He looks kind of scary, just sitting there in a white suit with a skull painted face holding a guitar, smoking a pipe. C.W. Stoneking, is the self proclaimed ‘King of Hokum’ and with that title comes a bit of myth making. There no harm in that of course, however, what if lines between fake and real fade? For in Stoneking’s music this was always the case and it gets a new chapter with the recently released Gon’ Boogaloo.
The Australian native C.W. Stoneking never made a secret of the fact that he plundered the archives of Blues, Roots and Caribbean to create his own niche in music which he calls Jungle Music. Listening to Stoneking evokes feelings of being in the sultry Southern US in the early twentieth century. With that also comes a great amount of storytelling. Gon’ Boogaloo predecessor, Jungle Blues (2008) for example is introduced with a thrilling rum drinking story about traveling from Trinidad, across the Atlantic into West Africa with a group scientists who study parasitic worms that attack humans in the eyeballs. Sounds like fun to me, and frankly, that is what Stoneking is all about: at first sight he seems scary but in fact he just wants to have some fun by making some really good sounding music. C.W. Stoneking is big in Australia and won the ‘Best Independent Blues/ Roots Album’ award here in 2009. Abroad he is lesser known, but perhaps that is about to change now.
Gon’ Boogaloo back cover doesn’t contain an anecdote about eyeball eating parasites, instead he now elaborates about the technical challenges he had to overcome while he was recording Gon’ Boogaloo. It was quite a job to record the twelve tracks with the familiar vintage sound in two days, without any edits or overdubs using only two microphones and a two track tape machine. The grainy 78 rpm sound result however is, again, very nice. The most notable difference from Jungle Blues is the addition of the backing vocals of four ladies that gives the album a bit more swing than it predecessor. The opener ‘How Long’ is typically of a bluesy nature. It’s a simple track with a blues riff, a tambourine and a supporting some gospel. ‘The Zombies’ is a track with a sinister but also humorous undertone. The deep drums, pounding basses and haunting singing are frightening yet the light-heartedly backing vocals “to the left, to the right”, actually make the track a fun story to listen to. Stoneking effortlessly turns his hand to a bunch of other vintage styles, ‘Get On The Floor’ seems like an ode to New Orleans jazz, ‘Tomorrow Gon’ Be Too Late’ reminds of a Phil Spector song, ‘Mama Got The Blues’ has a clear reggae loop in it and ‘The Jungle Swing’ is drenched in a rock ‘n roll sound. And if that isn’t enough, ‘On A Desert Isle’ Stoneking also dares to throw in some yodeling which strikingly still fits the tropical musical setting of the song. Sometimes the quick switching between styles make you feel your listing to a caricature of a rootsy melting pot yet the real feel for the genres make all of this forgivable and before you know it you’ll be nodding your head and swinging along with Gon ‘Boogaloo catchy melodies.
So all feels authentic, however, is this what the world has been waiting for? I think not, although if it wasn’t for the fresh take on the traditionals coming from the Louisiana bayou’s. that is. Sure, it’s all been done before, so maybe you would be better off with a Rough Guide to Delta Blues. Nonetheless I would recommend this Gon ‘Boogaloo over any compilation album because of it’s contagious set up. Indeed C.W. Stoneking lost a bit of the myth making in the past six years but, thankfully, never lost his enthusiasm for warm bluesy music. It’ll add up to any party at any moment, so take it from me, Gon ‘Boogaloo is very nice album to end the year with.
Label: King Hokum, 2014
- How Long (3:13)
- The Zombie (3:53)
- Get On the Floor (3:47)
- The Thing I Done (3:20)
- Tomorrow Gon Be Too Late (3:05)
- Mama Got the Blues (3:24)
- Goin’ Back South (3:30)
- The Jungle Swing (3:15)
- Good Luck Charm (2:45)
- I’m the Jungle Man (2:59)
- On a Desert Isle (4:41)
- We Gon’ Boogaloo (3:27)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 221214