------BluesArt (A), Norman Darwen, Review-04/2007
HANS THEESSINK, Slow Train, Blue Groove 1620
With this release Hans once again confirms that he can hold his own with just about anyone in the contemporary blues/roots world.
This is a lovely bluesy set, featuring Hans’s deep voice backed by a variety of string instruments (which he plays), Roland Guggenbichler on a selection of keyboards, the rhythm section of Erich Buchebner and Harry Stampfer on bass and drums respectively, plus the sublime harmony vocals of Ramadu, Blessings and Vusa aka Zimbabwean vocal group Insingizi. It is the latter who really add unique atmosphere to the gospel styled opener and the wistful sounding ‘Thula Mama – Oh Mother Don’t You Weep’; this demonstrating Hans’ humanity, being a lament for Zimbabwe’s tragic plight after the optimism of the years around that country’s independence. There’s empathy too with the excellent banjo led adaptation of the Crescent City’s traditional ‘Lil’ Liza Jane’, transformed into a pithy observation of New Orleans post-Katrina, whilst other touches such as the martial beat which accompanies the to-the-point ‘God Created The World’ provide evidence of the attention to detail that make this such a fine listening experience. ‘Cry Cry Cry’ and ‘Let Go’ move towards more of a rockabilly/ blues sound, whilst ‘Love You Baby’ hits a coolly bluesy groove with some fine slide work on the National Steel. ‘Old Man Trouble’ is certainly effectively moody, whilst ‘Leaving At Daybreak’ exhibits some of the sparse beauty of Bob Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’. ‘May The Road’ is nice and raggy, ‘Run On For A Long Time’ has something of a hard gospel feel to it, and the closing ‘When Luther Played The Blues’ – a tribute to Luther Allison – has a minimalist, John Lee Hooker inflected accompaniment that ends this CD on a very high note indeed. The sound throughout though is rich and organic.
Hans has been around for a long time now. It is rare to find someone of his generation still pushing the boundaries, crossing the borders, and still prepared to stand up and be counted. More power to him! Norman Darwen-BluesArtStudio
------Long Island Blues Society (USA) August 2007
Slow Train-Hans Theessink Blue Groove 1620
Hans Theessink is a preacher. He holds forth strong and righteous, relating the word to his flock. His church is the Blues. No matter the issue of birth some 4000 miles from the Delta, Hans is every inch a bluesman. Heat and emotion channel through him like a lightning rod. The blending of European familiarity with world rhythms and African harmonies makes Hans’ sound unique in the world of Blues. Crystalline guitar notes, a lush baritone vocal tone and rich harmonies support a CD of gentility, fire and depth. Opening with a gospel inspired “Slow Train”, all the previously mentioned components blend into a dynamic filled story of wanting to get back to home. “Katrina” is a Delta gem that blends Hans’ soulful description of New Orleans’ hurricane caused apocalypse with a contrapuntal refrain of the brass band signature tune “Li’l Liza Jane.” “God Created the World” succinctly and powerfully describes the Bush created aftermath to 9/11, while “Thula Mama” is a blues from close to the source that decries the despoliation of Zimbabwe by Mugabe, surrounded by deep, resounding African vocals. The attitude and energy level bounces with boogie in “Cry, Cry, Cry”, “Let Go” steps out like Chuck Berry while National shines like a sun’s ray in “Love You Baby.” The album roams around Africa, gospel, Delta and rocking but all with the craftsmanship, soul and feel of an old, old soul steeped deep in the dark waters. 9 snaves
------Hi-Fi Plus magazine (UK) April 2008,Review by Andrew Hobbs: SLOW TRAIN / HANS THEESSINK / Blue Groove
Theessink's last album, Bridges was recorded in an old church to give it a warm, open and very natural sound. So taken was he with the results, that he set about looking for similar surroundings for Slow Train. This time his friend Pinky Wall opened his house in the vineyards of Southern Styria and the whole band parked themselves there for ten days, along with lots of vintage equipment from Vienna and sound engineer Thomas Loffler, who built a makeshift studio from scratch. The results are absolutely stunning. Rarely have I heard a CD recording sound so analogue, it really is a joy to behold. Bridges was a peach of an album, full of Africa influences and beautifully married to Theessink's deep love of the blues, but he's gone one better with this one.
