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Hillstomp: Darker the Night (In Music We Trust)

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The third studio album by this raw country-blues-punk duo from Portland starts with "Hammer Ring," which sounds like a field chant filtered through a beat-up old transistor radio, with shots of shallow bucket drums walloping through the distortion.

That wallop, provided by Lord Johnny Bucket (aka John Johnson), is the heart of Hillstomp's Appalachia-meets-the-Delta sound, and if you don't watch out, it'll smack you upside the head while you're digging on Henry Kammerer's rough-hewn blues wail, and his furious two- and three-chord guitar dust devils.

This album has a decidedly bleak tone, especially on the harrowing "Jumper on the Line" and the banjo-led murder ballad "Cold Dark Woods." Things get chaotic/cathartic with the revved-up "Cardiac Arrest in D," which many fans of Tucson's late Doo Rag will find appealing. The record closes with a delicious slow-stomp version—complete with blues harp—of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Got to Move."

Gospel-style background vocals flesh out the terrifying title track, which recalls an old Robert Johnson lament pumped up on meth: "If I was alone tonight and I had a gun / I'd do to myself what someone else should've done." It's creepy enough to cause you to hope it's purely fictional.

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