Crosscut Kings
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Crosscut Kings

Charlevoix, Michigan, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2018

Charlevoix, Michigan, United States
Established on Jan, 2018
Duo Blues Americana




"Rookies Of The Year"

Rookies of the year: Crosscut Kings
Two years ago, the guys in Crosscut Kings didn’t even know one another. Guitarist Jim Bonney and harmonica virtuoso Charlie Witthoeft met through a mutual friend in February 2018 and started making music together shortly thereafter. Under the moniker of Crosscut Kings, though, this Petoskey-hailing roots-blues duo sound as if they’ve been an active band for 20 or 30 years. Part of it is the sound itself, which is familiar but invigorating: loose acoustic guitar picking and slide work; harmonica wails that evoke the sad whistles of a late-night train; Bonney’s gritty, whiskey-drenched vocals, which sound a little like country superstar Chris Stapleton. The other part is sheer hustle; though they’ve only recently crossed the 18-month mark as a band, Crosscut Kings have already played more than 150 shows. Their near-constant spree of performances throughout northern Michigan has made Crosscut Kings one of the area’s buzziest live acts. - Northern Express Magazine

"From Michigan to Texas: Crosscut Kings invited to play in Austin"

The Crosscut Kings have less than a year under their belts as a band together but have already reached music heights they have previously only dreamed of.

The duo routinely plays the Northern Michigan circuit in different bars, breweries and venues. However, a social media post of theirs helped them land a gig in Austin, Texas, to help celebrate the 50th birthday of Guy Forsyth, an internationally touring blues and rock singer.

“He is a huge player in the Austin scene and part of that Austin sound,” said band member and slide guitar player Jim Bonney. “One cool aspect about this all is that we play his music and the conversation about us playing in Texas started with a social media post of ours with a Guy Forsyth hashtag on it.”

Charlie Witthoeft, the second member and harmonica player of the Crosscut Kings, has been playing Forsyth’s music for about two decades in every band he has been in, including his band in college, Mojo and the Boogie Man, Hipps n Ricco, Charlie’s Root Fusion and now the Crosscut Kings.

“We play a few of his songs in the Crosscut Kings and posted a video of one of them on Instagram with a hashtag. All of a sudden his band liked it and followed us. Then a week later we posted another one and he followed us. Then he reached out and told us it was so cool that we were playing his songs and asked us if we would want to come play at his birthday concert,” Witthoeft said.

The two were ecstatic, accepted the invitation and, from Michigan to Texas, made a road trip out of it logging about 2,500 miles and a handful of memories that will last the two a lifetime. Throughout the trip to two saw a number of shows, rehearsed in the car and visited Nashville and Three Man Records.

The concert took place at the Saxon Pub, a venue that opened in 1990 that has hosted well over 22,000 performances, and acted as a fundraiser for the Health Alliance of Austin Musicians. The alliance’s mission is to provide access to affordable health care for Austin’s low-income working musicians, with a focus on prevention and wellness.

“As musicians we don’t typically make a lot of money and it was humbling to see these musicians in Austin and Nashville on our way back playing for tips. It was great to be able to not only play with these music greats but to be doing so to help fellow musicians through this organization get health insurance,” Bonney said.

The night of the performance the duo got to play a total of three songs and had the audience “on the edge of their seats.”

“We played and it was magical,” Witthoeft said. “We were the only ones that got to play three songs and they gave us a headliner spot. The room was standing room only and people were loving it. We had everyone in our hands.”

A further invitation after the performance left the two in disbelief as they found themselves eating brunch with the Forsyths the next morning. The table was surrounded by family and a handful of other musicians that had traveled from New York and Denmark.

“I first met Guy in 1993 doing open mic nights in Austin, but being able to do all of this was like being a real part of it and a part of his family. They really welcomed us in and instead of fans we are now all friends,” Witthoeft said.

The Crosscut Kings are back in Michigan now and have a bit of a break before hitting it hard again in the new year with a show on Jan. 3 in Marquette, Jan. 4 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and one on Jan. 5 in Petoskey. - Petoskey News Review

"Sound Strategy"

A little less than a year ago, musician Jim Bonney, fairly new to northern Michigan, landed a solo gig at the esteemed Red Sky Stage in Petoskey. He was thrilled but saw one problem: “I couldn’t imagine making people sit through two hours of just me playing guitar and singing.”

