Pokey LaFarge at Glasgow Art School
Blabber’n’Smoke first encountered Pokey LaFarge in 2009, playing solo in a small church hall during the Edinburgh Festival. Armed only with his guitar, a plastic kazoo, and his stentorian voice, he was a revelation with dynamite songs that harked back to pre-WWII America. He had a fantastic stage presence, to boot. Pretty soon Pokey was back on these shores only this time with his comrades, the South City Three, a striking combo who fleshed out the songs. They’re all master musicians themselves. Ryan Koenig soon became a crowd favourite, with his amazing harp solos and washboard routines.
It was somewhat gratifying to watch their elevation from small clubs to larger crowds — both here and in the States. Their hard work and sheer entertainment value is certainly reaping its rewards.
As the crowds grew so did Pokey’s vision, and three years ago he added a two-person horn section to the mix. Now, on the back of his debut album for Rounder Records, Something in the Water, the band has a drummer in tow. Matt Meyer is schooled in jazz and old-time country music. He adds a mighty sense of swing to the now-seven-piece band with the result that tonight was the raunchiest set we’ve so far seen from LaFarge.
As is usual these days, the hall was packed as Pokey and the band powered their way through the set. From Dixieland jazz to jungle voodoo rhythms, they delivered several songs from the new album, with “Underground” a highlight. Meyer’s drums pushed the beat.
“Something in the Water” was vampish, and “Goodbye Barcelona”, with its Latin melody, turned into a sing-along with the audience. There was space aplenty for old favourites such as “La La Blues”, and Koenig still has his chance to show off his harp playing. His solos still got the biggest cheers of the night.
While LaFarge was on fire, hollering away and animated throughout, racing around the stage as his players soloed, he also displayed his sensitive side with a tender cover of Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita” — a nice surprise. His solo delivery of “Far Away”, again from the new album, was a superb first encore, and a fine reminder that he is as capable of writing ballads as he is at recreating the atmosphere of a Kansas City speakeasy.
First posted on Blabber’n’Smoke