Not everyone has enough idle time to check out all of Columbia’s upcoming performers on YouTube. That’s where I come in, and that’s how I discovered the music of Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. They are bringing their music to Mojo’s on Friday night.Pokey’s music is hard to put into a box with a label on it. When I asked him to do so, he described it as “Western Swing without fiddle and lap steel (instead slide guitar) and small combo jazz without horns (instead harmonica and kazoo). A string band who plays country swing and ragtime blues.”
And gets people up dancing. When I listen to Pokey’s music, I feel as if I’m transported back to some good ol’ day when everyone dressed nicely and all was right in the world. Pokey’s music makes me happy. I cannot listen to it without a grin erupting across my face (even on that one day when my youngest called me a hag and got the dictionary to prove the definition fit).
For years, Pokey’s been traveling the country and lands far away, sharing his unique blend of music. Audiences everywhere are responding enthusiastically. There is something pure and alive in the music. Bob Boilen of NPR aptly calls it, “fresh, fun, and altogether outstanding.”
Mojo’s is the perfect place to experience it. It won’t be long before he is exclusively gracing larger stages. Right now we can still catch him on a small stage and pester him with questions:
Your lyrics are pretty entertaining all on their own. What inspires your writing?
I write lyrics that I would want to read or hear. Strong imagery is important or any other twist on how to say the same things people have been saying for centuries.
You have said that you learned to sing loudly when you were hitching around the country performing on the streets. Did you acquire any other interesting skills during your busking days?
Showmanship and stage presence and desperation to perform well.
What instruments would you add to your current ensemble to create your ideal band?
I wouldn’t change what the guys do. I would maybe just add a couple fellas or gals that play clarinet, trumpet, stride piano, swing/jazz fiddle and lap steel.
You are off on a tour of Ireland, Britain, and Europe soon. How is performing in foreign lands different than performing here? What do you gain from your visits? What do you hope to bring to those audiences?
People in the states know how to respond or involve themselves in the show. Probably because we’re more exposed to this kind of music or that it’s a part of our culture. That’s not to say that Europeans are removed from this music. There has been great amounts of American music over there since the Jazz age – Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker – and some Europeans are very knowledgeable about our music. However, I want to point out that we play American music, I’m proud of that and I want people everywhere to experience the joy of music.
Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. Friday, February 17, at Mojo’s.