HANS THEESSINK (NL) (pronounced Tay-sink) took the road less travelled. A Dutch musician interpreting American roots music is not the easiest formula for success. But 15 records later and a virtually non-stop touring schedule suggests that HT took the right road.
Bo Diddley called him "One helluva guitarplayer". Presscritics, all over the world, have praised his concerts and albums and generally regard him as one of the leading white blues-singers/guitarists. Hans is also a prolific songwriter.
In the early sixties HT has his first meeting with "THE BLUES" - A radioshow, featuring Big Bill Broonzy and Leadbelly, leave a deep and lasting impression: Hans gets obsessed with the sounds and emotional richness of rural country-blues. Slowly he begins to master the bluesguitar (no books, no videos, no teachers). Hans has a deep respect for the old masters but - unlike many others - does not make the mistake to become a copyist: He's an exploratory improviser who likes to blend musical ideas, often coupled with contemporary songs that reflect on the world today.
By the mid sixties Theessink started playing live in front of an audience. His first recording was the EP "Next Morning at Sunrise" in 1970 - several of his earlier recordings have collector’s value now. Over the years Hans has built up a strong following; His music has continually developed and he has attained a status which is unique for a European. His musical abilities, stage-presence and entertainer-qualities have also earned him lots of recognition in the country where it all comes from: invitations to play at prestigious North-American festivals like the "New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival" or the "Chicago Blues Festival" speak for themselves. His songwriterqualities get valued by the renowned "Kerville Folk Festival" - Texas' songwriter-heaven - where Hans appears regularly.
After a trip to New Orleans in 1986, Hans teams up with american tubaplayer Jon Sass to record the album "Baby Wants To Boogie". The extraordinary joint-venture of these two unique musical personalities should prove a fatal event for years to come. Also on the 1989 release "Johnny & The Devil" the guitar/tuba combination is used to great effect. Both albums were released in America on the Chicago-based Flying Fish label. In the "land of unlimited possibilities" both albums garnered excellent reviews, lots of airplay and positions at the top of the blues charts.
1991 Hans records the album "Call Me" in Munich, Hollywood and Woodstock. A uniquely laidback mix of HT's rich vocals-cum guitars and mandolins, brother in arms Jon Sass' tuba and the contributions of some high calibre musical friends. a.o. co-producer Colin Linden, Maceo Parker, Bobby King, Pee Wee Ellis, Rick Danko, Terry Evans, Garth Hudson, Morris Goldberg, Richard Bell and Gary Craig. "CALL ME" is an artistic milestone that’s also commercially successful (over 50.000 copies sold worldwide).
In 1993 the album "Hans Theessink & Blue Groove" sees the light. The album is recorded live on different occasions and once again shows that HT is one of the most creative musicians working in the bluesidiom today. With large contributions of bandmembers Jon Sass on tuba, singer/percussionist Alee Thelfa and singer Dorretta Carter, Hans goes for a decidedly non-purist approach, creating a truly unique acoustic sound.
In 1994 Hans records his solo-album "Hard Road Blues": One Voice - One Guitar; blues in it’s most original form. "Hard Road Blues" - built around the key song "Big Bill’s Guitar", shows that Hans is a first class solo-bluesperformer who knows a thing or two about deltablues. Hans creates an album of rare authenticity that highlights his deep vocals and dexterity on the guitar. Even in this intimate setting Hans never fails to captivate his listening audience - a rare gift that distinguishes a true artist. The album is the emotional and musical acknowledgement of a man who is both a blues musician and a blues fan.
1995 The Doblinger Publishing Company in Vienna sees the potential in Theessink’s songs and publishes the songbook "Fingerpicking & Bottleneck Favourties", enabling aspiring guitarists to play Hans’ special style of music.
In the same year Hans is approached by "Homespun Tapes" in Woodstock, N.Y. to do an instruction video. "Hooked On The Blues" - Dynamic Guitar Techniques, taught by Hans Theessink is the title of the video, on which Hans demonstrates his special brand of bluesguitar-playing. Hans is the first european artist to teach on "Homespun Tapes".
1995 Hans releases the album "Crazy Moon". Once again a larger studio-project. Hans records 13 original songs in studios in Europe and the USA. "Crazy Moon" is an eclectic collection of bluesbased material. Hans cooks up his very own gumbo, helped by several fantastic musical friends: Again, Jon Sass contributes outstanding basslines on his tuba and Alee Thelfa lays down some groovy drumtracks. Richard Bell plays the piano and some soulful B3 Hammondorgan.
