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.
Built on more than 15 years of tradition, today’s Hillfolk takes their acoustic guitar, double bass, and “anything you can find at a hardware store” sound and integrates driving drums and an electrified sound, kicking down limitations to create a vibe that goes beyond their Americana “junkerdash” roots. Want to call it bluegrass’s trouble-making cousin? Fine by us. A bit of string-band blues? Sure ‘nuff. A concoction of electrified rockin’ soulful folksy witchcraft mayhem? Now you’re talking, mama. The indelible through-line is rooted in the band’s song craftsmanship. From mountains of frontman Travis Ward’s ragged, spiral-bound notebooks comes the hard and tender. They can blow the roof off the place or draw you around the fire with their earnest musical narratives of the back alleys, the open range, and the front porch. They paint with sound the earnest stories about the lives of lovers, law-breakers, and the lion-hearted. Heroes and outcasts alike. Hailing from Boise, Idaho, the always young-at-heart Hillfolk Noir has been carving their own musical path for 15 years. Grab a cup of juice and ease on down to enjoy these newfound Hillfolk vibes. “If John Steinbeck owned a speakeasy,” said John Doe (X, the Knitters), “Hillfolk Noir would be the house band.”