…………..a free-spirited party record that plays out loose and uninhibited.
By Christopher Hollow
C.W. Stoneking – Gon’ Boogaloo
An album six years in the making.
You might expect that kinda painstaking dithering from the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Justin Timberlake or Kate Bush, but not from a blues-wailing independent Australian artist like C.W. Stoneking.
The word is it was a hard slog to make his third album happen, its progress blighted by a dearth of ideas and numerous creative dead-ends. The good news is you’d never know it from the music – Gon’ Booglaoo is a free-spirited party record that plays out loose and uninhibited.
This time ’round there’s no Joseph Conrad-style West African shipwreck and survival backstory to accompany the music à la 2008’s Jungle Blues. There’s also none of the National steel guitar that was at the heart of the debut King Hokum lp.
Inspired by Charlie Christian, Stoneking has turned on and plugged into the grid. The acoustic is gone and in its place a gold Fender Jazzmaster through an old Harmony amp. And, here’s the most exciting element – Stoneking really rips it – just like he’s realised he’s been playing too soft for too long. He plays loud and uses the whammy bar at will to slur in and out of chords.
The other grand idea that colours the album – Stoneking has constructed his songs to include some incredible call-and-response gospel-style backing vocals. Employing the power of the Bull sisters – Vika and Linda – paired with the youthful exuberance of Paul Kelly’s daughters, Madeleine and Memphis. They act as a Greek chorus on songs like the catch-your-breath first single “Get on the Floor”, the Phil Spector-esque “Good Luck Charm” and super-natural dance number, “The Zombie”.
The story goes Gon’ Boogaloo was recorded on two microphones into a broken 4-track recorder. The surprise from this idea is that King Hokum and Jungle Blues were done on Pro-Tools and then made to sound old. This time ’round the effect is genuinely lo-fi.
Lyrically, there are a few hangover references from the Jungle Blues era. But they’re quality numbers. “The Jungle Swing”, with its inspired Haitian cowbell rhythm, is described by Stoneking as a song you’d find in a cereal box. Meanwhile, “I’m a Jungle Man” is infectious doo-wop centred on a great backing vocal hook: Down where the drums go boom-babba-boom-babba-boom followed by its badass refrain: Anybody see me sure got to meet their doom.
C.W. Stoneking is a unique, charismatic performer and through force of character he’s delivered another unique, charismatic record. If the pre-production trouble came from challenging himself to do something distinct from his past outings, then he’d be both happy and relieved with the result.