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Country - Released April 10, 2020 | New West Records

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When you've spent most of your career sounding as if you were living in the 21st century by fate rather than by choice, figuring out how to sound more up to date is going to be a complicated thing, and it seems that Pokey LaFarge has been giving that scenario a lot of thought. Since releasing Manic Revelations in 2017, Pokey LaFarge left St. Louis for Los Angeles, experienced what he calls a "fall from grace," had a spiritual reawakening, and recorded 2020's Rock Bottom Rhapsody, in which he clearly wants to change up his usual creative persona as a slightly twangy jazzbo here on a pass from 1923. The rootsy jazz-inflected sound that dominated LaFarge's early albums is wired deep enough into his DNA that he can't entirely shake it in as far as his melodies are concerned, but in terms of his production and arrangements, he's clearly willing to fight that. The distorted vocals and drums on "Fuck Me Up" give the performance a suitably messed-up lo-fi undertow, "Storm a Comin'" is steeped in '60s-style soul, a late-'50s/early-'60s pop vibe informs "End of My Rope," and if the arrangement on "Bluebird" is seriously retro, the circular snap of the drums and the layered vocals on the chorus are a giveaway that someone had been spending some time listening to dance music in a club. At times, Rock Bottom Rhapsody sounds as if LaFarge is trying very hard to break new creative ground for himself, though the results aren't a particularly radical shift from what his fans have come to expect. But if he sounds a bit uncertain about how to present himself, LaFarge's confidence as a songwriter is strong and justifiably so. "Lucky Sometimes" is a love song just sweet enough to work without getting gooey, the folky shuffle of "Just the Same" is well matched to a confessional lyric, and "End of My Rope" nods to his personal troubles without wallowing in self-pity or demanding we feel sorry for him. And if LaFarge's reedy voice still doesn't sound up to date, he's developed enough vocal authority to not sound totally lost outside of a faux-nostalgic context. Pokey LaFarge is still working out the math on how to exist in more than one decade at a time, but Rock Bottom Rhapsody has more than enough good things in it that he's probably going to be just fine wherever he finally settles down. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2015 | New Rounder

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Some artists who evoke the styles of the past seem to have spent every waking moment of their adult lives struggling to sound as if they were born in a different decade. Pokey LaFarge, on the other hand, makes music that suggests he somehow passed through a wrinkle in time from 1929 to 2015, complete with his banjo in hand; LaFarge's music never seems forced, but flows from him naturally with an easy grace, a playful insouciance, and a confidence in his talent that stops well short of arrogance. After jumping to the big leagues with his self-titled 2013 album released by Jack White's Third Man label, LaFarge has ambled back to the independents; Something in the Water is his first album for Rounder, the venerable roots music label, but Something ranks with his best recorded work to date, maintaining the rootsy sway and swagger of his earlier albums but boasting stronger instrumental interplay and an extra dose of pep that makes the finished product especially winning. LaFarge not only sounds like a jazzbo from the age of ragtime, he writes like one, and from the vintage exotica of "Goodbye, Barcelona" and his celebration of Midwestern high life in "Knockin' the Dust Off the Rust Belt Tonight" to his tribute to the women you don't introduce to your mother on "Bad Girl" and the title cut, LaFarge pens songs with plenty of wit and a melodic sense that straddles the gap between vintage country and trad jazz. LaFarge is lucky enough to have a band just as committed to this sound as he is, and his accompanists help make Something in the Water pleasingly full bodied and dynamic. And producer Jimmy Sutton gives these sessions a live-in-the-studio tone that mimics the ambience of a vintage 78, but with modern-day clarity and detail. Pokey LaFarge delivers something old and new on Something in the Water, and no matter how much he reaches to the past for inspiration and influence, he's able to make his music sound fresh and alive, and this is his strongest studio set to date. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 19, 2017 | New Rounder

