Austria-based acoustic and electric folk musician and bluesman Hans Theessink has performed at a handful of American blues and folk festivals, including the Philadelphia Folk Festival in the 1980s and '90s, but he doesn't seem to get to the U.S. nearly often enough. Like so many talented musicians from Great Britain and other parts of Europe, Theessink [pronounced Tay-sink] brings a freshness of appreciation to the American blues idiom, whether it's classic blues from the '20s and '30s or more modern urban blues from Chicago from the '50s and '60s. Theessink's discography of more than 20 albums -- all released in Europe -- includes his fresh takes on songs by Chuck Berry, John Fogerty, and Jimmy Cliff as well as more familiar blues fare by Rufus Thomas, Willie Dixon, Leadbelly, and even country icon Hank Williams. Aside from singing blues, country, and pioneering rock & roll songs well, he also includes gospel tunes in many of his live shows and on his albums.
Theessink began playing guitar in his teens, and by the mid-'60s he was part of a skiffle group. Skiffle music was quite popular in Ireland and England and other parts of Europe at that time, but once he heard Big Bill Broonzy perform on Radio Luxembourg, he had a revelation. He had never heard the guitar played so well by just one person, so it opened his eyes to the possibilities that blues and blues-based musics could offer. He made a splash on the U.S. folk festival circuit in the late '80s, and Chicago-based Flying Fish Records issued his American debut, Baby Wants to Boogie (1987), which Theessink later re-released on his own label. A big part of Theessink's appeal as a performer and recording artist is his approach to cover songs. Rather than cover a Willie Dixon or Robert Johnson song to sound like the original artist might, Theessink takes an old gospel standard like "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," polishes it up, and makes it shine in his own way. His original songs offer up an outsider's perspective on places and things around the South that too many Americans take for granted.
Among Theessink's many fine albums are the aforementioned Baby Wants to Boogie, Hard Road Blues (1995), Journey On (1997), Bridges (2004), Songs from the Southland (2004), and Slow Train (2007). All of these albums were released on his own Blue Groove Records label, and may be difficult to find in U.S. record stores, even ones specializing in jazz and blues. Theessink is based in Vienna, Austria when he's not on the road, and he continues to tour frequently around Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. He gets back to the U.S. every two or three years to perform at folk and blues festivals and clubs. ~ Richard Skelly