Once upon a time, in the days when “greed was good,” anything homemade was synonymous with shabby. Growing up in the Reagan age, a stage filled with buckets, washboards, kettles, spoons and cigar box guitars would’ve seemed more at home on a street corner or back alley saloon.
Thankfully we’ve moved past a time dominated with men with big hair and double-necked electric guitars. The DIY heart beats strong in the breast of young and old all over the country. Knowing how to make it yourself is in vogue, especially for musicians.
That’s not to say there haven’t always been music makers with an appreciation for the simple things. One book in the encyclopedia of music has always been friendly to the make-your-own-instrument movement — the blues. And while some might wonder what two bearded white guys from Portland know about the blues, I can guarantee it’s a lot more than how to bang a drumstick on an upturned bucket.
Meet the men of Hillstomp who reunited this fall, Henry Hill Kammerer and John “Lord Buckets” Johnson (with those names, what other venue could they play?). While they might be just two guys with a few homemade instruments, a guitar and a microphone, they’ve got the blues beaten.
Kammerer and Johnson are part preacher, part pure grit and part mournful crooner, creating a trifecta that can’t be defined by the word “blues” alone. Thrown in the mix is intricate string work for the bluegrass purists, enough thumping beats to please any Black Keys fan, a dash of punk, a pinch of trance blues and a dollop of R.L. Burnside.
The result is a refreshing slap in the face, converting any skeptic who’s unsure that anything homemade could sound this good. And bring your dancing shoes, this dynamic duo induces severe, knee-slapping, hanging-from-the-rafters dance-itis.
Hillstomp plays 10 pm Monday, Dec. 31, at John Henry’s; $5.