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"It really feels like I'm taking a big step forward on this one," Pokey LaFarge says of Something in the Water, his seventh album and his Rounder debut. "While we were recording it, I kept thinking, 'Hey, we're really onto something here.’"
Indeed, the dozen-song set marks a new landmark in a career that's already filled with musical highlights. The St. Louis-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist draws from a deep well of American musical traditions to create distinctively personal music that's timeless rather than retro, transcending the confines of genre in a manner that reflects the artist's openhearted attitude.
Incorporating elements of early jazz, ragtime, country blues, Western swing, and beyond, LaFarge has created a vibrant, deeply expressive body of work that embodies an expansive musical vision and vivid storytelling sensibility that are wholly his own. He's also earned a reputation as a tireless, uniquely charismatic live performer, winning a loyal international fan base that regularly packs his rousing, celebratory live shows.
Since he began recording in 2006, Pokey has maintained an indefatigable work ethic that's yielded a wealth of compelling music. After making a grass-roots splash with his self-released debut album Marmalade and moonlighting as mandolinist with the Hackensaw Boys, he continued to gain notoriety with his widely acclaimed longplayers Beat, Move, and Shake, Riverboat Soul and Middle of Everywhere—the latter two were both named Best Americana Album by the Independent Music Awards—and the concert set Live In Holland.
Longstanding admirer Jack White added LaFarge to the roster of White's Third Man label for the 2011 EP Chittlin' Cookin' Time in Cheatham County (which White produced) and the 2013 album Pokey LaFarge, as well as enlisting Pokey as opening act on the North American tour in support of White's Blunderbuss album. Also in 2013, Pokey was featured on the soundtrack of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, performing the jazz standard "Lovesick Blues" with Vince Giordano's Nighthawks. 2014 was LaFarge's busiest year yet, with the hard-working artist performing on five continents, including tours in India, Australia and New Zealand as well as extensive roadwork in the United States, Canada, UK, Ireland, and The Netherlands.
Something in the Water finds the artist doubling down on his established creative strengths, expanding and deepening his musical reach on such new originals as the wry, rollicking title track, the swaggering ragtime workout "Wanna Be Your Man," the infectiously jazzy "Underground," the evocative instrumental "Cairo, Illinois," the exotic ballad "Barcelona" and the swinging album-closer "Knocking the Dust off the Rust Belt Tonight," whose witty lyrics underline the album's proudly Midwestern sensibility. Also featured are fresh, buoyant takes on popular blues standards "When Did You Leave Heaven" and "All Night Long."
"The Midwest is at the heart of this record," LaFarge asserts. "The people playing on these songs are from Wisconsin and Illinois and Chicago and St. Louis, and there's a certain attitude that comes across in the songs and the way that they're performed. I'm born and raised in the Midwest, and my family's been here for generations. This is where I'm from and how I think, and that's reflected in the music I make.”