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Gig review of C.W. Stoneking

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Reviewed on 6th July 2016.

 
 

C.W. Stoneking

Live at Brudenell Social Club on Wednesday, 22nd June 2016

If there was ever a contest for band names that sound like Sgt. Peppers b-sides, Mr. CD Wallum and his Ten A Penny Footwarmers would surely win it. They bring, among other things, a washboard and a kazobo to Brudenell Social Club tonight as they open up for C.W. Stoneking.

The band are a musical homage to the first form of rock n roll - the early dancehall, folk and jazz bands of the 1920's and 30's. It works well enough, with the fiddle and double bass rounding out the authentically retro sound. The set is pleasant though the atmosphere feels a little flat, but tracks like Oh Celestine and The Great Fire Of Armley certainly keep the sparse crowd of early birds entertained.

The floor has filled considerably by the time C.W. Stoneking steps on stage like a man out of time; he's not in a rush but rather seems to be from a different era than the rest of us. Inspired by calypso rhythms and delta blues, Stoneking combines these elements to create an experience for his audience that is like nothing else.

Dressed like an immaculately turned-out milkman from the 1950's, the music he delivers with his all-female trio (a hybrid of The Puppini Sisters, The B52's and The Powerpuff Girls) is a collection of swampy guitar-lead lullabies straight from the heartlands of every delta jungle. His latest record, Gon' Boogaloo, is ripe with the kind of tunes that fit intimate venues perfectly, and Stoneking revels in playing for (and to) the crowd. In between cuts like Tomorrow Gon' Be Too Late and the raucous party starter Get On The Floor come humorous asides and increasingly fantastical tangents that are as vivid and striking as the broad Australian twang they are spoken in.

Throughout the set, relaxed conversation and musical storytelling are woven together, particularly on On A Desert Isle, - the resigned, chilled out cousin to Chuck Berry's Havana Moon. Another highlight is Talking Lion Blues, which showcases some exceptional yodelling and sounds like Stanley Holloway's The Lion And Albert meets The Lion King meets Lord of the Flies (with Africa in place of Blackpool and Jimmy Rodgers in place of Albert).

It's a little frustrating that Stoneking is such a good guitar player - technically, he's so proficient on the quieter songs that you wish there were less of them so he could really let rip. When he does and the restraints come off, like on Gon' Boogaloo's title track, it's impossible not to get caught up in the groove and swing that'll doubtless see him selling out shows for a long time to come.

 

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