I was surprised in London last year by the old-time blues sound of Australian musician C.W. Stoneking. Earlier this year I bought one of his albums. Now Stoneking’s touring Australia, and I caught his Sydney show last night.
It was at the Coogee Bay Hotel. I’d not been to this pub before, but I’ve since learned it recently distinguished itself as the second most violent pub in New South Wales. Luckily for us the several sprawling rooms of the hotel were peaceful last night; or perhaps we bailed before the fisticuffs kicked off.
The first act was American banjo troubadour Al Duvall. His songs were old, moaning jazz, but telling funny stories. Anyone who throws in a kazoo solo now and then is tops in my book, so I liked Al. Although most of us were still socialising at this early stage there were others who liked what Al was doing too.
C.W. Stoneking brought the same authenticity as when I saw him the first time. He and his Primitive Horn Orchestra ran through all sorts of old swing blues, calypso, jungle music, and country jazz. It’s all played so smartly and so honestly that it never feels like it’s approaching parody. They played “Jungle Lullaby”, “Dodo Blues” (with a dig at the Dutch), the funny “Talkin’ Lion Blues”, “Brave Son of America”, “Jailhouse Blues”, “Goin’ Down the Country”, “Rich Man’s Blues” and more. They wisely kept the upbeat songs until towards the end, which kept the crowd lively.
My highlights were the two songs of his I enjoy most: “Don’t Go Dancin’ Down The Dark Town Strutters’ Ball” and “The Love Me Or Die”.
Stoneking only has one more Australian show at the moment – tonight in Brisbane – then he’s off to the UK and the rest of Europe. It seems he’s becoming something of a name there.
Here’s a video from the performance where I first saw him in London last year, and which contains the two favourite songs I mentioned above.