Band: Pokey LaFarge, The Deslondes
Date: Saturday, Dec. 5, with doors at 8 p.m.
Venue: The Merry Widow, 51 S. Conception St., www.themerrywidow.net
Tickets: $18 advance /$20 day of show, available through Ticketfly
In the brief time since it’s been open, The Merry Widow has transformed many local music lovers into regular patrons. This venue features an impressive sound system and stage set in an attractive, eclectic environment notable for its intimacy and has also provided a lineup of versatile entertainment for the Azalea City.
Since October, James McMurtry, Pine Hill Haints and Yonatan Gat have performed, as well as “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Brooks Whelan and Big Deal Burlesque. Now this brand new LoDa venue is bringing one of its biggest acts to date.
Anyone who invests any time in music will agree that popular music styles are historically cyclical. If an innovative musical style gains and fades in popularity, then it is guaranteed to enjoy a future resurgence, whether it be folk, rockabilly or big band.
Pokey LaFarge is an artist who embraces the sounds of the past, finding his muses in the artists of the early 20th century. As the modern age booms with technology-based genres such as the electronic scene, the 32-year-old musician’s sound reflects multiple genres that found popularity almost 100 years ago.
LaFarge delves into ragtime, old-school jazz, slide blues and Western swing. His songs pay homage to these style individually or are mixed into a musical concoction of his own design. As he trips expertly across the guitar fretboard, LaFarge accents his music with a masterful style of crooning born within his favorite time period.
For him, these antiquated musical styles serve as the roots for many of the modern genres popular today.
“It’s [early 20th century music] the roots of everything that has come after it,” LaFarge said. “Therefore any, say, pre-War song or style, no matter how odd or obscure, can be at least somewhat appealing.”
His studio recordings and live performances feature a plethora of instruments ranging from the guitjo to the kazoo. However, he is also a musician who has crafted his old-school style with a little help from his collection of classic guitars.
While he does include a 2006 Martin HD-28, it’s often joined by a 1946 Epiphone Spartan and a 1950 Gibson L-7 with the original McCarty pick-up. For LaFarge, his classic guitars provide his music with “an authentic sound.”
After the 2006 self-release of his debut album “Marmalade,” LaFarge quickly found a dedicated listening audience that grew as his next four albums dropped. During that time, he found himself the recipient of two Independent Music Awards for “Best Americana Album” for his studio releases “Riverboat Soul” and “Middle of Everywhere.”
Over the years, even Jack White became a fan. After White relocated his Third Man Records to Nashville, he signed LaFarge to his label, who soon released a self-titled album and the EPs “Chittlin’ Cookin’ Time in Cheatham County” and “Central Time/St. Louis Crawl.” LaFarge was also a guest performer on White’s track “I Guess I Should Go to Sleep” on the album “Blunderbuss.”
For his latest effort, “Something in the Water,” LaFarge chose to part ways with Third Man for Rounder Records, which boasts artists ranging from Blackberry Smoke to Bela Fleck. LaFarge says his departure from Third Man Records was purely a business decision.
“Rounder layered out a plan and a budget for the record that seemed akin to some of my ideas,” he explained.
For his latest release, he entered Hi-Style Studio in Chicago with producer Jimmy Sutton, someone heavily schooled in classic sounds and perhaps best known for his collaborative work with J.D. McPherson. LaFarge recalls working with Sutton was like “gaining another soul brother.”
The fruits of this creative bond can be appreciated with its first single, the album’s title track. The song is a jazzy, bouncing jaunt described as “a story, some fiction and some true.” As gentle drums flow through rhythmic strums on the guitar and banjo, LaFarge recounts his love for a woman who is anything but normal.
The accompanying music video brings the situation to life with the artist enduring the insanity of a beautiful rockabilly diva. From milk baths to misting a water hose during a sweet kiss, the visual rendition for “Something in the Water” is appropriate.
When asked what it was like filming the video, LaFarge emphasized one word: cold.
“It was the middle of February,” he said. “I remember that hose scene we had to do in one take, because it was too cold to get wet and be outside for too long.”
For those unfamiliar with LaFarge’s sound, this song is a great introduction into his reality. Listening to this album is like finding a radio that connects is listener to the waves of the past. LaFarge keeps it grounded, and Sutton does the same for the album’s overall sound. With big-band horns and the beating thump of upright bass, “Underground” best exhibits this duo’s combined talent for bringing classic sounds to a modern listening audience.
The mellow crooning of “When Did You Leave Heaven” and “Cairo, Illinois” demonstrates LaFarge’s mastery of early country sounds. While the album may change in rhythm and tone, “Something in the Water” maintains an underlying vibe that forces the listener to grin throughout the album’s 12 tracks.
LaFarge’s performance at The Merry Widow promises to be memorable. LaFarge is planning to deliver “an honest, high-energy show of unique, non genre-specific original American music on a plethora of different instruments.”