy the book.

The saga starts with Tommy Couch, who was tasked with booking bands for his fraternity at the University of Mississippi at the age of nineteen. Seeing there was money to be made, he started his own booking business. A native of Alabama, Couch was familiar with musicians like guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bass player David Hood, and songwriter Dan Penn, all of whom became fixtures on the Muscle Shoals, AL recording scene. Eventually he convinced his accountant brother-in-law, Mitchell Malouf, to join him, combining the first letters of their names to form Malaco Attractions. They got plenty of assistance from another pharmacy major, Wolf Stephenson, who became a licensed electrician as a teenager, making him invaluable whenever one of the bands had problems with their equipment.

It wasn’t long before Couch wanted to open a recording studio in Jackson, Mississippi, taking after his friend Rick Hall’s FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals, where Couch had whet his appetite for recording while hanging out with Johnson. After securing a building and equipment, the studio was ready for action in September, 1967. The trio figured it would be easier to book bands if they had some records to use for promotion. One of the first sessions birthed “Looking For My Pig” by Haran Griffin, a danceable number that first saw the light of day on the six disc box set The Last Soul Company, released to celebrate the label’s 30th anniversary.

Times got tough as the intrepid trio went through growing pains learning the record business as well as how to operate a quality recording studio. Couch and Malouf handled the business while Stephenson by default became the recording engineer. Their initial efforts bore little fruit, until they brought in the renown, brilliant arranger from New Orleans, Wardell Quezergue, for some planned releases. It was a stroke of genius. They hit the big time with two massive hits, “Groove Me” by King Floyd, and “Mr. Big Stuff” by Jean Knight. When they couldn’t interest anyone in the first song, a new label called Chimmneyville was formed to be distributed by Atlantic Records. Knight’s classic was released on the Stax label, credited to Quezergue and Malaco Productions.

By 1975, lean times had come back around. The label struggled to find another song that could captivate the buying public. They had started recording gospel groups, finding that gospel record buyers were committed fans, providing a steady income from sales of records at each live appearance. But that business was in its infancy. The turnaround was provided by a veteran Jackson vocalist, Dorothy Moore, who rendered a performance for the ages on the ballad, “Misty Blue”.

From there, Bowman spins an exciting summation of the label’s storied history, through records by legendary artists like Little Milton, Johnnie Taylor, Latimore, Denise LaSalle, and Bobby Blue Bland. He makes a point to give plenty of credit to Dave Clark, a well-known record promotion man who could get records on the air in any market, who raised the label’s stature in the industry. It was Clark who convinced singer Z.Z. Hill to sign with Malaco, leading to his massive hit “Down Home Blues,” a record that once again provided financial stability as well as defining what the label was all about.

Bowman also goes in depth on the contributions of singer Frank Williams, the counterpart to Clark in the gospel arena, who helped the label acquire what is undoubtedly the finest collection of gospel music on the planet. Malaco purchased the Savoy Records gospel catalog in 1986 for a million dollars, then sold records through a telemarketing campaign that made the company the State of Mississippi’s biggest customer in terms of shipping volume and C.O.D. fees collected. Williams was also the catalyst for getting Malaco to release recordings by a number of the best mass gospel choirs, opening up yet another business opportunity.

As you might expect, it wasn’t all fun and games. Bowman doesn’t shy away from recurring financial issues, the tragic deaths of Hill and Williams in their prime, and the inevitable nastiness in general in the record business. Through it all, the company worked hard to maintain their focus, which was sorely tested in 2011 when a tornado ravaged Jackson, destroying the studio. Somehow, none of the employees were injured. And a generous insurance payment had the new studio up and running a year later.

