Amongst a crowd punctuated by plaid and a number of enviable Movember efforts at the Corner, tonight the inimitable CW Stoneking brings his Primitive Horn Orchestra to the stage, with support from Lanie Lane, who is quickly gaining a reputation for her intimate and endearing live performances.

Her songs draw on a rich rock and roll history, touching on early rockabilly, country and blues. Playing minus a backing band, her guitar has a fantastic warmth to its sound, while her singing is completely her own. “Jungleman”, as she tells it, is her own homage to CW Stoneking, and she plays it with delight, telling us it’s the first time she’s gotten to play it to CW live. Both sweet and gritty, Lanie Lane is playing to a full band room, as her set continues with the soulful “Oh Well, That’s What You Get Falling In Love With A Cowboy”, before closing with “Bang Bang”.

As the curtains part there stands the ever-idiosyncratic CW Stoneking, wearing his signature white cotton shirt and bow tie. He plucks the first few notes of “Early In The Morning” on his banjo, and his Primitive Horn Orchestra subtly fall in behind him. The banjo makes way for a steel resonator guitar on “Handyman Blues” and “Brave Son of America”. “Goin’ the Country” shows a rockabilly side to their sound, with plenty of people in the sold-out crowd taking the opportunity to dance.

Every song is met with explosive applause, a testament to the talent of the band and Stoneking’s skill as an entertainer. “Dodo Blues” has CW showing off his ability as a singer, and by the end he has the entire place singing along to the chorus. The Primitive Horn Orchestra take a break halfway through the set and leave CW to perform “Talking Lion Blues”. He yodels and croons, his unique vocals lending itself to his uncanny tale of a hapless gold miner, equal parts slapstick humour and sage folk parable.

The Primitive Horn Orchestra come back on, the set taking a turn toward their more swinging numbers. Ever the raconteur, Stoneking takes the time to lay a little background for “Don’t Go Dancing Down The Dark Town Strutter’s Ball”, telling the captive audience the story of an associate in New Orleans, kidnapped unknown to his friends, who then misses his wedding and winds up in a dress playing a banjo on the street. Stoneking’s considerable height isn’t the only thing responsible for his tremendous stage presence; the man has a fantastic ability to tell stories and cracks wise with the best of them.

There’s a sing-a-long number in a cover of Washboard Sam’s “Good Old Cabbage Beans”, Stoneking leading the audience in the call-and-answer chorus. “Jungle Blues” is followed by “The Love Me or Die”, and then the band are finishing up with their traditional number, the closing song from the Warner Brother’s old Porky Pig Show. Within the vast tradition of American folk history there’s plenty of room for a tall tale, but the smiles on the faces of the audience as they filter out of the band room attest that CW Stoneking and his Primitive Horn Orchestra remain the real deal.

– Shaun Thatcher