Pokey LaFarge, the time traveling musician, brings the past with him yet again.Rounder Records, 2017
6.8 / 10
I think it’s best to describe Pokey LaFarge as a time traveling musician. None of his songs sound like they belong to this current time period. Hell, even he doesn’t appear like he belongs in the year 2017. Simply calling his blend of folk, rock, soul, and big band music retro doesn’t feel right either. Old timey seems better if not a little off-putting to a potential music base of millennials. And really they shouldn’t snub their noses at Pokey’s music as the man knows how to craft a catchy song. Manic Revelations has many, which may dumbfound some listeners as to how Pokey’s able to make them without synthesizers or drops.
Pokey is old-fashioned, which means lots of instruments. Here, he’s got backup from the Southside Collective, which brings a heavy arsenal. The firepower includes horns, woodwinds, guitars, piano, glockenspiel, and even some things I haven’t heard of. However, what matters most is that Pokey knows how they should work in his songs. To that end, they work perfectly in capturing the sound of a different era. If there’s any drawback to Manic Revelations, it’s that LaFarge is an adequate singer. He’s not one as dynamic as Paul Janeway of St. Paul and the Broken Bones or Nathaniel Rateliff.
Still, Pokey is a strong songwriter, which sometimes makes up for his lack of stellar vocals. On “Must Be a Reason”, LaFarge sings, “Said you wanted a diamond ring/ In return, I get a ball and chain.” The song deals with a selfish lover, who treats LaFarge more like a possession. Yet, as much as he complains, he says he’s not complaining because he loves her. We all want that feeling even it doesn’t exist just like many of us wish we were living our lives like movies. “Silent Movie” follows this theme as LaFarge insists we should live our lives as we want before “the credits roll.”
But maybe the best life worth living is away from all the noise. This is the idea behind “Going to the Country”. Pokey sings about getting out of the city away from the crime and jobless opportunities for the greener pastures of the country. During this move, Pokey leaves a lover behind, who has become used to living in fear. Maybe a Farmers Only profile is in Pokey’s future. However, that’s assuming Pokey uses the Internet. He seems more likely to pen letters with a quill, but there’s something endearing about that, just like his music.