Sprinkled throughout the hardcover book are bevy of B&W and color photos that really enhanced Bowman’s narrative. It makes for a truly deluxe recounting of a little dream that grew into a business that shared outstanding music with people around the world. Congratulations, Malaco Records, and here’s to the next 50 years,

In the meantime, grab a copy of this highly recommended title – or add it to your Christmas list!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the past President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a former member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 4 

imageChickenbone Slim – Serve It To Me Hot

Vizztone Label Group – 2021

13 tracks; 50.11 minutes

San Diego, California, is home to Larry Teves and this is his fourth album under his stage name Chickenbone Slim, mixing blues, rockabilly and swing. The album features his current band: bassist Andrew Crane remains on board, guitarist Laura Chavez will be familiar from her tenure with the late Candye Kane and more recently with Nikki Hill and Vanessa Collier and Marty Dodson has played drums with the likes of Mark Hummel, Kim Wilson and Charlie Musselwhite. Larry handles the vocals and rhythm guitar and producer Kid Andersen adds occasional keys and backing vocals; Kid’s wife Lisa is also on B/V’s and Aki Kumar adds harp to one cut. Larry wrote all the songs, the title track being a co-write with Andrea Ryan, to whom the song is dedicated. As usual with Kid’s recordings at Greaseland the sound is clear whilst retaining the vintage feel that albums like this deserve, making it a great listen from start to finish.

The title track kicks things off in great style with an insistent guitar riff from Laura over Chickenbone’s steady rhythm work. Chickenbone is in thrall to ‘Miss Right’ and, although he asks “what she has cooking in her pot”, one suspects that his interest is not really culinary! Laura pulls off a great solo on the outro. Perhaps what Chickenbone is seeking is the “Wild Eyed Woman” of the second track which rocks along well: “she done stole my heart, she done stole my soul, what I’m going to do tomorrow, Lord, I just don’t know” confesses Chickenbone. Laura is front and center on a song that Chickenbone wrote about her, “Queen Of The Wires”, a mid-tempo rocker with a fine solo and a Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson feel. Next up is a nice piece of West Coast swing as Kid joins in on piano and Laura swings like T-Bone, Chickenbone vaunting his qualities as the perfect person for a woman who “Ought To Be Loved”. In contrast “Love To Be True” is a Rn’R ballad, complete with echoey guitars and is well sold by Chickenbone’s deeper vocal stylings.

“Squares Everywhere” finds Chickenbone complaining about all the “straights” that surround him and he doesn’t mind being called a ‘kook’! Played to a rockabilly rhythm, Laura nails a classic Rn’R solo with lots of echo and Kid and Lisa enjoy providing the fun B/V’s. Aki leads us into “Top Of The Clouds” with a suitably high-pitched harp tone over an easy-going groove, both immediately recalling Jimmy Reed. In another change of style, Kid’s organ stabs add to the funky groove on “Laying In The Weeds” before we return to the rockabilly style on “Crying Tonight”, the inevitable outcome when the girl does not really commit to the relationship.

Apparently, “It ain’t a party unless you got some Shakalo”, but Google offered me a 5 year-old bay gelding horse or a beach care product, so unless Chickenbone can explain the title I am lost! It’s a pounding piece of Rn’R with Marty’s drums featured throughout and good fun, by the way. Things get more serious on the slow anthem “I Will Stand For You” as Chickenbone sings about wanting to support someone who he believes is being judged unfairly. We get back to a wonderfully rocking groove on “City Girl”, a song about a girl who stood out in Chickenbone’s small town with her tattoos and body jewellery; Chickenbone also references the late Tomcat Courtney to whom the whole album is dedicated. Marty’s cow bell and a wonderful guitar riff make you think that it’s the Stones and “Honky Tonk Woman” but in fact it’s “Hook Me Up” and it’s a surefire winner to close the album on a rocking high.

Throughout this thoroughly enjoyable album you cannot fail to be impressed by Laura’s excellent playing in a wide variety of styles and it is good that she was given the opportunity to display her prodigious talents within this excellent quartet playing Chickenbone’s fun and interesting songs. Recommended!

