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HSBG Preview: Pokey LaFarge 

Wednesday, Sep 30 2015

Though he's only made albums for the past 10 years, Pokey LaFarge mines a wayback sound that feels much older. Some may call it retro, while others might deem it old-timey, but neither of these quite hits the mark. There's a freshness to LaFarge's music, like a just-cracked bottle of small-batch bourbon from a 21st century craft distillery. Yeah, it's that kind of special, the hot ticket you share with friends who come off the dance floor raving how they expected it to be good but not that good.

The St. Louis native and his spot-on touring quintet deliver the whole package, and in doing so, pull audience members into the party. The musicians dress to mess with suits, ties, fancy shoes, and flashy suspenders, but their look is less shtick than style with a capital S, and it matches the band's fun-loving bouncy grooves, designed for true-blood Lindy hoppers, Western swingers, and Jitterbuggers alike. The hip-shakers in the crowd with their polka-dot prints and shiny Oxfords are as much a part of the show as the band.

You can think of LaFarge's music as a postmodern mashup of the Great American Juke Joint — a little bit country, a little Midwestern urban, raggy and suave and a whole lotta swinging. Alongside original singalongs like "Central Time," you're likely to hear classics such as "St. Louis Blues," "Mama Don't Allow," or "Right Key, Wrong Keyhole." The foundation is deep blues in all its original iterations, from the backwoods of Aberdeen to the graveyards of New Orleans. The six-strings draw from the pioneering sass-picking of Lonnie Johnson and Charlie Christian, while the dueling clarinet and cornet solos channel the collective-improv sizzle of early jazz innovators Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong. LaFarge places himself in a serious lineage, and he's standing 10 feet tall.

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About The Author

Sam Prestianni


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