C.W. Stoneking: Jungle Blues
interview by Stevie Poor
You know that terrific scene in Kubrick’s The Shining, where Jack Nicholson is sitting at a bar talking to the smartly dressed ghost of a bartender? C.W. Stoneking’s Aria award winner, Jungle Blues, has that sound.
In the movie Jack’s character, Johnny, has lost his mind and finds this long dead pourer to be his new best friend. There’s a post war thang going on. Other ghosts appear in the background, mingling and flirting, also dressed to the nines. It’s madness at its most comfortable, and C.W. could have been there too, jiving out on his banjo with them haunted horns backing him up.
Following the title track, Jungle Blues rolls through a collection of delicate blues, ranging in influence from Jimmy Miller to Son House, with a calypsonian dedication to a particular American General. I can’t take my copy out of the stereo, seriously, I haven’t wanted to play anything else. The man has put a spell on me … I gots da C.W. Stoneking blues.
After returning from a North European tour and a few days rest, Christopher William Stoneking gave yours-part-truly some time to chat about the tale of his lost resophonic geetar in the back of a New York cab, and um, fifteen year old German girls, among other things.
SP: With your second album, Jungle Blues, just as loaded with your own blues/calypso sound as your first, I wonder if there was a defining moment or person somewhere along your travels that has influenced your signature direction?
CW: Umm… no, not really.
SP: Not an uncle one night with a bottle o moonshine and a banjo?
CW: No. I guess I’ve always been into the blues. I mean, when I was young I liked country and blues. In my late teens I got into 50’s electric, you know. I thought that was wild for a while. Then I guess I came back to the blues.
SP: You’ve played gigs in London and Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium. What was that like?
CW: Yeah it was great. We headlined a few gigs in England that sold out. We also played a gig that was televised on the BBC. We’ve got plans and invitations to return as soon as possible; we had a good time there.
SP: And Europe?
CW: Yeah that was great too, but … we booked a few of our gigs through the internet and it’s kinda bizarre … places you never been before, and you get there, in a dim lit street, in a dark little club with fifteen year old girls hanging out the front, asking you to play songs yet to be released on vinyl or cd. Yet she knows them all, and what I look like, all from her computer.
SP: To kick off the Australian leg of your tour you play The Governor in Adelaide. You’ve played Adelaide before, is there much difference between their audiences and Europe’s?
CW: No, not really. It’s usually the same style of crowd, just sitting back and taking in the music. Both here and overseas we get a mix in the age groups that attend. Maybe we drink a little more over here but apart from that, no. I love Adelaide, we’ve played the Spiegeltent a few times and dozens of shows around town.
SP: The grapevine has it that you have put down the bottle and no longer need to remove excess moisture from your cells. Is it true? And if so have you found it affects your performance?
CW: Yes, yes I’m sober and have been for a while now. How has it affected my gigs? Not much. I used to go on a bit long when I drank and ramble at times, but apart from that, not a lot has changed. My head is focused and I know when something is finished these days, which is great.
SP: Were you a big drinker?
CW: Yeah, I liked a drink. I started to make a career of it. No good.
SP: I heard you lost a priceless Reso-Phonic guitar?
CW: It was priceless to me, but yes I did, in the back of a New York cab. I actually left a beautiful old English banjo in the cab as well. I’m still kicking myself. I’d just played a gig and my head was everywhere and I didn’t get a number for the cab. It was a terrible night.
C.W. Stoneking performs at WOMADelaide 2015, Botanic Park Adelaide (SA), 6 – 9 March 2015 – womadelaide.com.au
Jungle Blues and King Hokum albums out through Shock and King Hokum records.