Aural Fixation: Pokey LaFarge

For as much as I love new music, I particularly love new music that sounds like old music. I’m not talking about reviving the sounds of the past few decades; I mean resurrecting the styles of several generations ago. This explains my love for bands like the Squirrel Nut Zippers and artists like Leon Redbone. The latest musician to look far into the past for inspiration is St. Louis guitarist Pokey LaFarge. His whimsical name alone conjures images of bawdy string bands playing hot jazz in a backroom speakeasy. LaFarge mixes original songs with forgotten gems, and prefers to play on instruments of appropriate vintage. After releasing a few solo albums, LaFarge recruited a band, The South City Three, to accompany him on his latest release, Middle of Everywhere. LaFarge and the band also recorded a promotional single for Jack White’s Third Man Records.

The music of the South City Three ranges from rowdy songs like “Drinkin’ Whiskey Tonight” to sunshiny ambles like “Shenandoah River.” Occasional horn flourishes reinforce the bayou feel of several tracks on the album. Each boasting immense technical prowess, LaFarge and his band set aside several measures per song to allow for impressive soloing. The album is entirely acoustic, but it never tries too hard to capture the sound of an era. Pokey presents his music effortlessly, a skill that puts him alongside longtime favorites like The Hot Club Of Cowtown and the Firecracker Jazz Band. Best of all, LaFarge doesn’t treat this kind of music as novelty, novel as it might be. His respect and reverence gives the album an air of sophistication. In the end, though, Middle Of Everywhere is simply a fun listen.

Stream: Pokey LaFarge & The South City ThreeMiddle Of Everywhere (via NPR Music)


~ by E. on August 2, 2011.

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