Hillstomp – The Woman that Ended the World

Hillstomp
The Woman that Ended the World

The Woman that Ended the World, a self-released album, is apparently the second full-length effort of Portland, Oregon duo Hillstomp. After listening to this fabulous disc, only one question remains: why haven’t these guys gotten a record deal? Although a band this good without a record deal seems like a true travesty, I’m thankful that I get the chance to help spread the word.

Hillstomp is Henry Kammerer (vocals and guitars) and John Johnson (percussion and vocals). The duo plays blues music, but with a do-it-yourself approach. The DIY bit comes in the form of the percussion – mainly found items like buckets, cans, and the like used to create an interesting assortment of sounds. The two-some featuring slide guitar and off-the-beaten-path percussion is extremely similar to Bob Log III’s previous band Doo Rag, with the biggest difference being tempo. Hillstomp can rock when needed, but The Woman that Ended the World is more of a trance blues album with a casual approach while Doo Rag seemed more focused on speed and making a racket.

The combination of Kammerer’s sweet slide guitar and Johnson’s homemade instruments meshes extremely well. The duo sounds comfortable playing together, and although Portland doesn’t usually scream blues to most folks, these guys have a firm grasp on all the traditional elements and turn it into something truly unique. Of the 11 tracks on The Woman that Ended the World, six are complete originals. The others include covers of Rainey Burnette’s “Poor Black Mattie” and “Coal Black Mattie,” Fred McDowell’s “You Done Told Everybody,” Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Be Satisfied,” and “Jackson Parole Board Blues,” which uses traditional lyrics. In each instance, Hillstomp infuses a personal touch that is sure to please.

The other tracks on The Woman that Ended the World include a wide range of styles such as country, Americana, rockabilly, and hillbilly. “Shake It” is spruced up with the addition of harmonica and organ, and the result is a real hip-shimmying tune. Even without the extra instruments, the same is true of “Boom Boom Room East Blues,” which bops along at a nice, danceable pace. “Deep Knee Blues” takes a slower approach and is a great representation of Hillstomp’s back-porch jam feel that is apparent throughout the album.

From start to finish The Woman that Ended the World is a fine effort. While I often expect a self-released disc to be low on recording and production values, Hillstomp’s disc can compete with big label endeavors on all fronts. Already a contender for top-10 best albums of 2006 in my book, there is absolutely nothing amiss about this record. Blues fans and those interested in roots music in general should definitely check out this release and support such wonderful music.