Then there is the Austin-connection with Marcia Ball, Rocky Morales, "Mambo" Traenor, Cindy Cashdollar and Ponty Bone; the LA-connection with Terry Evans and his gospel-vocal troup including Willie Greene jr. on bassvocals. There’s even a celtic connection:The Dubliners add some folky irish sounds to the ballad "Sail Away". The Vienna connection is covered by Art of Brass Vienna - classical heavyweights who supply some unusual hornparts.
The wellknown Austrian film director Peter Patzak is excited about the album; not only did he use the music for his movie, but he also gave the film the same title "Crazy Moon". In this movie Hans made his debut as an actor in the roll of a musician.
Shortly after Hans could also be seen in the role of an eccentric ornithologist in Thomas Roth’s film production of the Gerhard Roth novel "Der See" (the Lake)
Preparations for the 1997 release "Journey On" began in the summer of 96 during an extended tour of the US. Seven originals and a song each by Muddy Waters, Leadbelly, Rufus Thomas and Willie Dixon were recorded in studios in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Along with the virtuoso tuba sounds of Jon Sass, the album also features the talents of Terry Evans an extraordinary singer with a Mississippi background, well-known for his work with Ry Cooder. "Journey On" is a pure and authentic mix of blues & roots music. Even though Hans’ roots are in country-blues, he also adds portions of other roots music forms like Gospel, Soul, Folk, Rhythm ‘n Blues, Countrymusic and Zydeco to this musical melting pot. Theessink sticks to his "handmade music" formula, that makes his music readily recognisable and unmistakable – even wellknown bluesstandards sound like Theessink originals.
In april 1998 Hans had his 50th birthday. German record-label "Minor Music" released "Blue Grooves from Vienna" a 50th anniversary celebration. This cd is a compilation of tracks from older records and some rare recordings.
1998 also saw the release of "RTL 3 – Gitarre x 3" a celebration of acoustic guitar music in it’s many forms, together with austrian guitarists Peter Ratzenbeck and Michael Langer.
Hans‘ third cd in 1998 is "Lifeline"; a wonderful and unique Theessink mix of blues- & roots material: 11 original compositions and songs by Reverend Gary Davies and Blind Willie Johnson a.o. For "Lifeline" Hans decided to concentrate on vocals, guitars and other string-instruments. Preparations for the album started during a tour together with american Gospel / Rhythm‘ n Blues outfit The Holmes Brothers in the fall of 97. The concerts were so much fun that a spontaneous recording session was organized in the sparse free time between shows. The result couldn’t have been better and Hans decided to invite more outstanding musical friends including Linda Tillery & The Cultural Heritage Choir, backing vocals, Pee Wee Ellis on sax and Blue Groove bandmembers Jon Sass on tuba and Alee Thelfa on drums/percussion. Lifeline also sees Hans first cooperation with Insingizi Emnyama, a male choir from Zimbabwe who give a wonderful african twist to the song "Soul On Fire" – a real intercontinental musical effort that includes musicians from the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa.
A wish came true when blueslegend Charles Brown lent his voice to Hans‘ song "Love Sweet Love" – the first time Hans has left the lead vocalist role to another person.
Another "first" on Lifeline is the inclusion of "Blue Seagull" – the first instrumental piece on a Theessink cd.
Hans had planned to record some tracks with bluesmandolin-player Yank Rachell – a longtime source of musical inspiration. Sadly Yank passed away before they got together. "Mandolin Man" is dedicated to Yank Rachell and his music.
Like on many earlier cd’s Hans once again covers a lot of ground on "Lifeline". Stylistically he moves between the hypnotizing one-chord blues sound of "Missing You" and the more sophisticated swing- sound of "Love Sweet Love" – from the archaic Blind Willie Johnson classic "Soul Of A Man" to the country-tinged, fully arranged, "Ready For The Ride". Hans is a master when it comes to creating the right musical atmosphere for each song. He knows about the beauty of simplicity and is well aware of the importance of space in music. There’s no room for click-tracks or drummachines on Hans‘ recordings. His musical approach follows the human pulse and heartbeat with a strong sense of earthy groove.
On "Lifeline" Hans once again proves why he belongs to that select group of artists that have obtained total credibility and that he has succeeded in embracing american blues- and roots music like few others. As a matter of fact: He’s getting better all the time and with "Lifeline" Hans Theessink has managed to add a mature masterpiece to a long series of outstanding releases.
Hans has become one of the most sought-after live performing artists of the international blues scene. He’s played around the globe at festivals, clubs and on numerous radio- and tv-shows and will most likely continue to do so as long as there’s an audience out there. "If the groove is right you can’t go wrong".
Official Website: Hans Theessink
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