Open Sea

Hans Chew

At The Helm Records, 2017

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


A pianist from Tennessee but now residing in New York City, Hans Chew earned quite a bit of fame for his work with Jack Rose on his solo albums. It's probably lesser known that Chew is also member of D. Charles Speer & the Helix, which puts an odd spin on country music.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

On Open Sea, his fourth solo album since 2010, Chew's unparalleled brand of piano based Americana, R&B, and rock 'n' roll are heavily influenced by Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Fairport Convention, Mighty Babe, and The Grateful Dead. The rhythm section of Rhyton helps him flesh out these six tunes.

Lead off track “Give Up The Ghost” is an acoustic, guitar-fueled Americana offering where Chews' crisp vocals are complemented with warm keys and an occasional (electric) guitar solo. The song surpasses the six minute mark, and as it progresses, it moves in jam-band territory. “Cruikshanks” follows with '70s rock influenced grooves, where breezy melodies are met with a grittier vocal approach from Chew, giving it a rougher edge.

At the halfway point, the title track “Open Sea” is a lush and smooth rocker that sounds live, while the intense, acoustic acrobatics of “Who Am Your Love?” is the most tumultuous cut here, unwinding with a blues and classic rock spirit.

The last third of the album boasts the nine minute “Freely,” where a handful of genres are touched upon, including progressive and country rock, as well as some piano solos. Meanwhile closer, “Extra Mile” might be the most accessible tune. A charged acoustic rocker, it comes off as a protest folk song, with plenty of vigor and even builds into an upbeat anthemic piano greatness.

If there's someone else like Hans Chew out there, I'm not aware of it. And even if there is, it's unlikely the songwriting prowess, skilled musicianship, and level of sophistication would parallel the near perfection of Open Sea.

Rating: A

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