King Hokum (KHR02)
Jungle Blues, Talkin' Lion Blues, Jungle Lullaby, Brave Son Of America, Jailhouse Blues, Houseband Blues, I Heard The Marching Of The Drum, The Love Me Or Die, Early In The Mornin', Jailhouse Blues.
Now, here's one to make you sit up and listen. CW Stoneking is an Australian musician who has soaked up gospel, early calypso, pre-war blues, old-timey, New Orleans saloon music, plantation tunes, hokum, hollers, ragtime, work songs and vintage jazz and he's combined all he can into a raunchy, rattling ragbag of astounding sounds and gutsy growling vocals. The songs on this album may well have been written by Stoneking but they come from hours hell-bent in absorbing the music of Jimmie Rodgers, Jelly Roll Morton, Ishman Bracey, Lowe Stokes, Frank Crumit, Rabbit Brown, Wilmoth Houdini, Emmett Miller and Rueben Reeve's River Boys. I get hints of Tom Waits, Leon Redbone and the Jungle Book soundtrack in there as well!
Jungle Blues gets real sepia-tinged when Stoneking joins his band The Primitive Horn Orchestra on the full-fat jazz stuff that sounds like it comes direct from the 1920s. Songs like Jungle Blues and The Greatest Liar have the distinct air of the medicine show about them because of the weird tempos and slick, slithering textures lovingly layered out by mandolins, trombones, trumpets, clarinets, tin-pot drum sets and CW's own archaic churning tenor banjo.
The Orchestra really catch light on I Heard The Marchin' Of The Drum, which sounds like the great grandson of Alexander's Ragtime Band and Brave Son Of America - a hefty calypso about General McArthur, but the big band sounds contrast beautifully with the less organised items too. Jailhouse Blues is a loose limbed, clanging dobro piece that has CW wheezing out croaky vocals that wouldn't have been out of place on a back porch in Hollandale, Mississippi in 1938 and the Hawaiian guitar mood of the whimsical nonsense song Talkin' Lion Blues is complemented perfectly by his knocked out-whacked out yodelling.
This is a fabulous album, full to the brim with tunes that will wheedle their way into your brain cells and lodge there for weeks. The more you hear it, the better it gets. Leiber and Stoller once wrote "some cats got it and some cats ain't" - CW Stoneking's got it by the truckload.
Review Date: August 2010