Tas Cru – Memphis Song
12 tracks/54 minutes
Tas Cru’s bio begins like this, “Raucous, rowdy, gentle, sweet, eccentric, quirky, and outright irreverent are all words that fittingly describe Tas Cru’s songs and testify to his reputation as a one of the most unique of bluesmen plying his trade today. ” I have to agree with that assessment, having enjoyed this and his prior albums and also having having worked with Cru as a blues educator in our Blues in the Schools Program. I first met Tas in 2014 at the luncheon when he got his Keeping the Blues Alive Award for his great music education work. He truly does a great job with the kids.
He does an equally great job writing songs and performing them. His vocals are unique and interesting and his guitar work is really excellent. His band is also outstanding and work with him and each other quite well. Bob Purdy on bass, Dick Earle Ericksen on harp, Andy Rudy on piano/clavichord, Guy Nirelli on organ and Sonny Rock, Ron Keck and Andy Hearn sharing the drums and percussion work make for a tight and supportive unit. Tas wrote all the songs here and Mary Ann Casale, a musician who Tas often works with back home in Syracuse in upstate New York, helped on penning the first two. She also appears as a backing vocalist throughout and on guitar for a track and sings a duo with Cru on another. Victor Wainwright appears on the title track and Bill Barry is on organ for track nine. Donna Marie Floyd-Tritico and Patti Parks also do backing vocals.
“Heal My Soul” gets things off to a rousing start. Co-written by May Ann Casale, the song has a driving beat that moves things along as Cru and the backing vocalists give us their all and Andy Rudy supplies some cool piano. It’s Tas’ vocal work and Erickson’s harp that push this song over the top. Casale also co-wrote the title track which is next; she also plays acoustic guitar on the track and Victor Wainwright is on piano. Pat Harrington on slide adds to the piece as do Casale and Wainwright. “Memphis Song” is a haunting song that pays homage to the blues tradition of Memphis and Beale Street and the “Blues family” Tas treasures and loves dearly. Cru blazes on “Fool for the Blues,” with some slick guitar work and vocals. Nirelli’s organ here and throughout also adds a lot. “Give a Little Up” features Casale and Cru sharing the lead vocals with Ericksen blowing harp for some interesting punctuation to their vocals. Rudy also fills in nicely with his keyboard work. The song’s got a little funk going as the two spar vocally- very well done! Next up is “Daddy Didn’t Give You Much,” another funky blues with a sweet groove going for it. The guitar solo is well done and the blending of guitar and organ is nicely done, too. “Have a Drink” gets a cool boogie going with guitar, piano. organ and the backing vocalists along with Tas laying it all out.
“That Look” begins with a gritty and greasy organ and guitar intro and Purdy’s bass lays out a nice groove that Rock beats long to to make things move. Cru gets some more funk going here and delivers another winner. The guitar solo is short and sweet, right to the point and the organ makes things fun, too. “One Eyed Jack” gets some more funk on and the dirty harp and organ back Cru’s impassioned vocals. Cru offers another tasty guitar solo and Purdy gets some nice bass licks in there, too. Ericksen’s harp gets to share as the songs closes out and Cru and company give it a big finish. Cru stays with the playing card theme with “Queen of Hearts,” a slow blues ballad that Cru handles with grace. Thoughtful vocals,. guitar work and a good solo and more nice organ work (Bill Barry here) make this one special. “Don’t Lie to That Woman” is a jazzy and mid-tempo swing cut with some well done acoustic guitar finger picking. Cru gets a nice jive going and the finger snapping is a neat effect, too. The big electric guitar sound returns with “Feel So Good,” a straight up blues with more good harp work and backing vocals to support Cru’s lead. Cru concludes with “Can’t Get Over Blues.” Things start with a slick guitar instrumental and then Tas comes in with bluesy and breathy vocals that are slick. There’s another nice guitar solo and Ericksen’s harp and Nirelli’s organ also shine.
The band is tight. The songs are well crafted. The playing is super. The vocals are spot on. What is not to like? Cru continues to shine at his craft and demonstrates that the tank is full and he’s ready to deliver more great music on the heels of his 2018 BMA nominated Simmered and Stewed. I enjoyed this CD and think that it would make a good addition to any blues lover’s collection!