When tickets for the 2017 Newport Folk Festival went on sale in November, weekend passes sold out in a few hours. At that point, no bands had been announced. Since then, the Festival has slowly been dropping lineup bombs like Fleet Foxes, John Prine and bluegrass supergroup act, American Acoustic (Punch Brothers, Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan and Julian Lage), which is a festival in itself.
But there’s one mysterious character that sounds like a field recording from one of Alan Lomax’s trips across the Mississippi Delta in the mid-20th Century. C.W. Stoneking is originally from the 6,000 person town of Katherine in Australia’s Northern Territory. While he’s toured around Australia for over 20 years, busking in Sydney and using Melbourne as a base the last few years, he just emerged in the U.S. last summer as he embarked on his first tour across the country – including the Delta that inspired his sound. His latest album, Gon’ Boogaloo, was recorded live with no overdubs and just two mics, giving it a throwback vibe that’s unlike most modern recordings.
When I think about all of the acts performing at the Festival this year, Stoneking seems like the kind of guy that will emerge in a big way. He’s a guy that I feel like I should have heard about a long time ago on my trip Down Under (though there were plenty of distractions on that tour). Stoneking is hard to forget – not only because he’s an anomaly, but because he’s a phenomenal performer. Even guys like Jack White have said that they’d love to work with him.
For a taste, check out his set on World Cafe or some of his videos below.