(Free Dirt Records)
Pokey LaFarge revives the 20s and 30s with his blend of blues, ragtime, western swing and Appalachia country music. The 27-year old St. Louis troubador's Middle of Everywhere is his latest release. The vinyl version of the album contains two bonus tracks that were recorded at Jack White's Third Man Records studio.
Besides LaFarge, the musicians on this album include Ryan Koenig (harmonica, washboard, vocals), Adam Hoskins (guitar & vocals), Joey Glynn (upright bass, vocals) and top New Orleans horn players Shaye Cohn and Charlie Halloran. As the disc turns, one hears why they call this 'Riverboat Soul Music'.
"So Long Honeybee, Goodbye" emits an old-time aesthetic. Immediately, one thinks of Jimmie Rodgers while hearing this song. "Ain't The Same" sounds like some cosmic jug band entertaining characters out of Herman Melville's novel Confidence Man. "Head to Toe" showcases this group's subtle appeal to one's ear. This album contains no tricks, just pure flesh on steel and wood...
"Sunny Side of the Street" resembles music from Dust-To-Digital's old 78 Fonotone Records collection. "Shenandoah River" paints vivid images that linger in the mind like an old sepia photograph. Pokey Fafarge and The South City Three pack a potent musical punch by delivering a diverse sound and deft instrumentalism.
"Mississippi Girl" represents a 'good time' song that might be heard in some remote Delta hamlet. "Feels So Good" conjures the ghost of Blind Willie McTell playing down on River Street in Savannah, Georgia. "Oh I'm sinking down," LaFarge sings on the weary, but soulful "River Rock Bottom".
"Drinkin' Whiskey Tonight" sounds like a tune you might hear at a Friday night fish fry in the bayou. "Good Country Girls" represents one of this collection's finest tracks where traces of vaudeville days rise from this composition. "Coffee Pot Blues", another diamond in the mine, tells a story of a common hardworking man struggling with a mean lover. "Keep Your Hands Off My Gal" ends this collection like some jazz parade rolling through the New Orleans streets. You can almost smell the crawfish...
Middle of Everywhere stands apart from most of the music floating around these weird days.