C.W. Stoneking Is Blues From Down Under C.W. Stoneking is from the Northern Territory of Australia, but his sound is old school southern American blues. We catch him on his first U.S. tour and talk about his new album, Gon' Boogaloo.
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C.W. Stoneking Is Blues From Down Under

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C.W. Stoneking Is Blues From Down Under

C.W. Stoneking Is Blues From Down Under

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Listen to this next voice for a moment - takes me back home to where I grew up in the Deep South.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUNGLE LULLABY")

C.W. STONEKING: (Singing) Well, we made it down to a river bank. Spied a steamboat coming along. Then we hitched a ride, Lord, looking over the side...

KELLY: You know, you hear that voice and you're thinking old-school Southern blues. Well, you might be thinking that, but you would be wrong. That is the voice of one Christopher William Stoneking, or as he's known onstage, C.W. Stoneking. And he hails not from the banks of the Mississippi but from Australia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUNGLE LULLABY")

STONEKING: (Singing) And eyes that watched as we drifted along. I sang that jungle lullaby.

KELLY: Now he is trying his luck in the place where his music sounds like it came from - here in the U.S. He's on tour here with his new record, "Gon' Boogaloo," and he stopped by our Chicago member station, WBEZ, to tell us about it. Hey there.

STONEKING: Hey.

KELLY: Can I ask you a blunt question?

STONEKING: Sure.

KELLY: How does a white guy from remote Australia end up recording music that sounds like a black musician from the Deep South in America?

STONEKING: I had a cassette tape that was - two albums on it - and one side of it was a compilation of Texas blues out of, like, the 1950s, and the other side was a '20s and '30s blues artist and guitar player. As a guitar player, I was always impressed with those sort of early ways *** of playing the guitar in the blues era.

KELLY: What's the song on this record that you are most proud of?

STONEKING: I think I like - I like "The Thing I Done."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE THING I DONE")

STONEKING: (Singing) I roll like thunder, blow like dynamite, all flesh and bone I come, old death long by my side.

Like, rhythmically or whatever, it was more of a sort of blues thing. But then, I just started to fiddle with it and it's - came with this more sort of Caribbean theme. I enjoy it. The mood is strong.

(SOUNDBITE OF C.W. STONEKING SONG, "THE THING I DONE")

KELLY: That song makes me want to get up and dance. Is there a certain song that seems to be getting everybody up dancing?

STONEKING: We get some people dancing. It's a funny thing. I kind of feel like sometimes I shoot myself in the foot maybe because I have a strong inclination for writing sort of story songs. I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't do that 'cause maybe the people listen to the story and...

KELLY: (Laughter) Instead of just dancing.

STONEKING: ...It takes their mind off their feet.

KELLY: Can you give me an example of one of those songs?

STONEKING: "Boogaloo." "Boogaloo" comes close to being pretty light.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE GON' BOOGALOO")

STONEKING: (Singing) We gon' boogaloo. Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh. Don't ever - never say we're through. We gon' boogaloo.

It's sort of like that movie "High Noon." You ever seen that cowboy movie?

KELLY: OK. Yup.

STONEKING: And, you know, the guy's waiting for the baddie to roll in on the train. And it has this song that goes all through the movie, you know, do not forsake me, oh my darling.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO NOT FORSAKE ME, MY DARLING")

FRANKIE LAINE: (Singing) Do not forsake me, oh my darling.

STONEKING: Halfway through the movie, I find myself, personally, like, I wish the dude would just come shoot him so the song would stop playing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO NOT FORSAKE ME, MY DARLING")

LAINE: (Singing) Do not forsake me, oh my darling.

STONEKING: I think my wife probably began to worry a couple of years into the process where the song still wasn't finished and I was just in my bedroom shouting boogaloo at myself.

KELLY: Is your wife the person you talk to when you're writing and you get stuck?

STONEKING: I don't really talk to anyone. I'm a bit furtive with unfinished stuff. It's like I'm hiding some deformed creatures in my cupboard.

KELLY: Oh, wow. I've never heard the writing process described that way - furtive with it.

STONEKING: I like it when it's formed and it's ready to go.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE GON' BOOGALOO")

STONEKING: (Singing) Oooooh, boogaloo. Oooh, boogaloo.

KELLY: C.W. Stoneking, give us a little taste of what you're going to be playing tonight. I know you're on stage in Chicago. What are you hoping to get people up dancing to?

STONEKING: One of my songs on this record is my attempt to create a dance sensation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ZOMBIE")

STONEKING: Are you ready?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: Yeah.

STONEKING: ...With a tune called the "Zombie," which is - it's a bit of a social commentary mixed with some Michael Jackson "Thriller" and a dance craze.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ZOMBIE")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) The dead of the night.

STONEKING: (Singing) Can you hear the little children cry?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Crying mama, mama.

STONEKING: (Singing) Watch out. Zombies a terrible fright.

KELLY: That's C.W. Stoneking speaking to us from Chicago about his new record. It's called "Gon' Boogaloo," and he's on his first U.S. tour. C.W. Stoneking, we wish you the best of luck. I hope it's the first of many U.S. tours. Thanks so much.

STONEKING: Thank you very much. Thanks a lot.

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