"Stoneking is like a blast of the nostalgic past and seems to be well loved for it among the retro-dressed hipster crowd."
Filling up the lower courtyard of the Fremantle Arts Centre at the end of a very hot day for CW Stoneking's sold out show, the growing audience was entertained by local balladeer Peter Bibby's humour and warts-and-all style of confessional music, delivered in a thick Aussie twang reminiscent of local hip hop. His narratives, accompanied by some messy, simple chord strumming on a steel guitar, spun stories of hanging out with the hobos at Midland train station, asking for a ciggie, and ending up on a goon bag bender, "drinkin' like delinquents… talking for hours wrapped up in some random's doona". A little ditty about money had Bibby rhyming 'stinkin' rich' with wanting to 'get a robot to scratch my itch'. Medicine described a desperate quest for "medicine and pseudoephedrine, vitamins and hallucinogens", in the end settling for humble paracetemol. Boy/girl hook-ups got a look in with the tune Bat & Ball and Hates My Boozin', both off Bibby's debut album Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician.
After rising humidity and a lightning show, finally the summer storm broke just in time for interval, refreshing the air and clearing the way for CW Stoneking to enter the stage wearing his trademark bowtie, preacher-whites and Brylcreemed short back and sides. Looking like a cross between Bowie's Thin White Duke and a 1920s bluesman from Alabama in his Sunday best, Stoneking is like a blast of the nostalgic past and seems to be well loved for it among the retro-dressed hipster crowd. With well known powerhouse singers Vika and Linda Bull on backing and a big double bass, the gospel tones were easily achieved on opening track How Long and Get On The Floor, both off Stoneking's most recent release Gon' Boogaloo. More upbeat tunes were had with the vaudeville theme that threads through his catalogue, including The Zombie, I'm The Jungle Man and The Jungle Swing which offered a more jazzy, jangly style of guitar. With the Bull sisters exiting the stage, Stoneking's slow crooning blues done in an American-Aussie outback kind of hybrid accent dominated the rest of the show and made for an intimate feel. The plaintive hillbilly Talkin' Lion Blues had the audience yodelling along with Stoneking, and after a lullaby or two, the show finished off with a simple solo rendition of Jailhouse Blues, sounding as if time had never passed.