The song writing is so strong and his band is nothing short of incredible. Those African influences continue to play a major part too; think a bluesier Graceland and you'd be getting close to what this man does. Theessink's voice is the perfect foil for the music; deep and creamy but with a lovely easygoing quality to it. My favourite song is the title track; I loved it on first hearing and it just gets better with every play. In fact, that's true of the whole album, a really uplifting experience. Pure gold dust.
Recording: 9 out of 10
Music: 9 out of 10
------Blues Revue, USA, Hal Horowitz, aug/sept.2007
HANS THEESSINK, Slow Train, Blue Groove 1620
Dutch singer and guitarist Hans Theessink continues the synthesis of blues, folk, and world music that’s flourished on his latest albums and recent live DVD. On this acoustic project, Theessink again features the talents of three African vocalists, and the stirring results suggest Ry Cooder’s early work and, perhaps more directly, Paul Simon’s Graceland.
Most blues artists employ background vocalists to add soul or gospel underpinnings to their songs. But while religious feeling abounds here, Theessink places the three singers at the center of his arrangements, taking lead vocal lines along with stunning call-and-response work that transcends musical boundaries. The spellbinding results are due in part to live vocal takes recorded with no overdubs and with microphone placement that leaves space, even silence, in the mix.
Theessink has composed a stirring set of songs that seamlessly fuse his unplugged strumming, sonorous voice, and three-piece band into the very definition of laid-back comfort. His lovely Piedmont picking on “May the Road” is offset by harmonies that shift the tune halfway across the world. Such magnificent combinations of seemingly divergent elements drive this splendid album to spine-tingling heights. Theessink doesn’t play traditional blues here; instead, he deftly references the genre as one of many stops on his global trek through the Delta, into backwoods folk, and onward to Africa. This beautifully crafted project boasts detailed arrangements performed with a calm, casual groove best described as hypnotic. Theessink has continued to redefine and expand the boundaries of his craft; now it’s up to his audience to get on board. (Blues Revue, USA, Hal Horowitz, aug/sept.2007)
------Rhythms Magazine, January 2008 / Australia
Hans Theessink / Slow Train /Blue Groove
Slow Train is Dutch bluesman, Hans Theessink’s 18th record, and as such, reeks of experience and poise, coming across as a record made by a man who knows the score. Where this record excels though, is in it’s simplicity. Recorded at friend, Pinky Wall’s house in the hills above vineyards in Styria, it’s all natural and ambient, there’s no reverb involved, it’s real and down to earth, something Theessink has become known for over his 18 records.
As he has in the past, Theessink goes down the blues path again with Slow Train, although it’s not a predominant form – it’s always in the background, it’s always in his guitar playing, but there’s much more of a gospel feel here, thanks to the deep and rich background vocals courtesy of Dumisani Moyo, Zibusiso Nkomo and Vusumuzi Ndlovu, which overall makes for an almost stunning result. As it stands, this is fine indeed, certainly not a rollicking journey, more of, well, a slow train ride.
Theessink incorporates world events into his songwriting, like the Twin Towers attack and the situation in Zimbabwe, which lend a more modern take to his blues as opposed to recycling past hits and covers – this certainly plays in his favour. Plus there’s some fantastically subtle and intricate guitar at work as well, which speaks volumes as to why Bo Diddley once called Theessink, “one helleva guitar player”.
