Hillstomp is a 2-man band comprised of Henry Hill Kammerer and John Johnson. Henry plays guitar and banjo like a hurricane, and if you close your eyes you’d swear he’s playing 2 parts at once. John Johnson beats mercilessly on his drums, with the fury of a demon loose from hell. Once you get past the pure ferocity of his playing, you notice the parts are intricately crafted patterns that provide the framework for Kammerer’s guitar and banjo sorcery.
The whole thing started as a love letter of sorts to North Mississippi blues played by the likes of RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. It first caught on in college towns like Eugene and Olympia, but soon bigger cities got it as well. The band stayed there for a few years and then started to morph – adding banjo and writing more and more of their own music. The fast and loud songs kept coming, but now they were interspersed with ballads and slow-burners to give the sweat-soaked dancers a chance to breathe. They have set out on national headlining tours, tore their way through Europe a few times, and opened for many of their heroes along the way.
Hillstomp sounds like a boom box blasting from a shopping cart. Two madmen have strapped an engine to the cart and it’s too big and running too hot. They’ve got a banjo and a megaphone, a washboard and a kick drum. They’ve stocked the cart with guitars, buckets, car parts, and microphones and they are hurtling towards a blown out bridge while the bad front wheel flaps manically. The fools think they can jump the bridge and land safely on the other side. They are very wrong but no one has told them because…well, they just seem so happy. And there you are, bouncing alongside them and deep down you hope they make it. Hillstomp is folk music in its purest form – from loud and gritty, to intricate and poignant, and most importantly, always heartfelt and true.
Grab a drink, sit down, take a breath, have a listen for a
moment, an hour, a night, because here they come with their
earnest musical narratives of the back alleys, the open range,
the hollow, the front porch, the lives behind the love, want,
fear and fracture of a world that despite all adversity remains,
within their songs, hopeful, thoughtful, jubilant.
The band deems their sound Junkerdash – part folk, part
bluegrass, part string-band blues, part punk, and most certainly
wholly kickass. Bourbon and the Western Swing are a recommended
pairing with Hillfolk’s Junkerdash, we’re told, which seems
Fronted by multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, Travis
Ward, this trio of neo-traditionalists includes Alison Ward on
musical saw, washboard, banjo, and purely gorgeous vocals, as
well as Mike Waite keeping the heartbeat, rhythm and flow alive
on double bass.
John Doe (X, the Knitters), patron saint of the American Dream,
once said, “If John Steinbeck owned a speakeasy, Hillfolk Noir
would be the house band.”
See you at the show, on the dance floor, in the throes of
another broke-down and beautiful Saturday night.
– CW, 2018