Hillstomp to shake up the blues fest | PostIndependent.com

Hillstomp to shake up the blues fest

CARBONDALE ” The Ballad of John Henry, the steel-driving man who hammered out a railroad tunnel by hand faster than a steam drill, is one of the most popular folk songs in American history.

For decades, it’s been played by young and old, sung around the campfire, by children in the classroom, and on stage by famous bands. Yet every time the musicians from the duo Hillstomp play their trance blues version of “John Henry,” they feel proud to be sharing the story of an American legend.

“Songs are just stories, and they just get handed down,” said vocalist/guitarist Henry Kammerer. “‘John Henry’ is a song we love to play. We play it twice a week to as many as 400 people. It’s cool to share that. It’s very humbling and awesome to think we’re part of that American tradition.”

Hillstomp will perform at the fifth annual KDNK Blues and BBQ Fest on Saturday on Main Street.

Free live music begins at 5 p.m. with local favorites Big Daddy Lee and the Kingbees, followed by Hillstomp.

In addition, the event features barbecue, micro-brewed beer, the Mount Sopris Historical Society ice cream social, and cooking demonstrations by renowned chefs. The first-ever Art Bike Auction takes place at 6:30 p.m., and shortly after 9 p.m. Jane Bachrach will present a 2007 Mountain Fair retrospective slide show.

Hillstomp, from Portland, Ore., love to play “traditionals” ” songs that have been handed down for generations ” and even reach back to the Old World for material. But their repertoire is about 70 percent originals.

Their unique leg-slappin’ tunes created with an assortment of vintage mics, buckets, cans, barbecue grill lids, guitar and slide guitar draws from north Mississippi trance blues, the hills of Appalachia and punkabilly.

They have three albums to their name, most recent of which is the live “After Two But Before Five,” but there’s a lot of uncharted territory for the two. Kammerer has won praise for his guitar playing but his new favorite instrument is the banjo. They also have been discussing a “quieter” acoustic album.

“I think the future of Hillstomp rests in what we want. There are no delusions of us to wind up on the cover of Rolling Stone. It’s not what we want; there’s not broad enough appeal,” Kammerer explained.

“But there are people who want this kind of music even if they don’t know it. I hope that it has honesty, danceability, funness … and there’s a lot of hurt and passion in it.

The Blues and Brews Fest is a fundraiser for KDNK with proceeds from food and drink sales and the Art Bike Auction going to the community radio’s programming and events.

The festival is from 2-9 p.m. with food demonstrations beginning at 3 p.m. For more information call KDNK at 963-0139 or go to http://www.kdnk.org.

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