Terry Evans / Hans Theessink

Visions

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Less a summit meeting of two bluesmen from different continents than a cozy, loose musical conversation between friends who share similar interests, Visions is a low-key but poignant album whose charms grow stronger as it progresses. American soul/roots singer/songwriter Terry Evans is probably better known through his background singing for Ry Cooder and a few Cooder produced releases with fellow vocalist Bobby King than his impressive solo recordings. Hans Theessink, who is also a singing, songwriting guitarist (he blows harp here as well), hails from the Netherlands and is well known in Europe for a bulging collection of solo discs dating back to 1970. Both push the boundaries of soul, blues, gospel, and roots music and have worked extensively together in the past. This 2008 collaboration finds the duo joining with percussionist Phil Block and Richard Thompson (on electric guitar for two tracks) for a relaxed, predominately acoustic set of eclectic covers and a few older, rearranged catalog items from both men that sound almost unrehearsed in their natural spontaneity. Songs made famous by Bo Diddley ("You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover"), Fats Domino ("Let the Four Winds Blow") and Wilson Pickett ("Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You") nuzzle up to deeper blues selections from Memphis Slim and J.B. Lenoir for a stroll down memory lane that feels pretty close to what you'd hear if these two sat down on their back porch with a few beers without the tapes running. Theessink's deep bass voice and Evans' higher pitched gutsy soul/gospel tone make for surprisingly effective harmonies even though both are distinctive on their own. It's a laid-back session, heavy on folksy soul/blues with "Dark End of the Street," "Trouble in Mind," and the chestnut "Glory of Love" (likely picked up by Theessink from Big Bill Broonzy's version). Yet the combination of voices and originals mixed with oldies yields an unhurried vibe that's contagious and flows with the easy rhythm of buddies with mutual respect having a blast playing together. While it's not either artist's best work and at times seems a little too casual, Visions is a thoroughly enjoyable project that fans of either Evans or Theessink will relish.

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