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By Bill Ellis
July 9, 2004

Songs from the New South

Andy Tanas

(RT etc. Music)

Folks will remember Andy Tanas from his late '70s bass chair in Black Oak Arkansas alongside the Memphis dual-guitar attack of Jack Holder and Greg Reding (and, shortly after that, Shawn Lane). Others may know Tanas from his brief mid-'80s stint with Swiss metal act Krokus. Since then, the Frayser-bred musician has moved in an unlikely country direction given his hard-rocking resume.

A 1997 cassette, Memphis Boy vs The 8-Track From Hell, suggested that Tanas had more Ronnie Milsap than Ronnie James Dio in him.

His latest effort, Songs from the New South, solidifies such extremes, as Tanas seamlessly melds his two loves: classic rock and classic country. Recorded over four years from 1998-2002, the 11-track set reflects a thorny good old boy who loves a fiddle as much as a distorted guitar.

It also shows Tanas, who handles vocal, guitar and bass chores here, to be a craft-driven songwriter (Black Oak fans will recall that he contributed several numbers to the 1978 outing I'd Rather Be Sailing). A tad edgier than your usual Nashville platter, the self-penned music on Songs from the New South nonetheless stacks up next to the hit-driven strains of Music City, notably the opener, "Just Another Heartache," which waits for a cover by someone like Keith Urban.

Other standouts include "Tennessee Girl," in what could be Brooks & Dunn if they found themselves opening for AC/DC; the Mavericks-worthy "Damage"; and "Typical Male" with its Steve Earle feel circa Copperhead Road.

There's a hint of Chris Isaak in Tanas's voice as well (not a bad thing), heard on such songs as "Justice" and the mini-epic "Her Own Little World" (with the great line, "One dream she never came close to/She could have been the new Patsy Cline").

The record further works thanks to some mighty fine studio help from the likes of North Mississippi Allstars drummer Cody Dickinson, Big Ass Truck beatman Robert Barnett, Roy Brewer on fiddle, pedal steel pro Bruce Wandmayer, Bonepony co-founder Bryan Ward on mandolin and Ceili Rain member Gretchen Priest.

Red Hot is a review column of local and regional recordings. Send CDs to Bill Ellis, The Commercial Appeal, 495 Union Ave., Memphis, Tenn, 38103.

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