If his recorded output is to be the judge, C. W. Stoneking must have a pretty great record collection. On Gon’ Boogaloo, his most recent album (and first in six years), the Australian singer-songwriter scrolls through Delta honk, fluttering calypso, and throaty blues. It’s a set of disparate influences united seemingly by Stoneking’s aesthetic will and the album’s no-fi production.
Given that breadth of style, we asked Stoneking to compile a playlist of songs that were ringing the bell for him while he was writing and recording Gon’ Boogaloo. Not surprisingly, that playlist ranges from Ethiopian jazz to the jungle rhythms of Clarence Williams to the high lonesome holler of Hank Williams. And while his albums may make him sound like some dusty old-timer, Stoneking does live in the present, which means he, too, finds himself in the orbit of Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar.
You can give the playlist a listen, and read Stoneking’s thoughts on the tracks themselves, below.
Tlahoun Gessesse — “Kulun Mankwalésh”
I heard Ethiopian jazz for the first time while riding to Melbourne on a crazy stormy night coming from a gig at an old theatre out in the country. This is one of my favorite singers.
Kanye West — “Black Skinhead”
I saw the music video for this on YouTube and really liked it. I like this guy’s records and have been checking them out a lot lately.
Kendrick Lamar — “Swimming Pools”
I stopped drinking seven years ago and am all for people finding alternatives to drinking in order to have a good time and express themselves. I like Kendrick Lamar; he goes out there on his own thing.
Getatchew Mekurya — “Tezeta”
I like lots of this Ethiopian music; it’s been my favorite musical discovery in quite a few years. I think the last music I got into that much was the old calypso stuff and that was easily a good fifteen years ago.
Clarence Williams and His Orchestra — “Jungle Crawl”
One of the influences in my own music, though I only touch it in a peripheral, impressionistic way. I’ve never sat down and figured out exactly what makes this sort of music; it’s more like some unconscious residue carried around in my head from old cartoons and stuff.
Nina Simone — “The Other Woman”
Nina Simone: about one of the best that ever was in all departments. The heartbreaking quality of her voice pretty much smacks you right outta the gate.
Leonard Cohen — “Famous Blue Raincoat”
I always found this tune kinda crappy and amazing at the same time. It sorta meanders around melodically but then hits you with its power, like a drunken master or something.
Hank Williams — “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still in Love With You”
A great hit-maker with a wonderful and poetic touch. One of the best of all time.
Hank Williams — “Pictures From Life’s Other Side”
With that quavering voice, Hank paints a few vignettes of poor souls who’ve found themselves on life’s other side.
Pigmeat Markham — “Here Comes the Judge”
He was a comedian who toured with Bessie Smith back in the day. I don’t know too much about him, but I like the collision of old-time hokum and funky music.
Rufus Thomas — “Bearcat”
An answer to Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog.” It’s basically same tune with different words and with a slightly different flavor.
Kanye West — “See Me Now”
Good track. This one marks a change from the old stuff I’ve spent the past twenty-something years listening to. FL