Pokey LaFarge

Pokey LaFarge

Third Man Records, 2013


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


LaFarge's story unfolds like something that should be made into a movie. After discovering a love for the blues when he 16, he traded his guitar for a mandolin and a year later hitchhiked to California where he was a street performer by trade. Further hitchhiking led to meeting and joining forces with the South City Three, who would become his backing band. LaFarge's real break came when Jack White took him under his wing, put out his 7", brought him on tour and not so surprisingly LaFarge's new self-titled album lands on White's label. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Though he's just 30, LaFarge's style is a throwback to swing music, ragtime, vaudeville and the early days of jazz. With a lineup of instruments heavy on the upright bass, harmonica, clarinet, fiddle and trumpet, it's not hard to feel like you've been transported back in time to when the world was a simpler place and music seemed more expressive and soulful.

LaFarge and company are extremely adept at genres that were birthed in the first half of the 1900's. Proof of that is in the very distinct and diverse sounds from track to track. While tunes like the animated, Dixieland jazz spirited "Bowlegged Woman" are armed with harmonicas and piano solos, "Let's Get Lost" is where he channels his inner Dylan with a calm folk song. "What The Rain May Bring" takes on both jazz and blues stylings, and the only place where one can draw easy comparisons is the “The Devil Ain't Lazy,” which isn't far off from the Squirrel Nut Zippers. The music is extremely well executed and the production is crisp, allowing the guitar picking and LaFarge's voice acrobatics to really sink in, and this evident from the opening tune "Central Time.”

Self-described as 'Riverboat Soul,’ LaFarge's sound entails that and so much more. Capable of producing old sounds that sound so authentic it makes you want to go back in time to the 1920's and find the first river bank to lay down on and learn how to play the harmonica, though he describes himself as a "plain ole Midwestern boy" in song, there's just nothing ordinary about this album.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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