I bet I’m not the only night person listening to the blues. Or reading this blog. We love the night for various reasons; I am energized by the twilight and sail through the night, but it takes several cups of coffee to get me through the typical day. I have to get up early to take care of things around the house, and then lock myself in my office to get the day’s writing and research done.
It takes a lot to keep up with things for Time For The Blues. And even when the Professor isn’t spending time in front of a classroom, I’m always looking at new things and searching for new artists. I found gravel voiced piano virtuoso Ron Tanski when he sent us a copy of his CD Dragged You Down a while back.
I liked it and we played a few sides on a show dedicated to piano blues and then tucked it on the shelf intending to get back to it, and finding ourselves swamped in work and various other projects. Sorry Ron, and I am looking forward to CD number two. (That’s a big hint, in case you’re wondering…)
Anyway, the other night, I was closing up the Juke Joint by myself, and I was looking for something a little different for background music. Sometimes, I just like the quiet, and on this early frost night, Tanski seemed to be just the right fit.
The 12-track CD (all songs were written by Tanski), is a stripped down affair, with Tanski’s piano being the dominant instrument. He sometimes veers into jazz territory, but mostly stays rooted in the blues. His voice is reminiscent of a breathy Tom Waits and the combination just proved to be a great match for this particular lonely night.
The bouncy swinging boogie woogie of the opening track Marvelous Night for the Blues is fun, but don’t get snookered into thinking this is just another fun jump CD. The album will veer off into darker territory, but this opener wakes you up and makes you take notice. Henry and I even discussed using this as a theme song for a couple of other projects we’ve worked on.
Immediately we move into the darker ballad, Never Have Another Chance With You, which features Karl Grossman on guitar. The plaintive picking adds a feeling of distance to this sad emotional song. It’s one of my favorites on the CD, and anytime I play it, I stop whatever else I’m doing and listen.
Don’t Leave continues the sad searching feeling. Lost love is one of the most powerful ingredients that make up a true artist. Sacrifices are made for art, and that often includes friends and family. It’s what drives us to go further and deeper with the art. Sounds like somebody cut Tanski deeply and the results are these songs.
Tanksi moves into a more poetic mode with Corner Booth, this is close to Waits territory, the tune takes second place to story, and the music just accentuates the darkness. This should be called Blues Noir for the images it conjures.
By now, I’ve completely abandoned trying to run the night’s figures and I pull up a stool and just listen, letting the sounds wrap around me. I’ve completely surrendered to the night, and it’s like I’m hearing the album for the first time.
Then comes one of the greatest titles in either blues or country music, Where Were You When I Was Still Cheatin’? and once again, I’m wrapped up in the story and the images. “I see you looking at me/Through the bottom of the glass.” There’s some guitar work that adds to the mood, but I can’t identify the player.
The title track, Dragged You Down, features some guitar work from Andrew Hiestand and drums by Noah Tanksi. It’s a loud raucous number that adds a little bounce to the dark lyrics. A very solid side.
The piano is back in a big way on Broken, and we’re back to his theme of lost love. Hiestand’s guitar is soft in the beginning, but builds in intensity with some nice fireworks throughout. It adds a nice counterpoint to the song.
Down To The River is another wonderful evocative song. He’s used lots of water imagery up to now (Holy water, washed in tears, and now a river) and this song is kind of frightening with the depths of pain he’s bringing to the surface. It’s fascinating to listen to, and I must confess I missed a lot of this the first time I listened to the CD.
So soon after Hurricane Sandy, I wasn’t in much of a mood to listen to any songs named after natural disasters, but I’m glad I made an exception for Hurricane Boogie. This side is an excellent hard driving honky tonking boogie woogie instrumental that shows off his talent for rhythm and invention.
Cookieman is a fun ballad. “They call me the Cookieman/Cause Cookie is what I love to eat.” No kids, we’re not talking about that big blue Muppet here, but a guy describing what he loves. It’s a little over the top, but somehow sweet.
Sun Don’t Shine starts out with a lovely opening and the song develops nicely. Again there is some nice guitar work that sounds like Grossman, but I’m not sure if it’s him. Even though this isn’t a hearts and flower song, you know that the guy who has been hurt so badly is starting to come back. Maybe it’s a song of quiet resignation, or moving on. Either way, it’s a notable shift in direction.
Finally the sentiments of Thank You show a man grateful for those who have helped him through the darkness of the soul. His voice is perfectly suited for this number; ragged, soft and humble, he knows that he has been helped and he is thankful for that. A great ending to a very underrated album.
After the last chord had echoed off the juke box, I quickly fixed up the paperwork and locked up the Juke Joint. A full moon hung low over the trees and I watched a couple of shooting starts that pointed me home and the place where Mrs. Professor was waiting for me.
Sometimes it takes darkness to make us appreciate the light. If you don’t have this CD, go looking for it. It’s a great addition to anyone’s collection and we’re putting it into the juke box for future play. Next time you’re in, ask for it.
Ron Tanski’s music is available on iTunes and Amazon. To find out more about him, his music, and his tour dates, please visit http://www.rontanskimusic.com/Site/Ron_Tanski_Music.html. And if you catch him at a show, tell him the Professor is waiting for the next one.
(Photo pilfered from the web. If you’re the copyright holder and want us to take it down, please let us know. But if you do, we’re telling mom, and she won’t like it at all.)