Hans Chew: Open Sea (At The Helm Records)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Speechless. Completely. There are song writers and composers and then there is Hans Chew. He has a vision and process that is not usually seen in rock and roll and forget about Americana. I am calling this Americana, but I am still not sure that moniker is correct. I need more research. All of the songs on Open Sea have a very “prog” feel to them. That is something you don’t say everyday, especially when listening to Americana music. A four for. Equal parts late 60s Grateful Dead, Jethro Tull, Allman Brothers, and Lowell George era Little Feat. 
These aren’t just songs, they are movements and events. Only one song Who Am Your Love? (Track 4) comes in at under four minutes. The other five numbers are six minutes plus. Now, that leads to a conundrum: songs this long can sometimes come across as self indulgent and boring. Not so. Hans keeps these songs interesting and listenable. A testament to his talent as a musician and composer.
Enough generalities, let’s hit some brass tacks. I will go again to the shortest number on this collection, Who Am Your Love? (Track 4). What it lacks in length, it makes up for with sheer grit and determination. This is a blues based number that that starts off slow and methodical and ends up smacking you in the face like a hay maker coming from a mile away. 
Let’s bookend that with the longest song on Open Seas, Freely (Track 5). This is a nine minute juggernaut that is as beautiful as it is subtle. Again, Hans’ composing abilities are what makes this song so masterful and not feel like nine minutes. In fact, it is so compelling, I could have used a few more minutes to be honest. No worries, I still have my trusty rewind button.
Hans’ voice, along with the chilling, psychedelic guitars, create something infectious and beautiful that begs to be rewound and heard again, just in case something was missed. I will repeat his process again and again. I need to be sure. I don’t want to miss one glorious note. I need it all etched into my long term memory. Freely again builds into a lovely crescendo that could have only been created by a genius composer, mad scientist, or both.
Any fans of the Allman’s? I thought so. Cruikshanks (Track 2) is straight out of Whippin’ Post Fillmore East circa 1971. Chew and company learn from the masters on how to stretch out a jam. While The Allman’s have oft been accused of stretching out the jams a little too much, this is not the case with Hans. This jam is so tight and lazer focused that it doesn’t wane for one note.  
There is a lot of jamming, but I would hardly call this jam band music. This is singular and unique. I will have a hard time getting Open Sea off my mind. I am not gonna try. I will keep it there as long as it naturally wants to stay. No brute forcing it. I don’t need to. This one really deserves a lot of attention. 
Listen and Buy Open Sea

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