East Side Slim
Tas Cru – grizzle n' bone
Crustee Tees Records, 2009
Tas Cru (Rick Bates) is an interesting case. His autobiographic quote sums it up very well – “I’m trying to live up to what a reviewer has dubbed me – “the master of the triple entendre.” To me that means I am first a storyteller. With my stories I attempt to arouse rather than simply show or tell. My goal is to take listeners beyond the literal and even what’s suggested to where meaning is as much felt as understood”.
Concerning his unusual name, the moniker “Tas Cru” is an approximate Quebecois statement that means “raw potato”. This name was bestowed upon Mr. Bates by a Quebecois fan who admired his tough vocals and slide guitar playing. Although an American, Tas Cru spent much of his early career performing throughout the St. Lawrence River areas of Canada, from Ontario and Quebec to the Maritime Provinces (as well as in Maine.) At the time of this CD’s release Tas Cru was based out of Albany, New York. He performs as a solo act and in a band setting.
The Songs: (all songs by Tas Cru except as noted)
1. Grizzle n' Bone
--I sure hope no one out there has experienced Tas' problem as described in this up-tempo tongue-in-cheek shuffle. His girl used to make him fine tasting dinners comprised of the finest cuts when she loved him so, but these days all he gets is grizzle and bone. The tune features single-string slide guitar lines, pounding piano and hard shuffling drums.
2. One Eyed Jack
--This is a mid-tempo tune riding a loping rhythm, featuring organ, the Stacked Deck Singers (Jenny, Meaghan and Montana), slide guitar and Tas' gruff and humorous vocal. The one-eyed Jack of the song happens to be Tas himself, as he actually has only one real eye.
3. Woman Won't You Love Me?
--This cut is patterned on a quick paced "If the River Was Whiskey, I'd Be a Diving Duck" melody. Tas sings this one without the gruff-toned voice, and it turns out that he has a very nice natural singing voice. There's more slide riffs thrown around, and for good measure you get some understated, "just right" piano lines, too.
4. Tulsa Tornado
--This is a fun blues-rock-pop tune that rides a strong bass line. Tas uses some clever wind-powered word play to tell you about a special girl of his. Or is he actually talking about a cyclone? Both? All yet none? Well, we will just let you, the reader, decide that on your own – feel the meaning, baby.
5. Money Talks
--Sounds like Tas is having money troubles, not all of them his fault (although a couple of them were...boys will be boys.) This one is more rock than blues, but it still features plenty of Tas' slide and Chip Lamson's organ work.
6. Come to Testify
--Tas is testifying a cappella on this track. No instruments (there is some hand clapping), just Tas singing about his love for The Blues, or as he puts it, a fool for the blues.
7. All Good
--…ah, this is nice. The piano has been brought back into the mix, and Tas has switched over to acoustic guitar. This cut has a sort of gentle, Leon Russell feel, a nice Sunday morning tune. Tas is telling the listener about his baby. More to the point, when his Mama is happy, everyone (especially Tas) is happy.
8. Can't Get Over Blues (again)
--The Stacked Deck Singers reappear on this tune, which is a mid-tempo blues-rocking shuffle. Tas supplies some hard edged, over-driven guitar work here instead of using slide, and the organ burbles along just underneath everything.
9. Let's Just Pretend
--This song is a change of pace from the many humorous-minded blues-rocking songs heard so far. This is gentle, heart-felt acoustic number, one which reminds me very much of the work of Spencer Bohren. Hopefully Tas will take that as a compliment, as I respect and enjoy Bohren's music very much. This is Tas laid bare, just singing and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. The song marks the start of a 5-song cycle at the end of the CD that features acoustic-based tunes.
10. Brand New Shoes
--The band is back on this cut, but they are playing in a stripped down, relaxed manner which allows this song to segue naturally from the previous track. This is a mid-tempo tune, with acoustic guitar prominent in the mix. Lyrically, Tas tells the tale of not realizing until too late how good a woman he had until she found someone else. As is his way, humor and multiple meanings figure prominently in his lyrics.
11. Make My Woman Cry
--This is a slow blues, just Tas singing and playing his acoustic guitar. It is a deep blues, with a dark, menacing feel.
12. The Prophet Of Lynchburg
--This is a band track, but still played on acoustic instruments. It has an old-timey, folk-ish feel, with some very nice fiddle playing courtesy of Gretchen Koehler. For fans living in St. Louis, this tune would fit well in the repertoires of Pik'n Lik'n or FolknBluesGrass.
13. Higher And Higher – (Gary Jackson, Raynard Miner and Carl Smith)
--The CD closes out with Cru's rendition of "Higher and Higher", made popular in 1967 by Jackie Wilson (#1 R&B, #6 Pop – that was a killer cut!) and in 1977 by Rita Coolidge (#1 on the Pop chart – to each their own.) This version is nothing like Wilson's hit record, and isn't really all that similar to Coolidge's version, either. It begins as a slow, laid-back singer-songwriter track with a folk edge, just Tas and his guitar in acoustic mode, and as the song progresses more ingredients are thrown into the mix, with the song intensifying into an R&B/rock workout, until at the very last the song moves back to it's quieter beginnings. The changing tempos and intensities of the song very much mirror the act of making love with someone very special, from the start of the song until the, well… finish.
This CD, grizzle 'n bone, from Tas Cru is one of those albums that will grow on you upon repeated listens, much of it due to the 2nd (and even 3rd) meanings to many of the lyrics. Cru seems to enjoy getting his point across using humor where he can, which helps to make this CD an enjoyable listen. The song list is fairly eclectic in nature, from full band rave-ups to acoustic band tracks to solo singer-songwriter material and even an a cappella track. It's not easy to mix so many styles of music together and yet maintain cohesiveness to the work as a whole, but I think Tas Cru has succeeded with that very well here. Let's rate this bad boy - STLBluesometer rating of 3.50 for grizzle 'n bone.
For more information concerning Tas Cru and his music, visit the following websites:
- aka "East