Hillstomp has simply outdone themselves on this new record,
The Woman That Ended The World. Their debut full length, One
Word, was chock full of gritty country-blues songs presented with
a very unique flair and clear presence. This latest record builds
on that foundation, but strips things down even farther and simplifies
most songs to their bare essence, providing a glimpse of just what
an excellent guitar player Henry Kammerer really is. His abilities
on slide guitar have grown leaps and bounds, smoothing out in some
places, but growing more powerful and growly at just the right times.
The new record starts off with a cover of R.L. Burnside's
"Poor Black Mattie" that is as solid as R.L.'s versions
ever were, and actually makes the song all the more powerful through
the excellent playing and lo-fi production. It's a perfect set-up
for what is to come on the rest of the record. Hillstomp throws in
some fine attitude on "Momma Told Papa" accompanying guitar
that would be perfect on a Big Sugar record were it a bit smoother.
This original composition really shows how dynamic the band is becoming
in the studio, and how their abilities as arrangers have grown since
the first record. A cover of Muddy Waters' "Can't Be Satisfied"
is up next, and it rocks exactly the way it should, with some low
fidelity drums and tambourine fleshing out a rhythm part that accentuates
the loose and perfect guitar. By the time "In The Hole"
arrives, it's almost a shock to hear a slower track that reminds me
of the finest non-rocking moments of Morphine. This track is
pure melody, subdued and light, but powerful in its cautious presentation.
"Jackson Parole Board Blues" sounds like it could have
come off of an early Eric Clapton record, only Slowhand was
never this gritty and low-down. This song would play great on any
Americana or classic rock station that had the balls to actually play
some real blues. The music comes back around to a jumpy porch-yard
blues on a cover of Fred McDowell's "You Done Told Everybody"
which flows into the almost punkabilly jangle of "Boom Boom Room
East Blues". This track really stands out because it is a different
take on the blues from most of the other tracks presented here. Weaving
a tale of their hometown, "N.E. Portland 3 AM" is an almost
autobiographical sketch of how the music came to be. Slowing things
down for "Deep Knee Blues", Kammerer finally puts some tremolo
on his guitar and smoothes things out into a more northern sounding
blues for one of the best tracks on the record. The album wraps with
a devilishly Robert Johnson-esque cover of Rainey Burnette's
"Coal Black Mattie"
slow and drawling, the tune is
filled with heart and a deep empathy for the pain of the author.
Hillstomp may not be a household word
yet. But if those who
are constantly on the lookout for great new music and dig blues music
find them, then there will be a quick rise to the top of the pile.
The band pays homage to all the greats of the delta blues and stays
deeply rooted in the great traditions of the music while keeping their
sound unique to themselves and fresh
and honestly, this band
is mostly like Mark E. Smith stripping down The Fall and
making a country stomp record. It's got the same weird edginess that
Smith brings to his music, all wrapped around some of the down-homiest
blues music you white folks may ever get to hear.
1 Poor Black Mattie
2 Momma Told Papa
3 Can't Be Satisfied
4 In The Hole
5 Shake It
6 Jackson Parole Board Blues
7 You Done Told Everybody
8 Boom Boom Room East Blues
9 N.E. Portland 3 AM
10 Deep Knee Blues
11 Coal Black Mattie
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