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 4 

imageTas Cru – Broke Down Busted Up

Subcat Records

11 songs 47 minutes

Based out of the I-90 corridor in Upstate New York, guitarist/tunesmith Tas Cru is a musical chameleon who delivers a different, interesting take on the blues from one album to the next, and serves up a self-described “quasi-acoustic” effort on this disc. A refined, hard-to-pinpoint collection of originals, it’s certain to keep you thinking about the incites contained in his lyrics while you move to the grooves.

A Vietnam War vet with a Ph.D. as an educator, Tas spent decades in the classroom before turning to music full-time in his mid-50s after growing up influenced by Taj Mahal and Bonnie Raitt. Downbeat magazine once praised him for having “the soul of a poet.” That aspect of his performance is captured clearly with words that are clever without being cute and that transport the listener far further than from one guitar solo to another.

He’s released about a dozen CDs since debuting with Gravi-Tas in 2008, including two created with children in mind, and he’s also penned a three-volume series of books focused on the exploits of Bad Dog Bubba that introduce blues to kids, too. Despite being late to the game, he’s got a Keeping the Blues Alive trophy for his work as an educator in his cabinet, and he’s picked up a Blues Music Award nomination as a rising star along the way.

Tas handles lead vocals on most of the 11 cuts here while accompanying himself on acoustic and resonator guitars. He’s joined by the delightful Anne Harris, who cooks on fiddle throughout, along with Mary Ann Castle, who contributes mountain dulcimer, co-wrote three of the tunes, handles lead vocals on one track and joins Cru in duet on another. The lineup also includes Dave Liddy (grand piano), Garry Loiacono (slide guitar), Andy Hearn and Ron Keck (percussion) and Mike Lawrence and Bob Purdy (acoustic and electric bass).

The country-flavored blues-rocker “Where Do We Go” opens with sweet notes from Harris floating above a medium-paced shuffle before Tas deals with current events in a politically neutral manner. After realizing that his time in the military has no bearing on “what I was fighting for,” he delivers a plea for peace and understanding. His mid-tune single-note solo carries forward the determination expressed in his lyrics.

The action heats up with the funky, stop-time “Broke Down Busted Up,” a not-so-thinly-veiled complaint about aging that features choral backing and a tasty, brief mid-tune solo from Liddy. The sound sweetens considerably with “Turn on the Light,” the unhurried song that follows and serves up comfort for someone suffering a broken heart in the middle of a cold, dark night.

The up-tempo “River of Insanity” is up and infused with soul-searching. Using imagery of flood waters rising and swirling at his feet, Tas seeks out a way to cross over to the other side. It’s followed by a full-on gospel number, “Be My Strength,” which carries forward the theme in a different manner. This time, he seeking out confirmation that his unspoken troubles will come to a positive end. The song’s propelled by steady lower-register, looping single-note guitar runs that create tension under the words.

Mary Ann shines vocally on the next two songs. The minor-key ballad “All Stays the Same” brightens the mood as she describes lovers who wonder if their feelings will remain the same or will they find “a better way.” The positive thoughts continue in the duet, “You’re the Real Deal,” which heaps praise on everyone who loves and plays the blues, but delivers a sly complaint about those who claim they’re trying to “keep the music” alive, but are doing nothing to advance it because they’re keeping it in a box.

“Stay Home Blues,” another stop-time pleaser, focuses on with reality of being an entertainer during COVID-19 before “So Damn Hard to Like” finds Tas describing a lady who has the face of an angel, but “wings of stone” as he prepares to tell her they’re through. Two more numbers – the percussive “Henry,” a tip of the hat to a musician who spent his life trying not to let other folks keep him down, and “Write Me My Own,” an passion-packed ballad that appeals to a lady in despair to write Cru a song – bring the disc to a close.

Tas Cru definitely doesn’t cookie-cutter his material. If you’re looking for something different – both aurally and lyrically, this is definitely it. There’s a sea of emotion packed in every tune and awaiting your ears.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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