Dan’s raw brand of blues

By Stuart Buchanan

When hearing Dan Patlansky for the first time, one expects his brand of loud, guitar-driven blues coupled with deep, rasping vocals to be coming from an overweight middle-aged black musician from the deep south of America. Instead, what you get is a 25-year-old skinny white guy from the suburbs of
Johannesburg.

JONI ELS

Growing up listening to his parents’ collection of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, Patlansky picked up a guitar at the age of nine and quickly grew in digit-dexterity to become one of South Africa’s best guitarists. As part of his month-long tour promoting his latest album, Real, Patlansky played at De Tap Huijs in March to an audience of over-forties and students alike.

He says that when he first started playing he failed to attract younger fans, who were unaware of the fresh new style he was bringing to the blues tradition. “After doing a lot of the festivals and the student towns we started getting younger people interested in the music,” says Patlansky. “Our brand of blues is not what a lot of people think it is – we are louder than most metal bands!”

Since then, Patlansky’s popularity has grown both locally and internationally, and in 2005 he travelled to
the southern states in America – the home of blues – to do a six-month tour. Unfortunately for Patlansky,
another visitor to the region cut his tour short and left him with nothing but the clothes on his back. “About a month and a half of touring and building up a decent audience over there, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and I had to flee,” he says. “I’d done a show on Bourbon Street the night before which was full, so I didn’t think the warnings were too serious. But the next morning I went outside for a smoke and the whole city was deserted – everyone had left overnight!” Patlansky was stranded in Alabama for a week, living off sweetcorn and Gatorade, but the only thing on his mind was his 1962 Fender Strat guitar, which he had to leave in New Orleans.

Patlansky’s love for the music he plays is clear in the tense facial expressions synonymous with his live
performances, as well as his open admittance that he could “talk about guitars, guitar players, and guitar
amps for the entire day”. Unlike his last trip to the studio  for the True Blues album, a neat-sounding,
polished-up Patlansky, he describes his latest release as “rough and raw”. Recorded completely live,
but in a studio environment, he feels this latest recording is a better representation of himself.

Patlansky prefers the smaller, more intimate venues like De Tap Huijs: “The people are right up close. You can feel them, and when you hear them react you always play better,” he says. Not to say that he hasn’t had his fair share of large festival audiences too, having performed at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, as well as Splashy Fen and Oppikoppi for the last few years.

As for the future, Patlansky is sceptical about the music scene in SA, saying that although great bands
have emerged in the last few years, the marketing side of things has a long way to go. “I think that’s going to cripple the music industry, because sometimes it’s enough to quit music.” There’s no sign of Patlansky quitting just yet though. With the release of Real set to cement his reputation as one of SA’s best live musicians, we can look forward to more incredible shows in the near future.

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