Hokum Blues originated in the southern states of America in the early 1920's, and was a predecessor to modern blues. What sets Hokum apart from other forms of blues music is its unique sense of humor and over all entertainment factor. In fact, Hokum at times was used to refer to more the individuals performance then the actual music. The subject matter typically centered around sexual innuendos and issues of race, but a modern perceptive may change the these lyrics.
When I first heard the sounds of C.W. Stoneking I thought that I had discovered a lost gem of the 20's or 30's. However, with a little research I came to realize that C.W. is actually only in his early thirties and from Melbourne, Aus. His style embraces many different forms of blues music, but never sounds forced or imitative. The truth is that C.W. is singing from his heart and with an honest and clear voice. I believe he was meant to revitalize this sound and share his gift with the world.
C.W.'s debut album on Voodoo Rhythm, King Hokum, was released this past March and had previously gained much praise in Australia. The album is set in a fictional 1920’s Southern US town where dodo birds sing, hobo’s holler and handymen swing their axes in lone backyards. C.W. just completed a tour of the U.K. and is now planning and writing his follow-up to "King Hokum".
Recently, C.W. took some time out to talk about his music past, present, and future.
Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your music?
C.W. Stoneking (CW): I would describe it as pop music made to resemble old time blues, jazz, hokum, or any other music that I enjoy myself - like field recordings or old gospel music.
OA: How did you come to not just appreciate, but hold such a powerful understanding of blues music? What was the first blues recording that you can remember hearing?
CW: I got into listening to old blues about 19 years ago and started playing it about 16 years ago when I was 17 or 18, I had played the guitar before that time but not in that style. When I was 21 years old I left the city and went to the country, rented a farmhouse and worked for a while as a handyman, when I was there I listened all day to recordings while I worked and played guitar and listened to recordings all the time at my house. For about two years that was just about my only companionship, I felt like in that time I got a better sense of how some things moved in those types of music and I got real quick at learning things that would have taken a long time before that. After I left the country I thought I could be a professional musician in Melbourne (Australia) but when I got there people wern't very interested in having that type of music that I played so I spent about the next 5 years busking alot in between what shows I could get and with that I learned how to really make my voice cut through a crowd now I've got a very loud singing voice. I suppose that's how I learned all that side of it. After that time things got better and right now things are going well since my album 'King Hokum' came out. The first blues recording I remember hearing was a tape I had with two compilations on it - one side was the Duke sessions with electric Texas blues from the 50's I think, and the oother side was called Livin' With The Blues which had people like Memphis Minnie, Blind Willie McTell, Dennis McMillon.
OA: How has your new album "King Hokum" and your sound in general been accepted in Australia and around the world?
CW: The album has been accepted very well, in Australia the reviews for it have all been good and the sales have been pretty good for it too, I had a big fan base in Melbourne but after the record had been out for a while it was good to discover I could sell out places all round Australia. Overseas the record has been well recieved too, a Swiss label called Voodoo Rhythm Records released King Hokum on CD and LP in March 2007 and all the reviews for it have also been good from the European people. I did a tour through Europe in May/June and got a good reception wherever I went.
OA: Are there plans to bring the album and live shows to America at any time? What do you anticipate the reaction in the states, specifically the southern states being like?
CW: I think you can buy the Voodoo Rhythm release of the Album in the US but it's a small label so you gotta look for the shops that stock it. I'd like to come over there and play, I don't know what the reaction would be, the style I do is pretty old fashion for the blues people down south I reckon, it's much more in the 20's and 30's vein, not like the modern Delta blues but I reckon it'd go alright
OA: Is there any specific recording techniques that you used to achieve this old southern blues sound?
CW: We didn't really try and make it sound like an old recording except for one song, I wanted it to have a nice roundness to it without the top end that they have in everything now, but I wanted the detail like a new recording just rounded off a bit though. We recorded the record on a computer but used valve preamps and ribbon mics and stuff to make it sound good. The fella who did the recording (J. Walker) is a renowned home recording guy in Australia and he makes good stuff, I wanted to do a record with him for a while.
OA: What's next for CW Stoneking?
CW: I been doing alot of touring and I have some more of that but at the end of the year I'll start recording another album. Next year more touring for that and maybe then I'll come play in the U.S.
OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee?
CW: Nope, don't drink it.
OA: Top five songs that you would like to cover and release.
CW: I don't want to do any covers right now but if I did maybe, Brave Son Of America by Wilmouth Houdini, I can't think of any more.
OA: Is music your full-time job? If not, what is your full-time job?
CW: Yes full time job, never had another job except handyman when I was down the country.
King Hokum (Voodoo Rhythm, 2007)
Way out in the World/Don't Go Dancin' Down the Darktown/Strutter's Ball/She's a Bread Baker/Dodo Blues/On a Christmas Day/Charlie Bostock's Blues/Goin' The Country/Bad Luck Everywhere You Go (mp3)/Rich Man's Blues/You Took My Thing and Put it in Your Place/Handyman Blues
For more infomation on C.W. Stoneking visit his website, Voodoo Rhythm, or his myspace page.