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LaFarge throws back less, but all good

The Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., July 8, 2017

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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The throwback vibe remained intact for Pokey LaFarge. The St. Louis retained the old school look with a dark suit and shirt. And he has the songs to go along with it covering everything from country to blues to country blues to jazz to an amalgam of roots sounds.

But Pokey has changed over time or at least on "Manic Revelations," his very fine new disc. He expanded the musical palette a bit with some poppier (don't read into that commercial or that Pokey has sold out. Not so!) and slightly more modern sounding songs, though one would be hard pressed to think he's gone au courant.

Starting with what is traditional for LaFarge - the upbeat "Close the Door" - he headed straight for new material with "Riot in the Streets" and the doo wop sounding "Better Than Me." He played 9 of the 10 songs on the new release, ensuring that the night was varied.

LaFarge delivery was spot on, engaging, sometimes vocally elastic. Not only did LaFarge change up the sound, but also sometimes different musical configurations contributing to lots of excellent music.

But he could not have done it without his stellar backing band. Long-time guitarist Adam Hoskins may not have cracked a smile for much of the night, but if he were on the receiving end of his guitar playing - fills and all - he would have. (LaFarge did get him to smile in the latter stages of the night)

Dapper looking Ryan Koenig with a cream-colored wide-brimmed hat was multi-talented from banjo to electric guitar. He also had a turn on lead vocals for one of his own songs.

The one-two bunch of Luc Klein (trumpet) and Ryan Weisheit (saxophone) was pure pleasure throughout. Klein was a particular standout as the duo played a prominent role and was not merely window dressing.

It also helped LaFarge to have a bevy of well-crafted songs in his quiver. Nothing was too far off base to make sense, but there was sufficient diversity to keep the audience on its aural toes.

Curiously, LaFarge dispensed with an encore, although one appeared on the set list. Who knows? Maybe he felt that concluding with the bouncy "Hard Times" was sufficient. After 20 songs, strong musicianship and singing and a thoroughly enjoyable, musically diverse landscape, LaFarge may have been right.