CW Stonekind @Manchester Academy
C.W. Stoneking is a man who suffers from the duel handicap of being born in both the wrong place and the wrong time, an antipodean blues singer and banjo player hopelessly lost in a world of pre-war Americana, voodoo and tall tails. But rather than be alone in this world, he transports the packed academy’s sweaty patrons with him, into the deep dark jungles of Africa, the whisky soaked, dangerous dives of New Orleans and the sweltering fields of the south with a set of songs drawn from his King Hokum and Jungles Blues albums.
Wandering on stage without ceremony, decked out in a crumpled linen suit and bow tie, the glare from those newfangled ‘lectric lights causing him to squint as he drawls a brief salutation while the primitive horn orchestra haul there trombone, tuba and bass into position. Manchester Jazz Festival missed a trick by not booking C.W. His brass band play Dixie-land and Calypso with enough ‘authenticity’ (a tedious and outmoded concept if ever there was one) to satisfy purists and enough energy to get the feet tapping of those for whom Jazz is a dirty word. Had he been given a slot on the St. Annes’ square open air stage the place would have been crowded in even the most persistent Mancunian drizzle.
Like all great Blues men, C.W. is the central character in his own mythology. Stories from his ship wreck, and his time working as a voodoo doctors’ assistant in the delta are told in ‘Jungle Blues’, ‘Jungle Lulliby’ and ‘The Love Me or Die’, all of which are high-lights of an excellent set. The story about his time working on a dildo farm was particularly hilarious, despite the awkwardness it caused me ( I was with my girlfriends parents, sans girl friend). The patriotic bombast of ‘Brave Son of America’ is undeniably great and sung with conviction, and the creepy creole of ‘Don’t Go Dancing Down The Dark Town Strutters Ball.’ is hair raisingly atmospheric.
Maybe he was born in the wrong time, but he was born to play the blues, and we’re lucky to have him with us this side of the 1930’s.