Much like a slow train, it’s not always slow, and the pace picks up with Cry, Cry, Cry, which stands as pretty much the pick of the bunch, some foot tapping and head nodding to be sure, rounding out what is a full, rich record from Hans Theessink, a man who will no doubt be carrying on his musical wanderings for many years yet. Sam Fell, Rhythms Magazine, January 2008
------Music-news.com (UK) Andy Snipper, may 2007
HANS THEESSINK Slow Train, Blue Groove 1620
The combination of the songs, the playing and the production lead to one of the most enveloping experiences in music this reviewer can remember for some time. Touching on classic blues, gospel, Africana, Americana and roots the songs are superb. Hans Theessink’s band are three of Austria’s top players – Harry Stampfer, Erick Buchebner and Roland Guggenbichler - and three stunning voices - Dumisani Moyo, Zibusiso Nkomo and Vusumuzi Ndlovu - from Zimbabwe, all working together to create the perfect platform for Theessink’s baritone drawl and exquisite picking. This is also a magnificently crafted recording. The sound is clear and placed across an enormous soundscape with every voice and instrument ‘just so’ in the mix. The guitar work, the banjo and mandolin are played beautifully and Theessink’s voice is warm and natural. It is only after listening to the album all the way through once and going back to start again that I began to get a feel for the songs rather than just the fabulous music to be found herein. This is no single paced run through, there is a variety in the songs and sounds that most bands wouldn’t touch: the title song is a slow, melodic blues with a fabulous bass line from Buchebner and mournful organ sound: ‘Katrina’ is Theessink’s take on the New Orleans disaster based on an old New Orleans chant – ‘Lil Liza Jane’: ‘Thula Mama – Oh Mother Don’t You Weep’ tells the story of Zimbabwe as told by one of Mugabe’s unfortunate subjects. ‘Cry Cry Cry’ lifts the mood and the soul with a banjo based riff and close miked backing vocals: ‘Old Man Trouble’ sounds as though Robert Johnson was overseeing the recording. The variety of influences that have been brought to this album make it a terrific listen and if it isn’t in the top ten for the year I will be very surprised. Andy Snipper / music-news.com (UK)
------get ready to rock (UK) Pete Feenstra / 2007.03
Review HANS THEESSINK / SLOW TRAIN
Never mind can white men sing or play the blues, how about an Austrian based Dutchman laying down some of the most compelling gospel you’ve heard in years? Step right up Hans Theessink. As someone who has promoted Hans some 20 years ago, it is great to report that his recorded output has not only reached a new maturity, but it is so good that even the likes of Eric Bibb would been hard pressed to come up with something as good as this.
Once you get over the rather obvious comparison with Ry Cooder and the occasional derivative lyric and well trodden gospel pieces, you will quickly realise just how good this album is. Hans is clearly a blues practitioner for whom over 30 years of learning his craft has helped him refine a sonorous vocal style that conjures up the aches and emotions of his subject matter, while his sublime guitar playing is so subtle that you strain to hear every slight nuance of his intonation, or you equally drift along on some sultry slide runs that beautifully underpin some wonderful gospel accompaniment as on ‘Run On For A Long Time’.
But having established his blues and gospel credentials in the company of three wonderful gospel singers nick named Ramadu, Blessings and Vusa, Hans is not afraid to use the blues genre to voice his take on contemporary political events, be they 9/11 and Iraq as on ‘God Created The World’ or Mugabe’s Zimbabwe on ‘Thula Mama-Oh Mother Don’t You Weep’. On the latter biting lyrics are written as if in the first person which brings extra emphasis to the lyrics. There’s a further beautiful blend of gospel blues on “Cry Cry Cry” on which he adds delicious slide guitar and makes judicious use of handclaps on the most perfect outing imaginable. There’s also a JJ Cale feel to the wistful “Let Go”, while “Love You Baby’ is a delightful joyous dobro outing, again with tasteful bv’s.
If anything “Old Man Trouble” proves you don’t have to be an Afro-American to lay down a true spiritual, and suggests the mark of an intuitive player with real feel and heavyweight songs to match.
Ry Cooder would probably love to have written something like this and perhaps the biggest compliment I can give this truly superb blues album is that at the very end of the closing ‘When Luther played the Blues’ you feel compelled to find out more about an artist who has just cut one of the albums of the year.
-------Peter J Brown aka toxic pete (www.toxicpete.co.uk) march 2007
Hans Theessink - CD - Slow Train (www.theessink.com)
This is one of those 'wow' albums! 'Slow Train' by Hans Theessink is an absolutely stunning album that combines "blues, roots rock, Americana, worldmusic, folk, and gospel" and more... The pooled resources of Theessink's line-up here makes for an enjoyable outing full of originality and fascinating performances.
With his massive wealth of experience in the blues field, Theessink pulls it all together to come up with a stunner. Calling on the experience of three like-minded, top Austrian musicians on bass, drums and keyboards and utilising the vocal magnificence of three singers from Zimbabwe to add a touch of African ethnic spirit, Theessink has come up with a formula for success. The press pack notes tell of this album having been recorded with natural ambient sound; no added reverb to detract from the pure and wholesome feel. And it works! There's a feeling of genuineness about this whole work, a stunning, down-homeliness that you wouldn't believe was possible without the addition of studio created added characterisation.
