Pokey LaFarge’s retro vision – rooted in bluegrass, blues, jazz, jug band, pre-World War II country (especially Jimmie Rodgers) and ’30s Western swing – was gaining attention before he played mandolin on Jack White’s Blunderbuss album. The St. Louis-based LaFarge and His South City Three opened for White on his subsequent tour.
Now he’s back with a third album, the ﬁrst issued by White’s Third Man label. LaFarge’s sidemen – guitarist Adam Hoskins, bassist Joey Glynn, and harmonica player and percussionist Ryan Koenig – keep things acoustic, except for occasional ﬂashes of ampliﬁed lead guitar and lap steel. The project was produced by Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor.
LaFarge’s raw, energetic vocals stand out on originals like the clever “City Summer Blues” and “Let’s Get Lost,” which blends a Rodgers feel with surrealistic lyrics. Hoskins offers solos both pithy and sharp, especially on “Bowlegged Woman.” While he gives the 1947 Bob Wills tune “The Devil Ain’t Lazy” a minor-key treatment, the original “Home Away From Home” memorializes early Louisville jug bands and local legend Clifford Hayes.
LaFarge, who plays a 1946 Epiphone Spartan onstage, avoids the self-conscious pretense that can sink retro-based acts. His strong personality and the loose, engaging feel, keep things listenable and thoroughly entertaining.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s December. ’13 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.