Hoodoo & Hokum Where You Least Expect To Find It

CW Stoneking is one of those musicians who make you want to play that dumb game where you get someone to listen to a song and then say, “OK – guess what they look like and when it was recorded”, which is a dumb game mostly because the fact you’re asking makes it clear that their immediate impression will be wrong and they’ll cleverly revise it and probably guess right.

But anyhoo – born of American parents  but raised in an Aboriginal community, CW Stoneking is an unexpected and unlikely gem. I finally got to see him this week at the slightly contrived, mostly enjoyable and allegedly Seasick Steve curated* Folk America show at the Barbican and he was a definite highlight.

His earlier stuff (such as Goin’ The Country, below) was wonderful early blues offered in a style you’d call authentic if its creator wasn’t a a young Aussie Orson Welles lookalike with tribal tattoos on his arms. But after a couple of albums, his music has developed into the sort of (painfully brief ) set he played tonight – much jazzier, a real New Orleans feel to the brass section and just generally bigger sounding. His new album Jungle Blues documents his days in New Orleans working in a “hoodoo shop” and then his eventual shipwreck en route from Trinidad to West Africa. If you choose to believe him, anyway. A brief chat after the show revealed he did travel 11,ooo miles to do 4 songs at this show then fly home (but, as he reasoned, he was going to be on the BBC).

Anyway, he’s ace and while I’ve heard it argued that he’s veering close to pastiche with his faux-authenticity, I don’t buy it: authenticity in music is a largely bullshit notion anyway, and Stoneking’s deep love for and understanding of the music he plays counts for a lot more.

So, buy his stuff – he deserves your money and he’s great. In fact, buy it direct from the man himself.

CW Stoneking – Goin’ The Country

CW Stoneking – The Love Me Or Die

CW Stoneking performs Dodo Blues – Live At The Barbican

* Seasick Steve had clearly never heard of most of the acts on the bill and seemed quite happy to just sit back in his rocking chair and get paid to introduce acts off cue cards, and who can blame him.

~ by stagger lee on January 25, 2009.

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