Theessink plays guitars, banjo, mandolin, harmonica and 'mandoguitar' and lays down his trademark baritone vocals against a backdrop of supreme accompanying musicianship. The African influence given by the backing vocalists combined with Theessink's creative musical mind take Theessink's roots blues to an altogether different dimension. In fact, the only staid thing about this Hans Theessink work is actually the title of the album, the well tried and tested 'blues' connotation of 'Slow Train'. The album as a whole is superbly put together, packaged and presented to give maximum value for money.
Unique and totally absorbing, 'Slow Train' is simply divine! Peter J Brown aka toxic pete (www.toxicpete.co.uk)
(Rhythm & Booze rating 10)
------Folk Roots (UK) Dave Peabody, Aug/Sept. 2007
(From a combined review of John Hammond and Hans Theessink)
HANS THEESSINK,Slow Train, Blue Groove 1620
…………From the high energy of John Hammond to the studied laid-back approach of Hans Theessink – From Push Comes To Shove to Slow Train – the contrast is right there. Like Hammond, Hans Theessink has built over the years a large catalogue of recordings – some better than others. Slow Train proves to be one of his best too. The beautiful recording captures all the character of Hans’s warm voice, placing it within an uncluttered setting that leaves plenty of space for the instruments to be clearly defined. Hans plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, mandoguitar and harmonica and employs a rhythm section and various keyboards as and when required. Three Backing vocalists, Dumisani “Ramadu” Moyo, Zibusiso “Blessings” Nkomo and Vusumuzi “Vusa” Ndlovu, are used to very good effect underpinning or counterpointing Hans’s lead vocal line, adding a “Ladysmith” element to the music that’s a mixture of J.J.Cale meets Derroll Adams cut with a dash of blues. The “Eurobluesman” continues to broaden his musical palette….and takes his time doing so. www.theessink.com Dave Peabody
------David Blue (UK) May 2007
Hans Theessink – Slow Train (Blue Groove).
Hans Theessink has 20 albums to his name with Slow Train being the latest. He has been called an international blues treasure by the US press and Bo Diddley once described him as “One helluva guitar player”. The eponymous title track is slow, as the title suggests. It is moving and Gospel influenced with lovely relaxed slide guitar. Katrina is Americana of the highest order, delivered to perfection and hypnotic. He has based it on the New Orleans chant, Li’l Liza Jane and tells the story of Hurricane Katrina. God Created The World continues the theme of minimal instrumentation and is very easy going despite it being about the tragic events of 9/11. The gentle theme continues with Thula Mama/Oh God Don’t You Weep, which has African influences (in this instance, Zimbabwe) as do some of the others and was inspired by stories from the African singers in his band. Cry Cry Cry is more up tempo but there is still this underlying gentleness from this master of the understated guitar. Let Go is a Country influenced foot-tapper. Mark Knopfler is the milestone for this kind of song and Theessink measures up very well.
Love You Baby is a hotch potch of styles; there’s blues, R&B and Country in there somewhere but it all comes together very well. Old Man Trouble could easily be a track from Graceland. Theessink’s dulcet tones waft over African influenced Country to great effect. Leaving At Daybreak highlights his deep, velvet voice again and he drifts into Mark Knopfler territory again with this gentle roots offering. May The Road has some more Gospel and African influences and is just a lovely little song. The traditional Run On For A Long Time has top class harmony, as ever, and is roots of the highest class. He finishes with When Luther Played The Blues. This is a tribute to his old friend, Luther Allison and is a blues, but not in the conventional sense. Theessink says that he had a dream where he saw Allison in front of him and tried to touch his hand. When he woke up in the morning the song was in his head.
This is a measured album from a European master!!
------BITS - Blues In The South (UK) June 2007
HANS THEESSINK / Slow Train Blue Groove 1620
Mr.Theessink is a regular visitor to our shores. I am not sure that he has ever come to the UK with his band – I’ve only seen him as a solo act – and as a sole musician he delivers a great bluesy / ragtimey set with considerable vocal and guitar skill. This is nothing like his live gigs.
Nevertheless, here is Hans with a terrific group of top class musicians who joined him – in a similar manner to his last album “Bridges” – in a non-studio environment allowing the recording to be made with ambient sound; and excellent that sound is too.
As well as drums/percussion, bass and various keyboards, the musicians are joined by three singers from Zimbabwe whose wonderful harmonies fill-out the music to magical effect.
