Review: CW Stoneking and His Primitive Horn Orchestra at The Button factoryTweet
It is almost exactly a year ago to the night that CW Stoneking, ‘Composer of blues, hokum, and Jungle music’ brought his particular brand of blues to a sold out Workman’s Club in Dublin. This time around Stoneking and His Primitive Horn Orchestra have been promoted to the roomier environment of The ButtonFactory. Support comes from fellow antipodean Hollie Fullbrook who performs under the moniker Tiny Ruins. A respectable crowd mill around some distance from the stage before being coaxed forward by the singer, alone on acoustic guitar, after the first number. Fullbrook builds an easy rapport with the crowd, mainly playing songs from her 2011 album Some Were Meant For Sea, with a rarely played older song ‘The Knights of the Road’ thrown in just because she had a mind to. And that was fine with us.
At one point the crowd were asked to vote for either a love song or one about a demented priest who launches himself off a cliff with a bunch of helium balloons – the priest won out amidst some good natured booing. Fullbrook’s voice and finger picked guitar intermingle throughout the set with ambient bar chatter, before she exits the stage leaving the crowd completely charmed. Expect inevitable Nick Drake comparisons, while vocally I found her reminiscent of Valery Gore – a headline gig is surely on the cards for 2012.
Stoneking took to the stage in trademark head-to-toe white outfit backed by his four piece band, and kicked off what was to be a fantastic gig with songs culled from his King Hokum and Jungle Blues albums. Solitary bare light bulbs behind the band are the only lighting, with one lone bulb hanging above Stoneking – the type of bulbs that wouldn’t be out of place in a corrugated tin shack or a Deep South cathouse. ‘Handyman Blues’ two songs in sets the tone for the night. The crowd whoop and holler in response to Stoneking’s tale of hardship, while in the latter part of the song his band proves that they can swing. Stoneking’s strength lies in his ability to concoct a tune that sounds like it’s been around forever – see ‘Don’t Go Dancing Down the Darktown Strutter’s Ball’ – while live his band manage to sound like a New Orléans street band with double the staff that’s onstage. Various nefarious characters exchange dialogue as Stoneking sings their stories and his. A jubilant ‘Brave Son of America’ is a highlight of the singer’s style and the musicians excel.
The band exit mid-gig leaving Stoneking alone for two songs, the Jimmie Rodgers inspired yodelling song ‘Talkin’ Lion Blues’ and ‘Charlie Bostock’s Blues’, before returning to the sparsely lit stage for ‘Dodo Blues’, the singer’s tale of a con man who swindled him. Stoneking switches between his banjo and a well-worn resonator guitar throughout the gig, while his double bass player also moonlights on tuba. Songs are interspersed with humorous tall tales, including one particularly lengthy one about his time in New Orléans that incorporates hoodoo doctors, the tribulations of a white Australian blues singer looking for work, an ill-fated wedding, and “trying to unlearn Coldplay songs on the banjo”.
A rumbling, tumbling ‘I Heard the Marchin’ of the Drums’, followed by rollicking versions of ‘Jungle Blues’ and folk-magic fable ‘The Love Me or Die’ has everyone dancing, before the band finish off with a call-and-response shout-a-long take on Washboard Sam’s‘Good Old Cabbage Greens’. Stoneking returns alone for ‘Way Out in the World’, before his talented cohorts re-join him for one last tune and a brief solo each before calling it a night, leaving behind them a crowd well regaled by this hokum merchant.
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