British Columbia

New album 'Delta Time' is the latest transatlantic blues treasure

Growing up in Holland, Hans Theessink may have been far from the Mississippi Delta when he first experienced blues and roots music, but the Atlantic Ocean wasn't big enough to keep him from his calling.

The duo performed with big voices and soulful guitars during CBC's Musical Nooners

Hans Theessink and Terry Evans showed the audience at CBC Vancouver what their new album Delta Time is all about. ((Bianca Cervantes))

Growing up in Holland, Hans Theessink may have been far from the Mississippi Delta when he first experienced blues and roots music, but the Atlantic Ocean wasn't big enough to keep him from his calling. He dove in, and dedicated his heart and soul to the blues. 

After 40 years of touring and 25 albums behind him, Theessink has earned his title as Europe’s best blues export.  It was actually right here in Canada, at The Winnipeg Folk Festival, where Theessink met his musical match Terry Evans in the early 1990s.  It was a natural fit to team up with Evans, a man born in Vicksburg, Miss. in the heart of the Delta, also known as "the key to the South."

Evans grew up singing soul and gospel music at church before making the move to Los Angeles where he became one of the top session vocalists in the city. He has contributed his deep and soulful voice on numerous recordings for big artists including: Eric Clapton, John Fogerty and John Lee Hooker.  He also has a long collaboration with guitar legend Ry Cooder, who is featured on "Delta Time," Theessink and Evans' latest album.

To promote this latest release, Theessink and Evans are on tour in Canada. They performed a free one hour concert on CBC Vancouver’s outdoor stage yesterday to a delighted audience.  Armed with only their guitars and magnificent voices they sang the blues the way the blues are supposed to be sung — with their hearts. 

After the show, Terry and Hans took the time to talk to CBC Associate Producer Bianca Cervantes about their music and their experience working together.

Q: Why do you like playing together as a duo?

Terry: It’s an interesting energy.  You know, you don’t know why things manifest themselves.  You’re just happy that you’re a part of it.  We enjoy playing together, being together.

Hans: And it’s a very, sort of bare bones kind of thing.   There is no bassist, no drums, so we try to make the most of it and over the years we found out that our voices complement each other pretty good.  So there are only two voices but it’s still a pretty big sound.

Q: What makes a good blues musician?

Terry: That’s a pretty loaded question there.  You know I think experiences that you encounter over your life, some people can get emotional about them and they write about them.  That’s what I think.

Hans: Well I think that blues has a lot of truth in it, but our music is not necessarily 100% straight forward blues.  There are lots of other influences but our singing is a very important part of what we do.  It’s sort of an honest kind of music and we don’t use any tricks, like little gadgets and stuff, we just use what we have. 

Q: Hans, coming from Europe do you think you add something different to the traditional Delta blues? 

Hans: I wouldn’t say there are many European influences but I’m sure my background sort of adds a little thing here and there.  But Terry, coming from Mississippi with a background playing with soul groups and playing with Ry Cooder and in gospel situations, he has a very rich background. 

Q: When did you both realize you wanted to play the blues for a living?  What turned you on to this music?

Terry: Well being able to hear the music on the radio by older musicians influenced my decision to want to be universal.  I worked with all kinds of different groups but the real influence was listening to the radio, Sam Cooke, Elmore James , B.B. King, all those people.  They motivated my interest in it.

Hans:  Well for me it was a little harder because at the time I grew up in the east of Holland.  Not much of this music was available so I didn’t even know what blues was until I heard Big Bill Broonzy on the radio.  That’s what started me off.  I had been playing guitar but it was the campfire variation, just strumming, and I had no idea about blues.  But all of a sudden I heard this fantastic music on the radio and it really touched me and I found out that this was actually blues.  So that’s how I got into it.

If you missed Terry Evans and Hans Theessink at the Musical Nooner on Thursday you can catch them at Concerts on the Quay in New Westminster this Saturday, Aug. 3.

Be sure to check out CBC’s Musical Nooners, a free summer concert series, every weekday from noon to 1 p.m. PT until Aug. 23.  These great performances take place on the outdoor stage at 700 Hamilton Street.