March 13, 2012

Who Hit John?

Who Hit John? have been performing, jamming, and busking since 2006. With all five members taking a hand at singing and songwriting the outcome is eclectic and honest. Kalamazoo Michigan's Who Hit John? have tenaciously evolved from their beginnings as an old time string band playing on the street corner for tips. Now weaving gypsy jazz and swing flavors into an already assorted collage of barnstorming old time originals and traditionals, they blend music of the past with a new vibrant breath of excitement and soul. Expect fanciful fiddle and trumpet melodies over a thick core of acoustic rhythm.

Who Hit John?'s first album, Old Gray Road (2008), captured the raw, old time, fiddle driven feeling of the five band members. Recorded at Heart Center Studios in Big Rapids, MI in 14 action-packed hours, it is a casual snapshot of the newly formed band. Stand out tracks include Further Than a Stone, written by Nick Vander Vliet, a bluegrassy love song with tasty mandolin solos and high energy vocal harmonies; Change, written by banjoist Dan McCartney, a lonesome folk tune peppered with harmonica, banjo; and the title track Old Gray Road, written by Kris Kehn, a fast-moving storm of fiddle, mandolin and slide guitar about a lost soul walking his last, long mile. It's a good example of how all members take a hand at writing original material which brings a wealth of diversity to their sound.

Their second album, Heirloom (2009), was recorded in a 100-year-old barn in Who Hit John's hometown of Kalamazoo, MI. With the fresh songwriting styles of then new member Gorman, Vander Vliet, Kehn and McCartney, these fifteen tracks seem to span a century of folk music. With carefully crafted songs about love, drinking, conscription and tomatoes, this album cleanly captures the band's continuing evolution. Stand out tracks include Conscription Man, written by Ian Gorman, a rawkus banjo driven anthem of the civil war draftee; Possum Stomp, written by Kris Kehn, a bouncy instrumental rag featuring a playful dance between fiddle and clarinet; and Watering Hole, written by Nick Vander Vliet and nominated for two WYCE Jammie awards...

Who Hit John's third release, "Great Recession Blues" (2011), adds the songwriting and stylings of new members Josh Keller (trumpet, guitar, bass) and Mark Duval (bass, guitar, harmonica). Josh brings in a new musical direction for WHJ, adding New Orleans jazz, blues and swing from the 20's, 30's and 40's to the old time fiddle sound. This album also features a set of songs recorded live at O'Duffy's Pub, where the band performs monthly most of the year.

The new album, Whistle on the Rail (2013), is due to release in May!
Featuring 12 original songs by 4 songwriters, with styles ranging from hot jazz, to cajun, old time fiddle, gypsy swing, blues, jug band, latin, and full New Orleans horn section.
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