Lions and Spiders and War, Oh My!
When you first hear C.W. Stoneking you might mistake him as a lesser known singer from the 1930s blues era. The voice, the use of instrumentation and percussion, the subject matter sung about, even the stifled mono sound rasping through the speakers sooner reminds you of Benny Goodman, than an experimental shoe-tapper from Footscray, Melbourne.
And yet I hear even on stage this man has the presence of someone torn straight out of the history books.
Stoneking’s first album King Hokum introduced his playful sound. There was even some banter between himself and his wife, creating that depression era side of domestic living so far removed from the present.
But perhaps the concept of a depression isn’t all as far removed as initially thought.
Fears of a financial recession occuring worldwide reveal the perfect timing of Stoneking’s latest trumpet-out.
Jungle Blues takes a quirky look at the “dark corners of the globe.”
Although remaining playful, you can’t help but feel songs like “Housebound Blues” give a significant nod towards the interest rate crisis devastating families across the Western world.
And while the drunken, slow-sung blues sound has prevailed (and I hope continues to do so), this time a fearful mood has crept its way in too. During his adventures to the Congo, Stoneking sings;
“…we hitched a ride, lawd, lookin over the side,
Everything was goin on wrong,
There was bird-eatin spiders, big as my fist,
Snakes that hung down like vines
And eyes that watched as we drifted along.”
This mood sits suitably alongside references to war, mentioned throughout the album. By the end of this tale Stoneking (or is it Hokum?) returns safe and sound, vowing “I’m never goin back to that country again,” to tell a story about an orphaned boy, Samuel, who served in the Armed Forces. Towards the end of this story Stoneking tells us “The memories of war scarred Samuel the rest of his life, because he remembered nothing.”
This time around Stoneking highlights the importance of the past, and how it informs our future. Thankfully he does all this while maintaining the fun aspect of his approach: he really does sound like a 1930s singer!
I can’t wait to see him live at Falls!