You won’t be surprised to hear that this is not roots blues in any sense of those words, but it is certainly strongly blues influenced – even including some Mississippi hill country influences – and well worth a listen. Check out “When Luther Played The Blues”, a wonderful tribute to the late Luther Allison. Excellent stuff. Recommended. (IM)
------Blues Matters, Al Tait, UK, 2007 issue 37
HANS THEESSINK / Slow Train / Blue Groove
"Slow Train" is not only the title of this album but also the message that, "We'll get there without having to rush, gonna pull along real easy and have time to get into each song in depth.” Recorded at Hans’ friend Pinky Wall's house back home in Austria. The house was chosen not only for its surroundings but for "the natural acoustics, creating natural ambient sounds.” Hans took with him not only his guitars, plus three of Austria's top sidemen on bass drums and keyboards, but also three of Zimbabwe's top singers as well. It all works well with Hans’ varying set list. The songs are certainly thought provoking. 'Katrina', "The hurricane hit hard / Our friends ran for their lives and nobody felt responsible" is as thoughtful a statement as I've heard. The music is based on 'Li'l Liza Jane' the well known New Orleans chant. 'God Created The World' is for the aftermath of 9/11. 'Thula Mama-Oh Mother Don't You Weep' gives the Zimbabwean trio chance to voice upon their own country's state where "today chaos and man hunters rule the place.” The tone and mood are lifted for a couple of nice easy acoustic Blues shuffles in the best JJ Cale mould. Hans’ baritone voice certainly helping the process. Both sets of voices work in unison on 'May The Road', a modern day negro spiritual with a simple message and fine guitar picking for accompaniment. Finishes with superb acoustic Blues called 'When Luther Played The Blues'. Just a little piece for Luther Allison who came to Hans in a dream and left this song within him. Roland Guggenbichler cuts in with a sharp Hammond solo then stays around to add his own ambience to the proceedings. The hopes and dreams that Hans set out with certainly came true on this album. (Al Tait)
------ Antoine Légat, Belgium
Hans THEESSINK, Slow Train, Blue Groove 1620
Hans Theessink is a slide guitar player from Enschede (Holland), who grew fond of Vienna, but is even fonder of the blues. He is nothing less than a quality label. He got us used to concerts where his excellent guitar playing, refined in the States in the company of many a toothless old blues boy, is tested out against his repertoire which he has built up in more than ten CD’s up ‘til now. Tastes differ, but, whether he performs solo (as last year in the crowd filled Gentse Feesten) or with his bands, formerly Blue Groove (we have a lot of nostalgia for John Sas, Ali Thelfa and Doretta Carter!), nowadays three excellent Austrian musicians and a trio of Zimbabwean vocalists, it always turns out to be a swell party. The DVD Live In Concert illustrated that lavishly and offers, in general, a good introduction to the life and times of Theessink. Latest release Slow Train is completely in line with that past, recorded in a relaxed atmosphere and surrounding, without any effect. Slow Train is a logical sequel to Bridges, the CD before last, but without copying that one. It’s the result of year long polishing, never going under a certain level and incorporating a few of the best tunes Hans ever wrote. This is partly a record for dreamers, because frequently a salutary kind of melancholy hangs over the songs: Old Man Trouble (a great homage to the blues!), the compelling Leaving At Daybreak and the title song that opens up Slow Train so magnificently. It’s hard not to be moved by closing song When Luther Plays The Blues, an epitaph for his deceased friend Luther Allison. HT and band never break loose, but there’s a lot of variation, and there’s sufficient anger in the lyrics to give the CD the necessary tension: Katrina (à la Derroll Adams), God Created The World and the poignant sneer to Mugabe, Thula Mama – Oh Mother Don’t You Weep ("Now beautiful Zimbabwe is a nation on it’s knees") make Slow Train a mainstay on our CD player. Fans know enough! Antoine Légat
------Properganda, UK, #6 2007
Fusing roots and gospel with a biting political commentary on subjects ranging from the current war on terror to Mugabe’s regime. Showing that he is unafraid to use his music for more than just entertainment. Beautifully embellished by African backing singers throughout, this is a sober and powerful album. (TM, Properganda, UK, #6 2007)
-----Eleanor Shanley, Irish singer:
Slow Train' is a great hit with the Shanley Family (from age 87 down to 13 years!). We had it on repeat on Christmas day and it has been played here several times since! You have a whole new fan club here in Leitrim.