Rhythm & Views


After two well-received studio albums, the Portland, Ore., duo Hillstomp is back with a righteous-sounding live set plumbing the depths of swamp-stomp blues and old-timey Appalachian roots music translated into the dialect of ferocious rock 'n' roll. The stripped-down sound will remind some listeners of such forefather acts as Flat Duo Jets or even Tucson's Doo Rag.

Through the use of a variety of vintage microphones and amps, generous helpings of down-at-the-crossroads slide guitar and monstrous trash-heap percussion, Hillstomp members Hurricane Henry and Lord Johnny Buckets create what has been dubbed "bucket 'n' slide rock 'n' roll."

They alternate credible originals, traditional tunes and gorgeous, stark covers of the likes of R.L. Burnside, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Bukka White. The vibe is like a musical version of a barroom knife fight: exciting, dangerous and a little surreal, the best examples of which are McDowell's "Dark Clouds A-Risin'" and White's "Shake 'Em on Down," punctuated at times by the hoots and hollers of the audience.

Equally endearing are the Hillstomp songs "Roustabout" and "Landlord Blues," both of which sound as if they have been gathering dust in the archives of some 78 collector. The album closes with "Stewball," the folk classic that has immortalized a famous racehorse for more than 250 years. Borrowing the call-and-response version popularized by Woody Guthrie, Hillstomp perform it with just a simple kick drum and no guitar. It's raw and irresistible.

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