In one sense, it could be said that Dutch-born guitarist Julian Sas represents a bold new breed of blues performers. The fact that he hails from the Netherlands makes him very much a part of the international expansion of the blues.
But for all his uniqueness, Sas is, in some ways, as deeply smothered in blues tradition as any Mississippi-born, guitar-picking traveler. Call him the missing link between his Dutch homeland and the Mississippi delta. But whatever you call him, he has a talent and passion for his craft that can’t be denied.
Born in a city called Beneden-Leeuwen, Sas’ early inspirations on guitar and vocals included Jimi Hendrix, Peter Green, Alvin Lee and Freddie King. Another key influence was Irish guitar legend Rory Gallagher. And one of Sas’ biggest career moves was the chance to play with Gallagher’s bandmates.
It didn’t take long for Sas’ to establish himeself, armed with remarkable skill and a fascinating way of viewing his instrument. He says, “I have always seen the guitar as a voice which I can use in many ways, it is also the voice of my soul. And sometimes if words fail this is the way to express myself.”
Sas’ first opportunity to express himself on record was 2000’s Spirit’s on the Rise, followed by a string of ten successes in his native country as well as the US. Anyone unfortunate enough to be unaware of this unique talent has a lot of catching up to do.
Wandering Between Worlds
Among the many albums in his impressive discography is a 2009 release called Wondering Between Worlds. This title could well sum up Sas’ approach to music. Not only has he done his share of geographical wandering (The Dutch-born guitarist and his band have toured around Europe and beyond) but his influences have truly spanned the globe and included many artists and musical styles not conventionally understood as part of the blues canon.
When asked about his eclectic approach to music and why he’s developed such a fondness for mixing things up, his reply is simple. “Because I am a musician. I listen to everything, it is not only blues, because your mind has to be open for music.” Sas maintains that such an open-minded view is needed for creative growth. Among the influences outside of the blues that inspire him, Sas lists “Beethoven, country and Jazz.” Hearing each of these influences in his one-of-a kind sound isn’t easy, but what can clearly be heard is sound like nobody else’s. Julian Sas’ open mind takes his music to a place that would ordinarily be impossible.
From the opening track of Julian Sas’ Coming is an upbeat, energetic rocker called “Jump for Joy.” And the album’s closer in an elegiac ballad called “Walking Home With Angels.” Flawlessly packed between the extremes of these tunes, the listener is treated to a wide array of heartfelt confessionals and raw rockers. Whatever the emotion, idea or theme, Sas knows how to make you feel it. This makes perfect sense. After all, he lived it and he feels it himself, so of course, he can make you feel it. Whether you’re from Sas’ homeland of The Netherlands or south of the Mason-Dixon line, Coming Home with feel like a homecoming for you.
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Coming (back) Home
julian-sasFor all his dynamic and breathtakingly new ways approaching his music, Sas is still, however, an old-school bluesman at heart. After all, a blues player’s job is simply to tell his story better than anyone else can and to do so with passion and honesty. When it comes to carrying out this simply duty, Julian Sas comes from the very best tradition of the blues. Coming Home was, according to Sas, “A very personal album with lots of stories I have been through the last years: loss of friends, the changing world, etc.” He adds, “It has to come from the heart. ”This could well describe any of Julian Sas’ musical endeavors.
Some of Sas’ biggest leaps in creative expansion have come in seemingly tiny steps. For example, he recently added an organ player (Roland Bakker) to the band. As it happened, not only did Bakker’s addition cause the band to sound bigger, but the skilled Hammond organist also brought his own musical ideas. And just like that, Sas’ band saw a gigantic leap along its path.
Given the musical curiosity of its leader, the Julian Sas band is sure to make many more leaps, each more breathtaking than the last.