The thing I like about the one man bands like Joe Buck and Scott H. Biram is the abominable amount of energy they put into their music. It is rare to see an individual member of a band with as much energy as a one man band, or a one man band that doesn’t have the same energy as a whole band combined.
But consider what could happen if you put two one man bands together in a two piece, meaning two powerhouse musicians with a whole band’s worth of guts, energy and talent together. Some might worry this combination would give you a rip in the fabric of the universe, but in truth what you get is Portland, Oregon’s Hillstomp.
Hillstomp is made up of John Johnson, who plays a modified drum kit made of buckets and cans and other hapless objects that get the shite beat out of them, and Henry Kammerer on guitar, who also plays a little banjo and cigar box guitar (like in the video example below). But both are multi-instrumentalists, and in a Hillstomp set you might see John playing guitar as well, and Henry banging on stuff.
Hillstomp is predominately blues, but all of those heavy handed influences of punk, country, and bluegrass are there as well. Much attention in Hillstomp’s music is paid to setting a groove in that very addicting North Mississippi Trance Blues style. Their music is almost impossible to stand still to, and sticks to your bones like heroin. You mix that with the up-tempo energy of punk and the sinful, soulful themes of country and bluegrass and Hillstomp is a potion that will set your hair on fire.
There is a reason that most two piece bands trying to cover the whole spectrum of sounds of a full band usually don’t work, and reasons why this one does, mainly the energy they bring to the music, but also a decent amount of attention paid to how they arrange each song. It might seem like two animals beating on instruments and screaming, but setting and maintaining a groove is really what sets Hillstomp apart. If that means that the drummer John Johnson has to start off a song by chucking out the groove on the guitar, while Henry is the one banging on stuff, then so be it. It looks like chaos, but in a musical sense Hillstomp has a wise approach to building a tune and setting a groove.
When I saw these guys at Pickathon they brought the house down. When they started playing, there were maybe 10 people who had showed up in the barn they were playing at to see them. By the end of the show, people couldn’t get in the doors the place was so packed. John Johnson busted a bucket he was playing with such enthusiasm.
I’d been hearing about Hillstomp for months from people saying I had to see this band, and I kept missing them when they came through town. Now I understand the hype. When you leave a Hillstomp show, you leave a Hillstomp disciple. Videos and recordings only do it so much justice. Mark my words, Hillstomp is getting out in front of people more and more, and in six months, this could be one of the hottest bands out there in the underground scene, if they aren’t already.
In other words, you need Hillstomp in your life.