2020 – Subcat Records
By Phillip Smith; Jan. 25, 2020
Tas Cru (Rick Bates) has been on my radar since reviewing his Simmered & Stewed album in 2017. Since then, I’ve seen him perform some kick-ass blues live at the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis and the Prairie Dog Blues Festival in Wisconsin. Drive On, his latest album is another superb recording of music rooted in the blues. With backing vocals from Mary Ann Casale, Tas keeps front-and-center on lead vocals, guitars, and harmonica. Adding a lush new sound to his music is the new guy Saxophonist Anthony Terry. The band also includes Gabe Stillman on slide guitar, organist Anthony Geraci, bassist Bob Purdy and drummer Andy Hearn. Special guests include drummers Sonny Rock and Cathy Lamanna, and Colin “Big Yellow Dog” Beatty on bass.
Tas kicks this one off with “That Lovin’ Thang”. Delivered with a cool, swinging groove and a hot keyboard lesson from Geraci, this barn-burner is an absolute gem. Stillman loads “Money Talks”, up with a nice juicy dose of slide guitar. Title-track “Drive On” is so sweet and infectious, it’s certainly among my favorites. Sonny Rock, who has toured with Tas quite a bit over the past few years, makes a guest appearance on “Save Me”, a heady tune with a Doors-meets-Dire Straits atmosphere. On a haunting and ominous note, the album concludes with “Devil in Your Heart”, an acoustically-performed duet with Mary Ann Casale. I love the fact that this is stripped-down, where we can zero in on the vocal performance. They sound great together.
Whether live or on record, Tas is one of my favorites. His songs are almost always originals, and his writing stands out from the herd, Drive On is indeed another terrific album.
Mary Ann Casale , Tas Cru @ Prairie Dog Blues Festival
Prairie du Chien, WI
July 26, 2019
* Photo by Phillip Smith
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