wed 22/05/2019

CD: Pokey LaFarge - Pokey LaFarge | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Pokey LaFarge - Pokey LaFarge

CD: Pokey LaFarge - Pokey LaFarge

Unforced and eventually contagious wander through older Americana styles

Pokey LaFarge, just popped in from the Twenties for a spell

It’s one thing to sound like an oldster recording back in the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, it’s quite another to look the part. In the half-century rise of gym body hegemony and homogenous Barbie’n’Ken facial aspirations, normalcy of human appearance has slowly become regarded as offbeat. All those years ago, from Hollywood stars - Humphrey Bogart to Leslie Howard - and musicians - Hank Williams to Bing Crosby - they just looked like themselves, a certain gauntness, faces and bods that were characterful but far from sculpted. Pokey LaFarge could have sprung from the same era, hair slicked back and a face from a lost time.

It was not his look, however, that drew Jack White to sign him to his label for this, LaFarge’s third album, or, indeed, have him play on his Blunderbuss solo outing and act as his tour support. LaFarge’s music coincides absolutely with White’s own interests in American roots music yet, also like White, LaFarge adds a twist that’s purely his own. The 30-year-old resident of St Louis, Missouri, was raised in a family who imbued him with a fascination with history and literature, and he has consequently embraced old musical styles in a relaxed, unselfconscious manner.

Pitched somewhere between Cab Calloway and the O, Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, his music is campfire likeable, as on strummers such as “Let’s Get Lost” – which showcases delicious acoustic guitar – but he’s as likely to bring in jazzy clarinets, muted trumpets, and call’n’response routines that recall old Betty Boop cartoons. His lyrics are also poetic and easy. Try the opening verse of “City Summer Blues”: “It must be summer in the river city/ Where the gunshots ring out twice a day/ Like cats in heat we’ve all gone crazy/ And sirens sing the long, hot night away.”

LaFarge leaves listeners with an overarching desire to catch him live – which must be a ball – but in the meantime this delightfully lazy, drawling album will suffice as a sun-dappled, porch-side, sippin’ soundtrack to summer evenings. Even if we don’t have porches or whisky and it’s raining.

 

Overleaf: watch the video for "Central Time"

Pitched somewhere between Cab Calloway and the 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' soundtrack, his music is campfire likeable

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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