A dear friend of mine introduced me to the music of CW Stoneking about a year ago. As a supporter of some great Australian artists I trusted her judgement although quite how she’d come to hear of this growling old-style bluesman who describes his unique sound as “Hokum Blues” was beyond me. It turns out he’d recorded a cover of the White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’ on a well-known Aussie radio broadcast called ‘Like A Version’ and once I’d heard that record I was hooked and having the opportunity to catch a rare live show in Northern Ireland was a chance not to be missed.
Support for the show comes from relatively unknown Brooklyn blues-punk artist Brownbird Ruby Relic who’s perhaps best known for his “anti-stereo” analogue recording technique. A little of this magic is perhaps lost when he’s cranked through a big digital in-house PA system but the quality of the tunes remains and leaves me feeling a lust to be in a seedy NYC bar, stomping my foot on a beer-sodden floor.
It’s a Sunday night in Belfast though and the crowd are somewhat middle-class and respectful. Perhaps as a nod to that, CW Stoneking and band are looking a little more dapper than usual with immaculately Bryllcremed hair and striped boating blazers. In truth he’s more of a preacher than a performer but certainly entirely authentic in his recreation of the downtrodden hobo blues from almost a century ago.
With a set mainly comprised of tracks from his 2010 album “Jungle Blues” there’s an old ragtime feel to the entire show particularly when Stoneking’s resonator national guitar and tenor banjo are joined by a phenomenal brass section who add beautiful touches of swing, jazz and calypso into the mix. While there’s no inclusion of that storming cover of “Seven Nation Army”, that in itself is perhaps testament to a band with a high calibre of authentic old blues tunes and while they’ve still got a few UK dates left to tour you should get out and enjoy this unique experience while you can.
Review by: Scott Edgar
Video: CW Stoneking on Later with Jools
Buy CD: Jungle Blues