RIYL: J.D. McPherson; The Devil Makes Three; Stoop Kids; Kitty, Daisy & Lewis; Lake Street Dive
American tradition is steeped with the different flavors of many cultures, with the unsettling opinions of archaic thinkers, and with the constant struggles of self-purpose and self-worth. Its rich culture has not only been maintained, but also skewed through the lens of the storytellers responsible for its preservation.
Through music and the arts, our country’s complicated history is exposed under an authentic light. Midwestern swing artist Pokey LaFarge embodies the role of the American storyteller in an honestly objective, yet very personal way. A contemporary jukebox of ragtime, honky-tonk, blues, and soul, LaFarge breathes a respectfully new air into these classically “American” genres in his new album Manic Revelations (Rounder Records, 5/19/17) as he stays thematically more current than ever before.
“Riot In The Streets” opens the album with an unbiased narration of racial tensions and the violence that accompanies the ever-lingering prejudices that history refuses to wipe away. By taking an unbiased approach, he warns that the words of the media are just as dangerous as the violent acts themselves in persevering these events as catalysts of change.
Watch: “Riot in the Streets” – Pokey LaFarge
“Must Be A Reason” and “Good Luck Charm” explore a fantastic love through coming to terms with LaFarge’s own identity and his own wants and needs. He admits the difficulties in his relationship, yet remains committed because his companion makes him into the man he knows he can be. In “Better Man Than Me,” he encounters the challenge in prioritizing his art over his relationship. Though he knows what it takes to put the relationship first, he seems satisfied with the decision he has made to put his music first. “Bad Dreams” confronts a sad realization that it is perhaps too late to save a failing relationship.
“Mother Nature” takes on a powerful subject matter rarely explored by male artists. Crooning about the struggles of being a woman, he admits the fault of man in placing the unfair expectations of age-defying beauty and trading in independence for marriage. These issues are brought to an even larger scale when he admits that Mother Nature won’t last if Father Time has anything to say about it.
“Silent Movie” depicts the chaos in the world and how it distracts from staying true to one’s self. He encourages his listeners to cover their ears and live their lives in the way they want. In a similar way, “Going To The Country” expresses the freeing feeling LaFarge gets from separating himself between hustle and bustle of city life and all of the expectations placed on him. It seems that the theme of escape is a prevalent one in this album as he sings of the good times he had in New Zealand in his slapdash tune, “Wellington.”
Watch: “Must Be a Reason” – Pokey LaFarge
Closing with a promise in “I Will Never Change,” LaFarge seems to be truly content with the man he has become through his journey of self-discovery in writing this album. Manic Revelations is an epiphany of one’s true place in this world, and LaFarge narrates his own story truthfully and beautifully. A troubadour in the American tradition, LaFarge reconciles his own uncertainties with the music he makes and, in turn, faces a transformative and enlightening internal progression.
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cover © Nate Burrell