Australian hokum-blues extraordinaire C.W. Stoneking is a man and a musician of a bygone era.
10 years on from his blues-soaked debut King Hokum, Stoneking has built up a solid following both here and overseas. From performing for Jools Holland abroad to performing with the Bull sisters back home, the 41 year-old funny father of four has captivated the world over with his old timey-wimey sounds and far-fetched Southern stories.
Although most recognised for his unique vocals, C. W. Stoneking is a more than capable musician with a knack for complementing his voice with his guitar. Both aesthetically and sonically, the guitar is the icing on the cake, and sometimes, even the best bit.
Neo-blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist C.W. Stoneking was born Christopher Willian Stoneking in 1974 in Katherine, NT, to American parents who split up shortly after he was born. Spending most of his time with his schoolteacher father, Stoneking was raised in the Aboriginal community of Papunya until he was nine years old, after which he relocated with his father to Sydney.
He began playing guitar at 11 years old and began playing with local bands by the time he was 13. While a student, he stumbled across some of his father’s country blues tapes and was soon well under the spell of 20s & 30s blues artists like Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Minnie, Leroy Carr and Big Bill Broonzy.
Moving to Melbourne in 1997, Stoneking began playing as a solo blues artist. He also formed a band, C.W. Stoneking & the Blue Tits, that same year, only to disband 18 months later after the death of their mandolin player. He recorded his debut solo album, King Hokum, in 2005, which garnered tremendous critical praise when it was released the following year. Stoneking began touring with the Primitive Horn Orchestra (which included Kirsty Fraser on additional vocals, Ros Jones on tuba, Ed Farlie on trumpet, and Kynan Robinson on trombone). On the most recent album, Gon’ Boogaloo, he utilities the Bull sisters – Vika and Linda – and Paul Kelly’s daughters, Madeleine and Memphis on chorus backing vocals.
Stoneking recently went electric, replacing his loyal vintage National steel guitar and banjo for a Fender Jazzmaster.
The “Old Roy” National was a gorgeous mirror-metal silver creation of intricate cutaways and resonating jangles. His new axe of choice is even more of a scene-stealer. A shiny luxurious gold body with a brown neck and white front plate, the Jazzmaster is a statement piece and a statement sound Paired against his Brylcreem hair, pinstripe suits, braces and bowties, the throwback look is complete, and heritage and influence wise, pretty authentic too.
He usually plays his golden Jazzmaster through an old Harmony amp.
Stoneking’s records and live shows echo the sounds of 1920s and 1930s blues, ragtime, calypso, jazz, and hillbilly. Combining good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ gospel, jungle blues, doo-wop and dancehall tunes, Stoneking’s guitar skills complement his memorable sound.
The tone of a Jazzmaster is warmer than most guitars, and has a dinstrinctive chimney two-pickup. The whammy bar is another surf music characteristic of the Jazz, adding old fashioned flair to slur in and out of chords.
From foreboding beats and string strokes to chimey, jangly solos and licks, the guitar parts of a C. W. Stoneking song are instant mood setters with different textures and a tough, dry tone.
The trembling bar chord beat of ‘The Zombie’, the fast-paced surfy jive of ‘We Gon’ Boogaloo’, the melancholic and slow finger-picking melody of ‘Jailhouse Blues’, the piercing boppy solo opening of ‘How Long’, cow-bell chord chime of ‘Maggie Mae’, the theatrical and confident strums of ‘The Greatest Liar’, the pleasant pace of ‘Going The Country’, the‘Get On The Floor’ raucous riff, the bass beat of ‘Bad Luck Everywhere You Go’, the intricately beautiful ‘On A Desert Isle’, and the plucky bold brass rendition of The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’.
C.W. Stoneking & his Primitive Horn Orchestra perform ‘Jungle Lullably’ and ‘Jungle Blues’ live on Later With Jools Holland back in 2010.
His Kapelsessie acoustic session, recorded in the oldest building of Nijmegen, the St. Nicolaas Chapel during the Valkhof Festival 2011.
Live recording at Record Paradise record store ‘The Zombie’ in April 2015, and his Live at 3RRR segment earlier this year.
His extensive interview a few years back in Holland is an intriguing watch. You can check it out here.
Below is a performance and interview from Stoneking at 11th Mojo Station Blues Festival in Rome this year. He’s an interesting character for sure:
C.W. STONEKING 2015 TOUR DATES:
Friday, 30th October
Manning Bar, Sydney
Saturday, 31st October
The Triffid, Brisbane
Friday 6th November
Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne
*Extra show: Saturday 7th November
Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Saturday 7th November
Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Thursday 12th November
Settlers Tavern, WA
Friday 13th November
Prince Of Wales, WA
Saturday 14th November
Fremantle Arts Centre, WA