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Hans Theessink – Jedermann Remixed

Blue Groove

18 tracks; 70.43 minutes

Dutchman Hans Thessink has been around on the European scene for many years, producing well over a dozen albums. He is less well known in the States but was a popular performer on the January 2010 Blues Cruise which he undertook with frequent collaborator Terry Evans. Now resident in Austria, Hans was approached by local filmmaker Hannes Rossacher to produce the music to a film that he was making – an adaptation of the medieval morality play “Everyman” (“Jedermann” in German), hence the title of this album.

Hans is predominantly an acoustic player with particular expertise on slide. He sings in a deep and pleasing voice and throughout this album his vocals are terrific. The material was selected to suit the scenes in the film which deals with God, the Devil and death and is made up of judiciously selected covers and some original songs. Among the tunes covered are The Rolling Stones, Joe South, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Ray Charles, Curtis Mayfield, Bo Diddley and Hank Williams – quite a disparate set at first sight. However, the songs all fit well into the themes of the film. In three cases Hans drew on previous albums and the versions of Memphis Slim’s “Mother Earth”, Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” and his own “Cuckoo” all come from earlier albums. One big plus of this is that “Mother Earth” and “Cuckoo” feature the vocals of Terry Evans and Bobby King, former bandmates of Ry Cooder and always a treat for the ears.

Although there is wider instrumentation on some tracks, this is essentially a solo effort. The CD opens with Tom Waits’ “Down In The Hole” and its refrain of “You’ve gotta keep the devil down in the hole” sets the tone for the album. It is followed by Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” and Jagger/Richards’ “No Expectations” that is given a particularly stark reading. Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man” offers a little lighter relief before Nick Lowe’s “The Beast In Me” appears. Traditional song “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” is given a nice treatment with slide guitar and banjo (possibly both played by Hans) and a choir of female backing vocalists.

Hans then offers us a trio of original compositions. “Cuckoo” is a very slow blues with lots of backing vocals. “Ready For The Ride” is something of a matched pair with the earlier Cash piece: “You can run, run, run, sure can’t hide; when the Master calls your number, better be ready for the ride.” “Mother’s Advice” turns out to be to warn of the temptations of the Devil and to try to be a good man – turns out to have been good advice in this play’s case!

Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman” is taken at a slightly more sprightly pace than much of the CD though not at the pace of the hot little number we all know and love. Nevertheless it acts as something of a release of pressure before we return to the central theme in the next three numbers. First up is an adaptation of traditional song “You Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond” in which Hans’ vocal is supported by a lovely harmony vocal from Meena Cryle. That is followed by Hank Williams’ “The Angel Of Death” and Memphis Slim’s “Mother Earth” which make as chilling a pairing as anyone could imagine. “Mother Earth” is given a funereal reading which makes the lyrics even more depressing. Terry Evans’ co-vocal here is a highlight. “Call Me” is another Thessink original which, with its keyboards and percussion, is one of the pieces with greater instrumental colour. “Oh Sinner Man” is a traditional tune with a very familiar refrain.

The CD closes with an interesting trio of songs. Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” is a personal favourite of mine and this is another good version, the song expressing the simple faith of the believer. If the end of the film was a positive ‘feelgood’ ending that might have been a fitting finale, but we then get “Sympathy For The Devil” (Jagger/Richards) and “Games People Play” (Joe South) to end the CD. Both appear in quite long versions, the Stones tune clocking in at over 7 minutes, by far the longest tune on the album. It offers plenty of opportunity to hear Hans’ slide guitar skills and, somewhat surprisingly, retains the ‘woo-hoos’ of the original coda. Joe South’s classic is played pretty straight with the sound of accordion and pump organ enlivening the sound. Given the nature of the film this seems an excellent trio of songs to end on.

Hans Thessink has produced a superb set of songs to accompany a film that deals with such serious themes. The quality of the singing and musicianship is high and should appeal to quite a wide range of tastes. Whilst this is not strictly a blues album it is informed throughout by a blues feel and merits our serious consideration.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK.  He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and is currently planning a visit to the Tampa Bay Blues Festival.

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