Pokey LaFarge is his name, and his music is a blend and vast array of musicality. In one song he can take you on a history lesson through music and, depending on the song, through our own American History as well. This was all born through his grandfathers and his own inquisitiveness. The grandfathers gave him the instruments, both literal and figuratively speaking, one giving him his first guitar while the other giving him a remedial lesson in American history which gave way to the exploring and delving into the who the what the where and the why.
Born in Bloomington, Illinois his grandfather’s sent him on this musical path knowingly or unknowingly. First hearing artist like Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Skip James, and the story goes that at age 16 Pokey heard Bill Monroe and traded in the guitar for a mandolin. After graduating high school, he took off on the road. One of his favorite writer’s was Jack Kerouac and the hitchhiking and crisscrossing the country playing music just about anywhere on sidewalks, streets, and street corners reads just like a Kerouac novel. As chance would have it Pokey while playing on the street in Asheville, North Carolina met what soon came to be The South City Three, his band and in 2009 Ryan Koenig, Joey Glynn, and Adam Hoskins joined Pokey and so the band was formed. Since 2009 they have grown dropping the South City Three and taking to a stage near you as simply “Pokey LaFarge.” The additions of T.J. Muller (cornet, trombone) and Chloe Feoranzo (clarinet, saxophone) lead to the name change along with a string of albums that have been critically acclaimed.
Their latest release, Something in the Water, does by no means fall short. If anything, this album showcases just how talented Pokey is a songwriter but how talented they all are. So many different styles are showcased that to try and figure them all out would be trying, so the best thing to do is to just listen. You will hear blues, jazz, western swing, ragtime, country blues, and the list goes on. This is credit to Pokey’s sheer lust for learning and a Midwestern work ethic. The Midwest is somewhere Pokey is proud to be from, I know this because I have seen him a handful of times and he always finds a way to mention St. Louis, Chicago, or just the Midwest in general, and coincidence or not a lot of the players on this latest album are from the Midwest as well. Something in the Water is a dozen songs that swoon, flirt, and rollick and beyond all this as well. True to any Pokey record before he simply wants to share the music that he has grown so fond of over these many years.
A Pokey LaFarge live show is true to any jazz club from the 1920’s dancing a plenty with the groove to match, and everyone sharing in the experience that is this Americana with soul. Pokey brings it home he brings it back to a time where doing the hard work meant leaving your stamp on the effort. Only in his twenties Pokey has released seven albums in all and each better than the last, and each one if you pay attention gives you a different lesson and tells a different story.
This weekend Pokey and the band will be here at Midpoint Music Festival on Sunday evening at 7:30 at Washington Park, and if you have never experienced one of his shows prepare to move and be moved.