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St. Louis musician's
Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three -
Review by Tony BonyataI try and focus the music reviews in this column to shed light on not only well-established acts, but, more importantly, new up-and-coming talents. Funny that the artist I'm listening to at the moment, Pokey LeFarge, is both a newer act and, at least sounds, well-established. And I don't mean established in the arena-filling rock or Billboard chart-topping sense, but rather in the deep-rooted sounds of American music that trickled down from the rural South like 'little streams of alcohol' and blew in like a sooty storm from the Dust Bowl-era southern plains some 80 years ago.
On LaFarge's latest full-length, Middle of Everywhere, the St. Louis musician and his backing trio, The South City Three (Joey Glynn - upright bass /vocals, Ryan Koenig - washboard / harmonica / vocals, and Adam Hoskins - guitar / vocals), tap into the true essence of rural Americana music from the earlier part of the 20th century. Mixing rousing western swing and country music with trad jazz, ragtime and Southern blues it's apparent that these guys aren't concerned with starting any new musical trends, but rather headstrung on paying homage and adhering to the music of bygone eras, as they effortlessly conjure up the spirits of Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills and Robert Johnson on this baker's dozen. Songs such as the rambunctious and jazzy opening track "So Long Honeybee, Goodbye," the slinky "Feels So Good" and the finger-pickin' grin of "Weedwacker Rag," with its sour-mash call-and-response harmonies not only hearken back to a time long gone, but also actually makes you feel like you were there. This deja-vu sense of nostalgia plays further tricks on the mind through old-timey pearls such as "Drinkin' Whiskey Tonight," "Good Country Girls," "Head To Toe" and the harrowing Delta-stained "Coffee Pot Blues."
Perhaps not since the Squirrel Nut Zippers helped spearhead the Swing Revival of the late '90s with their own hybrid of gypsy jazz, Delta Blues and early Swing, has an act come this close to bridging a number of age-old musical styles together and updating them for modern palettes without sounding contrived or gimmicky.
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