Jazz CD Reviews

Hans Theesink & Terry Evans – Delta Time – Blue Groove Records

Homage to Delta blues is timeless.

Published on February 11, 2013

Hans Theesink & Terry Evans – Delta Time – Blue Groove Records

Hans Theesink & Terry Evans – Delta Time – Blue Groove Records BG 2220, 58:25 ****½:

(Henry Theesink – guitars, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, foot-stomping, vocals; Terry Evans – guitar, vocals; Ry Cooder – guitars; Arnold McCuller/Willie Greene Jr. – backing vocals)

Blues music began as regional culture, but is now a global art form. Dutch guitarist Hans Theesink has recorded over 20 albums of Delta-influenced music. His collaboration with musicians like Ry Cooder and Terry Evans has reinforced his prominence in this unique genre. He and Evans releases a duo project (Visions) in 2008. Now four years later, they have decided to reunite.

From the start, Delta Time pays homage to Mississippi blues. With deep feeling and musical dexterity Theesink and Evans explore a variety of Delta blues, and let them wash over the listener with gentle fluidity. The addition of Arnold McCuller and Willie Greene Jr. generate a full-bodied gospel chorus. Opening the 13-song album is the title cut. Theesink’s acoustic guitar chords and slide work are nimble, and the backup three-part harmonies are joyful. There is a steady gentle tempo that approximates country blues. With deep spirituality Theesink’s deep baritone blends with the church singing of Evans and company. On “Blues Stay Away From Me” the vibe feels like a delicate reverie. As a bonus, the inimitable Ry Cooder contributes his customary nimble slide accents. Cooder excels on two additional tracks. “Shelter From The Storm” is ethereal, with sublime exhaustion. The combination of guitars creates a mellow flowing aesthetic. Evans joins in to infuse “How Come People Act Like That” with some up-tempo edge.

Evans vocals are compelling as they draw on the emotional timbre of Delta roots. His lead vocals on J.B. Lenoir’s “Down In Mississippi” are gut-wrenching. It is uplifting to hear a cover of an icon like Lenoir. The arrangements feel authentic, in the spirit of Robert Johnson. The laconic harmony-driven version of Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do” is undeniably hypnotic in its elegance. Theesink embraces the organic magnetism of blues. On “Mississippi”, he acknowledges a litany of musical heroes (Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Mama Thornton, Bessie Smith, Sonny Boy Williamson) in an extended single chorus repeat (“…Down in Mississippi where the blues was born…”).

The only anomaly is an update of the doo-wop hit, “The Birds And The Bees” (Evans sang on the original). When the band concentrates on blues gospel (“Heaven’s Airplane” which raises the harmony vocals to another zenith) or lovesick pleas (“Pouring Water On A Drowning Man”), they are in a palpable groove. The recording is simple, relying on first or minimal takes. All of the guitars (acoustic and electric) resonate with understated clarity.

Delta Time keeps the blues tradition alive!

TrackList: Delta Time; Blues Stay Away From Me; It Hurts Me Too; How Come People Act Like That; The Birds And The Bees; Build Myself A Home; Down In Mississippi; Shelter From The Storm; I Need Money: Heaven’s Airplane; Pouring Water On A Drowning Man; Honest I Do; Mississippi

—Robbie Gerson

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