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With over three decades on the clock - and counting - the annual springtime Jacob's Ladder Festival has long been a fixture of the Anglo entertainment and getaway calendar. Now into its sixth year, the main festival's younger sibling, the Winter Weekend version, appears to be accruing a similarly loyal following.
This year's winter event takes place, at the now permanent berth of Nof Ginosar on the northwestern corner of the Kinneret, on December 4 and 5, with its usual comparatively slimmed down roster of shows and plenty of perennials on offer. Regular Jacob's Ladder patrons - of either or both annual festivals - will, no doubt, be delighted to groove and sway to the performing skills of the likes of Galilean guitarist-vocalist Diane Kaplan, singalong duo Larry and Mindy, veteran folk twosome Judi 'n' Lynn Lewis and high energy three-sibling act The Tsanchani Brothers. And if you're looking for something more active to do over the two days, dance sessions of the American and Irish varieties will be available, courtesy of Cyrelle Forman Soffer and Yair Werdyger respectively.
The local lineup will be bolstered by a couple of acts from overseas. Fans of Johnny Cash will have fun at Michael J's two festival gigs - December 4 at 9:30 p.m. and December 5 at 2 p.m., with a workshop squeezed in at the relatively unearthly hour of 9 a.m. on the Saturday. Michael J has made a successful career out of Cash material and, it wouldn't be going to far to say that, if the Winter Weekend audiences close their eyes during Mr. J's shows they will, no doubt, think that the late country-rockabilly crooner has managed to find his way back to the terrestrial bandstand.
The other import in the weekend program represents something of an unlikely cultural-musical hybrid. 61 year old bluesman Hans Theesink originally hails from Enschede in the Netherlands and has been a resident of Vienna, Austria for some years - none of which prevents him from working his mojo magic on blues audiences across the globe. "Yes, I must admit I felt a bit strange playing the blues in the States the first time I performed there - after all, it's their roots music," said Theesink in a telephone interview from Enschede during a pit stop of a busy European tour. "The Americans certainly aren't waiting for a European blues musician to come to show them how it's done. But I also think the Americans are very open to different nationalities playing their music, as long as you do it well and keep them entertained."
Theesink appears to feed off quite a few inspirational sources. While on the cover of his 1994 Road Blues album he looks like a dead ringer for Carlos Santana, Slow Train, released in 2007, reveals a strong vocal bond with JJ Cale. "Yeah, I listened to a lot of JJ in the Seventies," says Theesink, "he's a big hero of mine. He has a great groove and a laidback style which I like."
Still, growing up in Holland in the Fifties, the young Theesink didn't have a lot access to original blues material, other than over the airwaves. "I listened to the blues on the radio, on Radio Luxembourg," he recalls. "It was when I heard [blues icon] Big Bill Broonzy that I really got turned on to the blues. He had a playing style that I'd never heard before. There was something so emotional in the way he played."
There were other genres to feed off too. "I was into skiffle and the folk scene - guys like Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary, and I knew about [legendary folk-blues artist] Leadbelly too. But, when the blues scene started developing in Holland it was more electric blues. That was after the blues revival in Britain." Theesink's blues soul was really set alight when he finally caught a live blues gig. "It was in 1964 or '65 when [harmonica player and singer-vocalist duo] Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee came to play in Holland. That's when I really saw how the blues was played."
Over the years, naturally, Theesink has developed his own style and voice, incorporating blues and folk elements as he goes along. "Every culture adds something to the music, the world is so small and anyone can be exposed to any music. Music is open for everyone. Wherever the music takes you that perfectly legitimate."
Like Michael J, Theesink will be kept gainfully employed over the Winter Weekend, with a gig on Friday at 8:30 p.m., a workshop the following morning at 10:30 and the closing act of the festival at 4 p.m. on the Saturday.
With free tractor tours of the vicinity, workshops and handicrafts activities, stuff for the kiddies and a Lilac Sheer and Shay Tochner tribute to protest singers from the Sixties, the cozy two-dayer should deliver, and then some.
For more information about the Jacob's Ladder Winter Weekend go to: www.jlfestival.com, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (04) 685-0403.