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At the end of Manic Revelations, Pokey LaFarge sings "I will never change" -- a sentiment that he's spent the entirety of his sixth studio set disproving. Ditching the old-timey routine that's been his stock in trade since 2008, LaFarge embraces the open-hearted soul of the '60s, a sound that's nearly as retro as the pre-WWII folk, country, and jazz that populated his earlier albums. The shift in sound was propelled by his outrage over the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of his hometown of St. Louis. Tying this political unrest to the civil rights movement of the '60s, the musician decided a revival of classic soul was the best vehicle for his message. Manic Revelations does benefit from its hopping swing and full-blooded horn section, which gives the record a considerable kinetic kick. LaFarge's reedy voice can sometimes produce a wave of cognitive dissonance -- he's still singing like he's supporting himself with a banjo -- but there are also moments where the two aesthetics merge seamlessly. With its muted trumpet wails and spooky Cab Calloway shuffle, "Mother Nature" walks a fine line between prohibition and juke joint blues, while "Good Luck Charm" is a jaunty folk number punched up by the horn section. Such hybrids speak to LaFarge's musical invention, but don't forget that, at its heart, Manic Revelations is a protest album. He may evoke old sounds but all his songs are about the present, and that means Manic Revelations isn't a stylistic exercise: it's compelling commentary. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2015 | New Rounder

Booklet
Some artists who evoke the styles of the past seem to have spent every waking moment of their adult lives struggling to sound as if they were born in a different decade. Pokey LaFarge, on the other hand, makes music that suggests he somehow passed through a wrinkle in time from 1929 to 2015, complete with his banjo in hand; LaFarge's music never seems forced, but flows from him naturally with an easy grace, a playful insouciance, and a confidence in his talent that stops well short of arrogance. After jumping to the big leagues with his self-titled 2013 album released by Jack White's Third Man label, LaFarge has ambled back to the independents; Something in the Water is his first album for Rounder, the venerable roots music label, but Something ranks with his best recorded work to date, maintaining the rootsy sway and swagger of his earlier albums but boasting stronger instrumental interplay and an extra dose of pep that makes the finished product especially winning. LaFarge not only sounds like a jazzbo from the age of ragtime, he writes like one, and from the vintage exotica of "Goodbye, Barcelona" and his celebration of Midwestern high life in "Knockin' the Dust Off the Rust Belt Tonight" to his tribute to the women you don't introduce to your mother on "Bad Girl" and the title cut, LaFarge pens songs with plenty of wit and a melodic sense that straddles the gap between vintage country and trad jazz. LaFarge is lucky enough to have a band just as committed to this sound as he is, and his accompanists help make Something in the Water pleasingly full bodied and dynamic. And producer Jimmy Sutton gives these sessions a live-in-the-studio tone that mimics the ambience of a vintage 78, but with modern-day clarity and detail. Pokey LaFarge delivers something old and new on Something in the Water, and no matter how much he reaches to the past for inspiration and influence, he's able to make his music sound fresh and alive, and this is his strongest studio set to date. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 19, 2017 | New Rounder

At the end of Manic Revelations, Pokey LaFarge sings "I will never change" -- a sentiment that he's spent the entirety of his sixth studio set disproving. Ditching the old-timey routine that's been his stock in trade since 2008, LaFarge embraces the open-hearted soul of the '60s, a sound that's nearly as retro as the pre-WWII folk, country, and jazz that populated his earlier albums. The shift in sound was propelled by his outrage over the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of his hometown of St. Louis. Tying this political unrest to the civil rights movement of the '60s, the musician decided a revival of classic soul was the best vehicle for his message. Manic Revelations does benefit from its hopping swing and full-blooded horn section, which gives the record a considerable kinetic kick. LaFarge's reedy voice can sometimes produce a wave of cognitive dissonance -- he's still singing like he's supporting himself with a banjo -- but there are also moments where the two aesthetics merge seamlessly. With its muted trumpet wails and spooky Cab Calloway shuffle, "Mother Nature" walks a fine line between prohibition and juke joint blues, while "Good Luck Charm" is a jaunty folk number punched up by the horn section. Such hybrids speak to LaFarge's musical invention, but don't forget that, at its heart, Manic Revelations is a protest album. He may evoke old sounds but all his songs are about the present, and that means Manic Revelations isn't a stylistic exercise: it's compelling commentary. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2015 | New Rounder

