Music

C.W. Stoneking

Seeing is disbelieving

Attend

What: C.W. Stoneking, Hot Damn Scandal, The Shadies

When: 7 pm Sat., Feb. 8

Where: YWCA Ballroom, 1026 N. Forest St.

Cost: $25

Info: http://www.cwstoneking.com

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Before local musician and crafter of community shenanigans Pace Rubadeau brought him to my attention, I had never heard of C.W. Stoneking.

The purpose of Pace putting Stoneking on my radar wasn’t to make a casual music recommendation. Rather he was letting me know the musician was coming to town for a Sat., Feb. 8 concert at the YWCA ballroom. Anytime someone who doesn’t book a lot of shows brings to town an artist he considers “one of the finest ambassadors of modern old-time,” I’m interested.

So I gave Stoneking a listen. Intrigued, I took the natural next step of watching some of his videos.

This was a miscalculation, one from which I am still trying to recover.

Should you find yourself similarly curious, I urge you to go straight to the videos lest you be thrust into a state of confusion that mirrors my own.

Here’s the deal: Stoneking sounds like an old-timey throwback jam. His songs are original, but they seem like they could’ve been playing on your grandma’s record player in the background when you were a kid, only for you to rediscover them as an adult—familiar and unfamiliar, all at the same time. Stoneking’s style is often described as being bluesy, specifically the variety that originates in New Orleans, while incorporating jug band music, country, calypso and other similar genres. If Robert Johnson and Tom Waits had a baby and sent him out on the vaudeville circuit, he might one day end up sounding like Stoneking.

So far, so good.

But then you see him, and he’s a lanky white Australian dude with slicked-back hair and a shiny guitar, and it is so incongruous to hear that voice come out of that body, that you watch video after video trying in an attempt to comprehend what you’re seeing.

At least, that’s what happened to me.

It’s as if he time-traveled and shape-shifted, and is now here from the past in his borrowed body to sing us stories of a bygone era. I know such a thing is not possible, and yet when I see Stoneking, it makes me wonder.

Some things about the old-timey Aussie do track, however. He sounds like a nimble, assured guitar player, and indeed he is just that. He has the enviable ability to play in a style that appears effortless without being showy about it. His voice is both raspy and resonant, his songs are rich in storytelling, and all of that combines to create a transportive experience for his audiences.

While Stoneking is still a little-known quantity in our neck of the woods, in Australia he’s a bigger deal. He’s been performing and touring there for 15 or so years, his albums have charted and he’s won a couple of ARIA Awards, the Australian equivalent of Grammys. Stateside, he’s caught the attention of Jack White, and appears on the former White Stripes frontman’s 2018 album, Boarding House Reach, a modern-day blues-rock bona fide, if ever there was one.

It’s fitting that White, who often seems more like a character than a man, would be drawn to a man who could also be a character. Is Stoneking for real, with his all-white ensemble, fantastical stories about hoodoo doctors and shipwrecks, and voice from a hundred years ago? A few songs in, such questions cease to matter. Whatever it is, it’s a good show.

And when he brings that show to Bellingham, he’ll appear in excellent company. Hot Damn Scandal, the Shadies, Three for Silver, and the dancers of B’ham Hop will be on hand to set the scene before Stoneking takes the stage. The concert is all-ages, but should you grow parched and need to seek adult libations, the Redlight is offering a 30 percent discount to presale ticketholders on the day of the show.

Speaking of tickets, they’re fairly limited and cost $25, which, yes, is steeper than the cover charge of many shows. I don’t have the numbers or anything, but I suspect the price of the ticket might be related to the costs of luring Stoneking to Bellingham. After all, time-travel and shape-shifting cannot be cheap.

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