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Beloved by both Garrison Keillor and Jack White, Pokey LaFarge describes his own music—a mix of old-time jazz, blues, ragtime, and string-band music from the past century—as timeless rather than retro.
The charismatic Pokey LaFarge is right where he wants to be: perfectly poised to take on the world with his timeless tunes as the musician in the middle. Nestled comfortably somewhere between rock star and Americana crooner stands the talented Pokey LaFarge.
Timelessness, and refined good taste, is Pokey LaFarge’s raison d’être, and his influences are as multi-hued and wide-ranging as the rhythms that buoy his starkly poetic songs—rhythms that are steeped in the very essence of jazz.
“Limiting myself to a genre has never really been my thing,” says LaFarge. “I’m most purely a rambler. I’m traveling the world all the time, and my songs have been directly influenced by my travels. You’re liable to hear something in my songs that sounds like traditional jazz; next thing you know, you might be hearing something that sounds like Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline mixed with the chanson singers of France, or a waltz mixed with cumbia, or soul mixed with swing.”
Ever since his first record, 2006’s self-released Marmalade, LaFarge has been a difficult specimen to pin down, indeed. Though he was raised on a healthy diet of blues, bluegrass, ragtime, Western swing, and old-time country, the Illinois native is by no means a throwback. LaFarge’s deft way with words and music—as showcased on such dynamite discs as 2008’s Beat, Move and Shake, 2010’s Riverboat Soul, 2011’s Middle of Everywhere, and 2015’s Something in the Water—has won him raves from critics, and inspired a devoted following on both sides of the Atlantic.
LaFarge is a musician. He is a storyteller. He is a feeler of feelings. He is a narrator of the messy, unkempt American experience. He sits, he watches, he writes. Everything that’s worth happening happens in his songs. Like the long line of writers and performers he descends from, music isn’t something LaFarge does—it’s something he is.