Pokey LaFarge is a workhorse, nine albums and a global pandemic in. In the Blossom of Their Shade comes right on the heels of 2020’s excellent Rock Bottom Rhapsody (ND interview), a record that signaled a shift in LaFarge’s sound and that unjustly fell victim to the mass cancellation of live music last year. LaFarge is continuing to mine new sonic territory and darker lyrical corners with In the Blossom of Their Shade, adding touches of Latin and South American music, gospel, and blues to his timeless, soulful twang. In these songs, lovers appear like apparitions under shining moons, moments are fleeting, the drinks are cold and stiff, and beauty gives way to darkness lurking underneath. But all the while, LaFarge keeps his chin up and looks to the horizon.
Written in Austin after LaFarge uprooted himself from his home in Los Angeles, In the Blossom of Their Shade builds its own world, walking the line between fantasy and the grim reality of 2020. The latter comes into play on songs like “Rotterdam,” in which he conjures memories of his time in The Netherlands, a respite where he felt at peace. We hear it in the play on words of “Drink of You,” a kind of resignation to loneliness. “There’s always something to drink about,” he sings. “All of my friends are married with children / All I have is this time I’m killing.” And on album closer “Goodnight, Goodbye (Hope Not Forever)” he imagines being an apocalyptic scenario, he and his lover the only two left on this earth.
But LaFarge also transports us somewhere lighter and brighter on tunes like the soft, breezy “Mi Ideal” that puts the hope for romance out into the universe, longing for a swift return. The hand-clapping groove “Fine to Me” finds him with a spring in his step thanks to a love that elevates him and holds him down at the same time. He shows his strong will to keep going on the hip-shaker “Killing Time,” with its doo-wop harmonies and confetti of piano notes. “I squeezed water from a turnip / Lemonade from the sun,” he sings. “I’m killing time / It ain’t killing me.” With swagger like this, nothing can keep LaFarge down.