Middle Of Everywhere is the 2011 release by Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. This album is in a style that stands apart from all the other pieces I have blogged on to this point – being a mix of pre-WWII country, blues and ragtime merged into what laFarge calls River Boat Soul. I first became aware of the band through their performance on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny show at New Year.
At a first listen, country is the predominant style on the album but I have found that, the more listens through I give it, the more I pick up. Traces of Robert Johnson’s blues, Woody Guthrie’s folk and others are all in the seamless mix that the band has put together. Each of the tracks is led by LaFarge’s nasal, yet charismatic singing and his rhythm guitar. The South City Three consist of upright bass player Joey Glynn, Adam Hoskins on lead arch-top guitar and Ryan Koenig on washboard percussion. All of the group are superb musicians in their own right and each plays an integral role in the overall sound.
“So Long Honeybee, Goodbye” (LaFarge) – An ‘old-time’ country flavored track that laments trying to hold together a relationship while being on the road. The singer remains upbeat, claiming that, if the girl gives up on him, ‘You’ll be the one to sit alone and cry’ as there is plenty of fish in the sea. A strong opener to the album with a cleverly used change of pace later in the song.
“Ain’t The Same” (LaFarge) – A guitar and harmonica track that strongly reminds me of the soundtracks to the Railroad Tycoon games! The singer here is arguing that he can offer a girl a life better than the one she is living and more like the wanted she wanted further back in time. The song keeps it bluesy feel throughout and has a very catchy central riff.
“Head To Toe” (LaFarge) – A feel-good ragtime song with a strong call-and-answer technique throughout. The lyrics are fairly traditional ‘I Love You’ lyrics but this doesn’t stop the song being enjoyable.
“Sunny Side Of The Street” (LaFarge) – A laid-back song where the singer is crying out for something ‘to lift my out of the world’ after a failed love affair has broken down. A gentler song.
“Shenandoah River” (LaFarge) – Another of the album’s gentler tracks that talks about a couple sharing a gentle sail in a rowboat on the title’s river. The song has a jazzy feel contained within it, brought through in some of the chord choices.
“Mississippi Girl” (LaFarge) – The pace picks up here as the harmonica brings this track in. The pace has picked up to that which marks the opening songs on the album. Here the singer sings of the joys of dancing with a southern girl.
“Feels So Good” (LaFarge) – Another of jazzier feeling tracks on the album. Set to a raunchy beat, the lyrics are talking about how good it is to be in love. There is a brief bass solo in this track, slapped in the rockabilly style. Also this track features the largest amount of horn music on the album.
“River Rock Bottom” (LaFarge) – A harmonica driven ballad gives the tale of the singer complaining of having the blues while his partner claims that she has all he needs to get the blues over. This is the most downbeat start to a song on the album so far but as it progresses to the solo it kicks up to the gear LaFarge has used throughout the album.
“Weedwacker Rag” (LaFarge) – This track is again representative of LaFarge’s charismatic singing as he proclaims that he’s a whole new type of person from those mostly found in the world.
“Drinkin’ Whiskey Tonight” (LaFarge) – The song that caught my attention on Jools Holland. The song is a celebration of drinking together with friends and the good times that ensues. The song, especially live, shows off the musical ability of the band and the charismatic leadership of LaFarge.
“Good Country Girls” (LaFarge) – Like so many of the tracks on this album, this one is hard to pin down. In line with the song’s title, country, is a strong influence here but there’s also a fair amount of ragtime jazz in the mix here and this mix keeps the track interesting as the different instruments, especially the harmonica, solo through.
“Coffe Pot Blues” (LaFarge) – The song sounds very different to most on the album. I’m not sure if this was recorded in a different place to the rest of the album or whether the change is simply a deliberate choice of LaFarge. This is a strong bluesy track that has strong traces of Robert Johnson and other pre-war blues artists in it.
“Keep Your Hands Off My Gal” (LaFarge) – The album finishes on a gently jazzy note where the singer calmly threatens to kill anyone who puts their hands on his girl!
Overall the sound that Pokey LaFarge has (re)created on this album sits well outside of what I would usually listen to. The strong pre-war country/ ragtime/ blues feel marks it out from my more normal fare of rockabilly and classic rock. However, the band’s secret weapon is Pokey – his voice and charisma keeps drawing me in and I find it infectious, especially in the stronger tracks. The only downside to the album is the samey feel of some of the songs. Listening to this album does make a refreshing change generally and I do think it is dominated by an upbeat feel that’s guaranteed to garner a smile.
Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three – Middle of Everywhere 6/10