It takes gumption to cover the dirty blues of R.L. Burnside and give it a personal touch, but Hillstomp meets the challenge, putting the cliché to rest that you must live the blues in order to successfully play them. After Two But Before Five showcases the live side of this Portland, Ore., duo and delivers raw, gritty versions of their previous two studio efforts with less lamentation and more celebration.
With buckets instead of drums, John Johnson compliments the slide-chord-drone of guitarist Henry Kammerer and together they effectively find the cheerful side of the North Mississippi hill country blues. While the nods to both Burnside and fellow bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell are frequent, it’s the originals like “NE Portland 3 a.m.” and “Landlord Blues” that prove Hillstomp is more than a cheap knockoff.
Using riffs instead of roots, Hillstomp show the pleasantness that can come from finding incongruity in music. (Jonathan Stumpf)
Hillstomp plays the Badlander Saturday, Jan. 26, at 9 PM. $5.