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King of the Hokum Blues

CW Stoneking with Nathan Hollywood


There couldn't be a better venue in Brisbane to see the King of the Hokum blues than the Troubadour. The 70s decor, lamp shades and living room armchairs give the packed venue the feel of a very private club and suggest the sort of speakeasy Brisbane was more familiar with in the 80s. There's condensation on the walls, a line to the bar as long as the line to the toilet and the sense of anticipation is palpable.

  

Nathan Hollywood opens with an interesting set that grapples with the sounds of the American southern gothic, distilling elements of Nick Cave, Jeff Buckley and Neil Young into a seamy quagmire of sound. His ensemble incorporates a panoply of instruments including a very impressive bowed saw in his set closer.

  

CW Stoneking ambles on stage the personification of Steinbeck's preacher Casey as he growls to clear his throat and rattles off a rambling Robert Johnson style blues on his Resonator guitar. Stoneking's iconic voice, part John Lee Hooker part Slim Dusty, pairs with the metallic twang of his guitar captivating an audience lolling over the Troubadour's carpet and armchairs.

  

Introducing his three piece primitive horn orchestra Stoneking gets the crowd to stand and suddenly the best venue in Brisbane becomes the worst as the shallow stage is lost amidst a sea of clamoring heads. The horns are ramshackle in the best southern style, the tuba pumping out a danceable groove while the trombone and trumpet follow Stoneking's guitar in a raucous chorus. The audience literally climbs the walls to get a glimpse of the stage as the band kick into a dixieland blues and soon have the crowd singing along to the sly 'Cabbage Green'.

  

Despite dour attire Stoneking is an incredibly entertaining performer populating his set with imagined characters and highly suggestive songwriting. The level to which Stoneking commands his audience is only really evident when, after suggesting a dance competition, the crowd responds by immediately opening a dance floor, showing none of the expected feigned disinterest.

  

Given the quality of Stoneking's music and the charisma of his live show I can only recommend you catch him live at the next opportunity as this star is going to burn bright.

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