A friend had long been telling him he had to meet “this amazing harmonica player,” Charlie “Hipps” Witthoeft, part of another local band, Charlie’s Root Fusion. Bonney thought maybe he’d ask Witthoeft to play a song or two with him at the Red Sky show. The two met at Witthoeft’s house to play a couple of songs together and see how they gelled, pre-performance.

“Right from the get-go, it sounded awesome,” Bonney says. “So we tried another, and another, and another ... and by the time we were done with that first rehearsal I meekly asked Charlie if he would be interested in doing the whole two-hour show together.”

After the concert, it was obvious to both musicians that they should approach their collaboration seriously.

“ … we started booking more gigs all over Michigan,” Witthoeft says. “The energy was infectious, and both our talents together just inspired us to get better.”

Only months later, the pair — known as the Crosscut Kings — released their first CD EP. They nabbed a slew of street busking gigs (Street Musique in Harbor Springs, Stroll the Streets in Boyne City, and Buskers on Bridge Street in Charlevoix). Then they recorded an another CD EP. Then they issued a vinyl 45” single, part of a Kickstarter campaign that not only hit its goal in less than 24 hours but also raised three times as much as they’d intended.

Today, the guys play regularly all over northern Michigan: gigs at Stigg’s Brewery and Red Mesa Grill in Boyne City, Beard’s Brewery and Ernesto’s Cigar Lounge in Petoskey, the Whi-Ski in Boyne Falls, and Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City.

What’s propelled this young band so quickly to the forefront of northern Michigan’s music scene?

“When we started, our goal was to play one show at Red Sky Stage in Petoskey,” Witthoeft says.

“Yeah, we weren’t thinking long-term at all,” says Bonney. “We were a new act, with no following, and we wanted to sell tickets, so we looked for every chance to promote that show. We played open mics around the area. We played live on KLT’s Garage. Corey Adkins shot a video of us playing our [then] one-and-only original song for the 9&10 news show The Four.”

“And we post videos on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube,” Witthoeft says.

They’ve even targeted unusual venues, just to get their music out there.

“We play free shows at the senior centers [in Boyne City and Charlevoix], open mics to introduce ourselves to prospective bookers, and private house concerts to help spread the word and build our audience,” Bonney says.

“The challenge [of promoting your band] is probably not unique to northern Michigan, but the biggest challenge I have found here is that while there are lots of places to play, pretty much every venue has their own isolated booking system — so just because you get into one venue in one town doesn’t mean you’re gonna get booked at any other. You have to take it on club by club, town by town.”

And so they have — and continue to do. The band kicked off 2019 with a short tour around the Upper Peninsula, Minnesota, and northern Lower Michigan. In the coming months, they plan to keep writing and recording, with a special focus on booking more performances and music festivals.

“We’ve been very lucky and super fortunate, and people have been extremely generous and kind, but it’s still a lot of hard work to get booked,” Bonney says.

“ …I feel we accomplished a lot in our first 10 months together,” Witthoeft says, “and we are looking forward to even more success in 2019.”

The bandmates define their sound as “acoustic roots, blues, and Americana,” but they don’t let that definition limit them. They take on current rock music, too, remolding it into their own distinctive sound.
“There’s a long tradition of guitar-and-harmonica duos, especially blues duos, so we’re just trying to keep evolving,” Bonney says. “We do play classic blues with a traditional approach, but then we also try to take modern songs, like ‘Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty or ‘Seven Nation Army’ by The White Stripes, and remake them in a more stripped-down way.”
They also write their own songs, drawing from a lot of different American influences — blues, bluegrass, classic country, cowboy songs, Appalachian folk, Cajun zydeco, and more.

Crosscut Kings’ two EPs and vinyl 45 are available at Bonney says the pair aims to get the tracks streaming, and the 45s in record stores, later this year. - Northern Express Magazine



Crosscut Kings is Jim Bonney (guitars, vocals) and Charlie “Hipps” Witthoeft (harmonicas, vocals). They’ve opened for Laith Al Saadi and Rick Estrin and the Nightcats; they’ve shared stages with Guy Forsyth, Ronnie Shellist, and the Chris O’Leary Band; and they’ve logged over 150 public performances in their short 18 months as a duo. Their blend of old-school acoustic roots blues, renditions of modern songs, as well as their own originals, have made them a unique addition to the vibrant live music scene in Northern Michigan.

Band Members