Words by James Lavel
Photography by Elizabeth Sharpe (AKA @ummagummamumma) – FULL GALLERY HERE
Two-time Aria award-winning artist C.W Stoneking graced the Gold Coast last night with an intimate sold out show at Mo’s Desert Club House, and oh boy what a night it was. I could not think of a better setting than Mo’s for this show. A personal favorite of the co-founders/owners Christian Tryhorn, Kimberly Ferguson, and Emilia Lorena, this show was as much a treat for them as it was for all attending.
The first time you hear C.W Stoneking you would be forgiven for thinking you were listening to a phonograph from the 1920’s. He was born in 1974 to American parents in Katherine, NT. The first thing that struck me about C.W was his broken-china voice, a mishmash of country Australia and Louisiana. I think that is what really sets Stoneking apart from other Australian blues artists. He captures the feel of a hooting and hollering New Orleans street market.
The night kicked off with Stoneking taking the stage in his signature whites. C.W always seems to look like he just stepped off a boat home from WW1 (either that or a 1920 ice-cream van). “How ya’ll doin” – the room fell silent as C.W started to strum his guitar. He opened up with How Long from his Aria award-winning album ‘Gon’ Boogaloo’. C.W may have been alone on-stage tonight, but he quickly filled the space with his skillful strumming and banjo style rolls. He moved into Charley Bonstock’s Blues from his debut album ‘King Hokum’. He continued to jump from record to record as the night went on. Between songs C.W told stories and made us laugh. He introduced the third song of the evening (Dodo Blues) as “the only duet I ever sung by myself”. The track is a rambling conversation that you might hear on someone’s porch after a little too much moonshine. He moved into She’s a Bread Baker; I could see the audience letting C.W carry their worries away with his blues that seemed to emanate from his soul.
Stoneking enlisted the help of his horn section (his mouth) for the next song I Heard The Marching Of The Drum. Once again, he spun a tale; this time speaking of murder ballads and their history before admitting he was just making shit up. If the room wasn’t full of music, it was full of laughter. C.W is not just a man playing the blues, but a real blues man, a weaver of tales. It was humbling to see that they still exist, and they can sell out a show on the Gold Coast with every age demographic attending. The next song he played was the popular Love Me Or Die before promptly moving into The Thing I Done. Eyes were transfixed on the stage as he spun his tales. He played us Mama’s Got The Blues and Good Luck Charm and hoots and hollers echoed from the room. The next song called for some crowd participation. C.W started with an “are you ready!” marking the beginning of The Zombie. The place really came alive with this one, everyone was swaying, singing and clapping.
Another tale from Stoneking about ice-cream jingles had the room in hysterics yet again before moving into On A Desert Isle. This song had him showcasing his skillful yodeling. Some more mouth instruments and bird calls were employed in the next song I’m A Jungle Man. During this song C.W heckled sound desk about echoes on his vocal, it was a funny moment that really demonstrated how old school Stoneking is; just a microphone and a guitar is all he wants and needs. Nearing the end of his set, C.W played us Handy Man Blues followed by Jail House Blues employing the crowd once again with backups reverberating through the venue. He rounded out the show with We Gon’ Boogaloo and Jungle Lullaby. Before he left the stage, he invited everyone to join him for a chat and a signing session.
It was an intimate show that felt like we were in a living room rather than a venue. C.W is making his way around the country with his ‘On a Desert Isle’ solo concerts. If you can manage to snap up a ticket, I suggest you don’t miss the opportunity to see this truly unique musician.
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