As soon as C. W.’s voice hits your ear drums, you are faced with what I like to call the ‘Iggy Azalea problem’. Here we have an Australian, a white man, producing a sound which whilst directly related to dawn-of-times, 20s/30s blues, is unmistakably an affectation. This is forgivable for much of the album; yet whilst ‘the Zombie’ is the best track on the record there are moments where it feels a little as though Stoneking is auditioning for the role of Mama Oti in Disney’s ‘the Princess and the Frog’.
Stoneking has been nominated for, and won, many awards for ‘best independent’ or ‘best original blues’ albums and that is to be celebrated. It is not a particularly crowded field, classic back-porch blues is something of a dying genre, but on ‘Gon’ Boogaloo’ he is managing to achieve something special. Whilst ‘Americana’ and ‘Blues-roots’ have become more popular, not many are attempting to recreate the sound whole-sale, warts and all. The album is permeated with that scratchy quality that can be heard on early Robert Johnson records which is a result of the poor technology used but has something of the devil about it.
Songs like ‘Get on the Floor’ and ‘The Jungle Swing’ will have you partying like it’s 1929, but only if that shindig took place deep in a fantasy jungle. The stories Stoneking tells are rich in bizarre imagery and his performance more than matches his content; ‘The Zombie’, aptly named, resurrects Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with all his voodoo charms for one last dance in the theatre of the absurd. Taken as a whole, the album is a fun mini-adventure, even if it does get a little ‘samey’ and formulaic in places.
When it comes down to it, there are little nuggets of excellence; his technical ability to recreate old-timey numbers in an entertaining way which don’t expect you to take them too seriously is delightful. There is just a little something missing on most tracks but it’s hard to put your finger on, like hearing a song in a bar and not quite being able to recall the band. It feels as though there is something much more powerful beneath the surface, some great ‘gater lurking in the shadows. With only three albums released since 2005, perhaps this is yet to come.