CW Stoneking speaks just the way he sings, in a disjointed yet understandable speech, somewhat like Louis Armstrong, and with as equally a wonderfully husky strength. He’s not putting it on for stage presence. Stoneking’s albums may contain characters like King Hokum because when Stoneking writes a song, “a story emerges.”
But what you hear, what you see, is the real deal. And yet, Stoneking attests, “I don’t think I sound very 1930s, my stuff is not the same as old stuff. I think mine sounds more like rough-hewn pop music made by a 1980s bogan with a weird voice who’s heard a bunch of old records.”
To the amateur ear though (that is, my ear) the similarities between Stoneking’s music and older artists’ music is uncanny. The difference is that today there are (at least technologically) arguably fewer limits when it comes to developing music.
Regardless of the time and place, Stoneking acknowledges that “good musicians make good stuff whatever style they have, or whatever influences they have. People have natural inclinations to the type of sounds they like. You can hear what sounds I like from my record. I went for a long time where I couldn’t buy new music because I could only afford to buy what directly related with what I was doing, which was old blues. I don’t believe in the term ‘modern music.’ Modern art stretches all the way back to the 1880s but modern music is only supposed to be what’s on the radio now?”
Stoneking raises a good point. Where do you draw the line, and should you? “I like gospel music,” he imparts. “I’m not going to go round the world snatching up styles for every new record though – that’s not really where I’m at. I tend to write in slow-ish tempos when I’m making stuff by myself, but you get a few thousand people together, they want fast stuff, so I’ll try to make some like that for those occasions.”
Stoneking seems adamant about distinguishing his music not just apart from his ‘modern’ contemporaries but also from those he draws influence. He is as eager as ever to approach music his own way. “I always wanted a brass band to play on my original songs. After I put out King Hokum I could afford to use one and by the time I did Jungle Blues, I was really getting into writing the tunes specifically with the band in mind. I usually do some solo numbers at my shows too. There’s some flavours of tune that just go better with a voice and a guitar.”