Picks from KSLU: Pokey LaFarge

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Pokey LaFarge has been one of the top draws coming out of St. Louis for some time now. His talents have allowed him to travel the world, appear on a song from Jack White’s Grammy-nominated, debut solo album and play in front of thousands of fans.

For those of you unfamiliar, LaFarge is a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter known for playing music of the classic-yet-oft-forgotten styles of swing, Americana, bluegrass and folk, among others. He hails from St. Louis and is back with a brand new album entitled “Something in the Water,” his first release since his 2013 self-titled album, which was released on Jack White’s Third Man Records, based out of Nashville, Tennessee. This time around, however, LaFarge’s album is being released by Rounder Records, also out of Nashville.

As a fan of LaFarge’s music, I was disappointed with his 2013 release. There just was not enough experimentation with his sound to keep my attention. That is not the case on this new release. On “Something in the Water,” there is an added priority on the horn section that brings energy that was missing on the last record. Songs such as “Wanna Be Your Man,” “All Night Long,” and “Knockin’ the Dust Off the Rust Belt Tonight” excellently emphasise the horns. Then there is the song “Goodbye, Barcelona,” which has the horns that really provide the mariachi sound this song is going for. This track is one of my favorites on the album and one of the most experimental tracks of LaFarge’s career.

The traditional ballads on this album are some of LaFarge’s best, keeping the music simple and letting the lyrics and LaFarge’s vocal performance be the focal point of the songs. Tracks such as “When Did You Leave Heaven” and “Far Away” are prime examples of some of LaFarge’s best ballads to date.

The title track may be the best song LaFarge has released so far. It has everything going for it: the witty lyrics that paint a perfect picture, the catchy chorus, the phenomenal instrumentation and the charm of LaFarge’s delivery that fans have known to love. The music video is quite entertaining, too. This song will leave you humming along for days. This is the song to play for someone who is unfamiliar with Pokey LaFarge.

The only songs on this album I did not particularly enjoy were “Underground” and “The Spark.” I liked where “Underground” was going with the pounding percussion followed by blasting horns, but the sound of a group of men humming gets old quickly. As for “The Spark,” nothing sticks out about it. It is not a bad song, but it is also nothing special.

Overall, I have to give “Something in the Water” an 8.5/10. This is Pokey LaFarge’s best release so far; the smooth, rolling music on this album will have you pressing play over and over. The experimentation and evolution of LaFarge’s sound – while he still keeps to his roots – has really made for a more than exceptional release.