By Kristi Kates
Who Hit John? has made a lot of progress since the eclectic acoustic band began in 2006 as “three guys jamming in the living room for fun,“ as Who Hit John?‘s Dan McCartney puts it. McCartney, joined by fellow multi-instrumentalists Nathan Dannison, Nick Vander Vliet, Josh Keller, and Mark Duval, says that starting the project wasn‘t any sort of pre-planned notion - but was instead spurred by the simple enjoyment of music, and pal Dannison‘s, er, unusual brand of talent.
“We soon found out that my old friend Nathan played the fiddle like a tipsy raccoon, and decided we had a band,“ McCartney laughs.
For those unfamiliar with the sound of Who Hit John?, the Kalamazoo-based band proves to be a tricky initial sell, although once you hear them, you‘ll definitely be buying.
McCartney himself describes their sound as “Steve Martin meets Dizzy Gillespie,“ while recent listens and other reviews peg them as a “rockin‘ string band“ or a “modern bluegrass dance band.“
While the base of their sound does begin with strings (guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin), Who Hit John? keep adding other diverse musical elements in order to expand their sound.
“Where we were once mainly an old time string band (think Old Crow Medicine Show or The Red Clay Ramblers), we have now moved on to Baltic ballads, hot jazz and Dixieland standards,“ McCartney says, “and we continue to write dynamic originals that somehow seem to fit in with all those classic acoustic roots genres.“
Currently promoting their latest album, *Heirloom,* McCartney says that, while proud of the disc, they‘ve already managed to evolve the band past it as they‘ve continued to grow.
“Our sound has changed quite a bit since *Heirloom‘s* recording,“ he explains, “we‘ve just begun putting songs together for our third album, and plan to start recording into the fall, with a release date around December.“
Also being noticed by the band are a plethora of their peers, as McCartney points out that Michigan is “thick with folk music,“ many of which are some of the band‘s favorite acts.
“The Red Sea Pedestrians are some of our favorite local musicians as far as songwriting and performance,“ he says, “we also love Seth Bernard, May Earlewine and the whole Earthworks collective. Not to mention Red Tail Ring (Michael Beauchamp is one of my songwriting heroes) and Graham Parsons and the Go Rounds. There really are too many to mention.“
Who Hit John? are slated to join the ranks of the Black Cat Concert series in Charlevoix, the somewhat under-the-radar little concert site that could - and has - been quietly but steadily promoting a slew of original acts throughout the summer season for the past few years.
The band will of course play songs from *Heirloom,* but their Black Cat audience will also be treated to yet another evolved side of this skillful band, who McCartney says are “really proud“ of the new direction that their sound has taken.
“For those who have seen us before, they can expect a whole new flavor of the acoustic string band sound,“ McCartney explains, “with the addition of trumpet and two new songwriters in the band, we will arrive with a slew of new tunes and styles of music you never knew you loved.“
*Who Hit John? will perform as part of the Black Cat Concert series in Charlevoix on Friday, September 3 at 8 p.m.
Tickets ($15) at www.blackcatconcerts.com; more info on Who Hit John? at www.myspace.com/whohitjohn5.*