Friday, May 20, 2016

Tas Cru – You Keep the Money | Album Review

Tas Cru – You Keep the Money

Crustee Tees Records

www.tascru.com

12 tracks / 56:25

Tas Cru’s sixth album, You Keep the Money, did really well last year as it debuted at #1 on the Roots Music Report and at #2 on the Living Blues chart. This was no anomaly as this New York-based singer, songwriter and guitarist delivered a smart package of modern blues that was well written and recorded. I think it is the best work that he has done so far, which is saying something as his other CDs are pretty good too!

I could have thrown together Tas’ biography and background for you, but what he does now is so very relevant that I want to tell everybody about it. You see, besides being a stone-cold professional bluesman he is also a stellar dude that gives a lot of himself to the world. He is a blues educator who presents his workshops to schools, hospitals and community centers. He has also recorded two blues albums just for kids, and was recognized for his work with the 2014 Blues Foundation's Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Blues Education.

Tas wrote all twelve of the songs on this record, as well as handling the lead vocals and guitars. A medium-sized crew came along to the studio to join him, including Mary Ann Casale on backing vocals and dulcimer, Bob Purdy on bass, Dave Olson and Bob Holz on drums, Dick Earl Ericksen on the harp, and keys courtesy of Chip Lampson and Guy Nirelli.

The first tune in this nearly hour-long set is the title track which is derived from a conversation that Tas Cru had with the legendary T-Model Ford. This occurred at a benefit show for T-Model, who was a little disconcerted that the band was working for free. There is a fat sound to this piece with a funky beat that features Purdy’s super-fat bass and an abundance of Hammond from Nirelli. Dick Earl Ericksen is hot on the harp and he very effectively trades riffs with Cru’s guitar.

Tas included a slow and sweet instrumental, “La Belle Poutine,” which is one of my favorite tracks on the disc. With no vocals it is easy to focus on Tas’ guitar, and it is smooth and melodic with a great touch and tone. Electric piano from Lampson and extra percussion from Ron Keck give this song a 1970s feel, and it comes out as sort of a mash-up of Robin Trower and Gary Moore. I wonder if this tune was named after a restaurant I went to in New Orleans a while back…

Another cool song is “One Bad Habit,” a cool shuffle that features lovely harmonies from Casale and Alice “Honeybea” Ericksen. The beat on this one is perfect, and it is a joy to listen to a backline is that is so tight.

The disc closes with roots and blues, and “Thinking How to Tell Me Goodbye” makes heavy use of acoustic, electric, and slide guitars. The lyrics are a nice twist on the usual break-up song, and when combined with unique (and constantly changing) arrangements of instruments, make this a song that can be listened to more than once before you figured out exactly what is going on.

You Keep the Money is a solid album from Tas Cru and you should head over to his website and give it a listen. While you are there, check out his show schedule and think about picking up a copy of his latest kid’s album for the young ones in your life. Not only will you be spreading the good news of the blues, but the proceeds go towards the Blues Hall of Fame too. How could you go wrong?

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