Pokey LaFarge is possibly the most well-known proponent of the recent resurgence of American roots music, and easily the most lovable.
Pokey LaFarge played in Lido, Berlin last Sunday and tore the place up. Watching him, it was obvious that he is a man who has found his niche and made it absolutely and utterly his own.
Pokey LaFarge’s music ranges broadly across old-time rock n roll, American folk, tinges of Latin and jazz, country gospel and RnB. He kills it all, with a wink and a knowing grin from beneath his slicked-back hair. His four-piece band complements him perfectly, looking old-school and staying tight. The guitarist swaps out his guitar for certain songs for a pleasingly penetrating piccolo trumpet; and halfway through the set he calls out dancer and singer Addie Hamilton, a Grammy award-winning artist in her own right.
no wonder the man’s riding high
Well, no wonder the man’s riding high. Introduced as the inspiration for the next song, turns out the two are engaged to be married. She adds a wonderful touch to the scene onstage, with her voice and her straight-out-of-the-fifties enthusiastic dance routines and knowing smiles kicking the already hugely enjoyable performance up a notch.
Pokey LaFarge knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s one of those people who is a born performer, perfectly in tune with the crowd, pulling us down, lifting us up, getting the place clapping and stomping and whistling along.
Pokey LaFarge was born Andrew Heissler in Illinois but fell in love with the music of the American south, influenced by both grandfathers, with whom he spent a lot of time as a kid. One grandfather was a member of the St. Louis Banjo Club and gifted him his first guitar, while his other grandpa was an amateur historian who taught him about the Civil War and WWII.
Learning his trade the hard way, by drifting around the USA busking sidewalks, streets and shopping malls, he met up with what would be his future band, the South City Three, while busking in Asheville, North Carolina. He worked his way up, bar by bar, club by club, putting out his 2008 debut album Marmalade independently.
Second album Beat Move & Shake came out on Big Muddy Records; in 2013 he was signed to Third Man Records, the label set up by Jack White of White Stripes fame, and he invited them to perform on his single Blunderbuss.
LaFarge’s most recent album is his seventh, In the Blossom of Their Shade from 2021, which was apparently inspired by his coming from an extreme low point before the Covid lockdown forced him to stop and reflect and find a better place; since then he’s found God and hooked up with Addie.
Pokey LaFarge, king of Americana: long may he reign.