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Country - Released January 24, 2020 | New West Records

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Country - Released February 7, 2020 | New West Records

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Country - Released March 16, 2020 | New West Records

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Ragtime - Released April 30, 2012 | Evangelist

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Country - Released January 1, 2015 | New Rounder

Some artists who evoke the styles of the past seem to have spent every waking moment of their adult lives struggling to sound as if they were born in a different decade. Pokey LaFarge, on the other hand, makes music that suggests he somehow passed through a wrinkle in time from 1929 to 2015, complete with his banjo in hand; LaFarge's music never seems forced, but flows from him naturally with an easy grace, a playful insouciance, and a confidence in his talent that stops well short of arrogance. After jumping to the big leagues with his self-titled 2013 album released by Jack White's Third Man label, LaFarge has ambled back to the independents; Something in the Water is his first album for Rounder, the venerable roots music label, but Something ranks with his best recorded work to date, maintaining the rootsy sway and swagger of his earlier albums but boasting stronger instrumental interplay and an extra dose of pep that makes the finished product especially winning. LaFarge not only sounds like a jazzbo from the age of ragtime, he writes like one, and from the vintage exotica of "Goodbye, Barcelona" and his celebration of Midwestern high life in "Knockin' the Dust Off the Rust Belt Tonight" to his tribute to the women you don't introduce to your mother on "Bad Girl" and the title cut, LaFarge pens songs with plenty of wit and a melodic sense that straddles the gap between vintage country and trad jazz. LaFarge is lucky enough to have a band just as committed to this sound as he is, and his accompanists help make Something in the Water pleasingly full bodied and dynamic. And producer Jimmy Sutton gives these sessions a live-in-the-studio tone that mimics the ambience of a vintage 78, but with modern-day clarity and detail. Pokey LaFarge delivers something old and new on Something in the Water, and no matter how much he reaches to the past for inspiration and influence, he's able to make his music sound fresh and alive, and this is his strongest studio set to date. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released April 1, 2020 | New West Records

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Country - Released January 1, 2015 | New Rounder

Some artists who evoke the styles of the past seem to have spent every waking moment of their adult lives struggling to sound as if they were born in a different decade. Pokey LaFarge, on the other hand, makes music that suggests he somehow passed through a wrinkle in time from 1929 to 2015, complete with his banjo in hand; LaFarge's music never seems forced, but flows from him naturally with an easy grace, a playful insouciance, and a confidence in his talent that stops well short of arrogance. After jumping to the big leagues with his self-titled 2013 album released by Jack White's Third Man label, LaFarge has ambled back to the independents; Something in the Water is his first album for Rounder, the venerable roots music label, but Something ranks with his best recorded work to date, maintaining the rootsy sway and swagger of his earlier albums but boasting stronger instrumental interplay and an extra dose of pep that makes the finished product especially winning. LaFarge not only sounds like a jazzbo from the age of ragtime, he writes like one, and from the vintage exotica of "Goodbye, Barcelona" and his celebration of Midwestern high life in "Knockin' the Dust Off the Rust Belt Tonight" to his tribute to the women you don't introduce to your mother on "Bad Girl" and the title cut, LaFarge pens songs with plenty of wit and a melodic sense that straddles the gap between vintage country and trad jazz. LaFarge is lucky enough to have a band just as committed to this sound as he is, and his accompanists help make Something in the Water pleasingly full bodied and dynamic. And producer Jimmy Sutton gives these sessions a live-in-the-studio tone that mimics the ambience of a vintage 78, but with modern-day clarity and detail. Pokey LaFarge delivers something old and new on Something in the Water, and no matter how much he reaches to the past for inspiration and influence, he's able to make his music sound fresh and alive, and this is his strongest studio set to date. © Mark Deming /TiVo