One of the great things about my regular visits to Florida is that I have had numerous opportunities to see blues performers who never come to the Twin Cities. The most recent addition to this list was made on my last visit to the Sunshine State when I got to witness a stellar performance by the European master of rural blues and slide guitar, Hans Theessink.
Through an unusual stroke of luck, the owner of The BamBoo Room in Lake Worth , Florida, Russ Hibbard, was able to make Theessink a late addition to his weekend performance schedule, opening for California harpman, Mark Hummel. However, this was not the typical "play 40 minutes and get off the stage" opener. Theessink put on a show that lasted nearly 90 minutes and included lots of incredible music.
For those unfamiliar with Hans Theessink, it should be known that he has been playing the blues for over thirty years and has been recognized worldwide for his blues singing and guitar. With fifteen records to his credit and a worldwide tour schedule, Theessink is a very popular performer, making his live performances a rare treat for those lucky enough to see him. Though his music is influenced by the likes of Big Bill Broonzy, Leadbelly, Blind Willie McTell and James "Son" Thomas, among others, Theessink is a creator and improvisor who blends a variety of songs and styles into his repertoire.
Opening with "Hold Her In My Arms Again," Theessink cruised through his extended set, performing originals such as the jumping "Big Bill's Guitar," along with his interpretations of songs by Leadbelly ("Black Girl"), Blind Willie McTell ("Statesboro Blues"), Rufus Thomas ("Walkin' the Dog") and even Chuck Berry ("Maybellene"). Theessink proved to be equally adept on 6- and 12-string guitar and he burned on slide, particularly on the 12-string. Near the end of his set, Theessink surprised and impressed everyone at The BamBoo Room by performing two songs on a handmade guitar constructed from a 5 gallon gas can and parts from an old Stella guitar. The guitar was built by Mississippi bluesman Super Chikan and is currently owned by The BamBoo Room's proprietor, Russ Hibbard.
Theessink held the crowds interest by telling stories about his introduction to the blues through Radio Luxembourg; playing Big Bill Broonzy's guitar at a club in Chicago and living with James "Son" Thomas in Leland, Mississippi where he first heard the song "Prison Blues," which he performed during the evening.
Song of interest included "Love Sweet Love" which Theessink originally recorded with the late Charles Brown on Theessink's most recent recording, Lifeline; "Big Bill's Guitar," relating the thrill and emotion of playing Big Bill Broonzy's guitar at The Green Mill in Chicago; and the influence of Blind Willie McTell on his growth as a musician as related through the original, "Blind Willie." Theessink's guitar was particularly impressive in light of the fact that he is totally self-taught (no books, no videos, no teachers).
Hans Theesink's visit to the U. S. was brief, encompassing only five performances in a little more than two weeks. Including his two night stint at The BamBoo Room, Theessink performed two nights at the Next Stop Café in Bethel, Connecticut and one night at the Turtle Dove Folk Club in West Grove, Pennsylvania. After finding out how abbreviated Theessink's schedule was in the U. S., I was even more impressed by my incredible luck that allowed our paths to cross in Florida.
Given the caliber of his music and his international popularity, I can only hope that one of Hans Theessink's future visits to the U. S. finds him performing in the Twin Cities area. He is definitely a performer worth seeing more than once.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.