ARTIST: POKEY LA FARGE
AND THE SOUTH CITY THREE

TITLE: RIVERBOAT SOUL

LABEL: FREE DIRT RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 2010

By Dennis Roger Reed

POKEY_LA_FARGE_AND_THE_SOUTH_CITY_THREE.jpgIt's hard not to like Pokey La Farge and the South City Three. For want of a better term, Pokey and the boys play "good time music." If you're old enough to remember the Lovin' Spoonful or the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, then you have some idea of what type of music Pokey plays. Maybe you're a blues fan and know about the Memphis Jug Band. Maybe you're a folk fan and you like The New Lost City Ramblers. You know that Pokey does. But perhaps you don't like upbeat music. Perhaps you can't abide by humor in music, or even just plain silliness. Perhaps you have no fondness for straw hats and spats. If so, then read no more.

Pokey La Farge is a St. Louis based musician, all of twenty six years old. He was born in Illinois, and there is a particular mid-western spin on his take of hokum/blues/jug band/swing music. His voice is at times reminiscent of the remarkably underappreciated John Herald, and like Herald, La Farge is no slouch at guitar picking. And this type of music (don't call it old timey, warns his website) requires equal amounts of talent and exuberance, and La Farge is lacking neither.

Riverboat Soul is a great title. The project was recorded in two days and mixed in two days, pretty much like the old blues or hillbilly artists recorded in the 1920s and 1930s. La Farge and Phil Harris produced, while Harris also handled recording, mixing and mastering in Nashville, TN, using vintage recording gear. La Farge not only sports period clothing, his bio has him hitch hiking around the good old USA and learning his trade by busking and singing for his supper. He learned to play the harmonica and kazoo while playing guitar. And sing loud.

The South City Three consist of Joey Glynn on upright bass and guitar; Adam Hoskins on guitar and Ryan "Church Mouse" Koenig on harmonica, washboard and percussion. Jug bands can sometimes have somewhat sloppy musicianship, but the SC3 are not from that camp. Instrumentally, La Farge often surprises on harmonica, and the guitar interplay sometimes brings to mind the Hot Club of Paris more than Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers.

All but three of the twelve songs are La Farge originals. His version of In the Graveyard Now manages to evoke Jimmie Rodgers' In the Jailhouse Now and The Memphis Jug Band's version while sounding little like either. La Farge's La La Blues is almost impossible to listen to without joining in on the chorus. Migraines and Heartpains is sort of the basic hokum in a nutshell. Two Faced Tom is another one where the chorus dares you to silence, and loses.

There isn't a lot to smile about in today's headline news. Pokey La Farge and the South City Three's Riverboat Soul make for a very pleasant diversion. You can always catch the news tomorrow.

Dennis Roger Reed is a singer-songwriter, musician, and writer based in San Clemente, CA. He is apparently somewhat of an expert on Gram Parsons, with his writings on the subject having been featured in Mojo and in God's Own Singer: A Life of Gram Parsons by Jason Walker. Writing about his music has appeared in Acoustic Musician, Bass Player, Bluegrass Now, Bluegrass Unlimited, Blues Access, Blues Revue, Blue Suede News, Dirty Linen, the LA Times, Living Blues, and Sing Out! He is still decidedly not famous.