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Monday, July 8, 2013

Pokey LaFarge’s Love Song To The Midwest

Musician and songwriter Pokey LaFarge is based in St. Louis, Missouri. (Joshua Black Wilkins)

Musician and songwriter Pokey LaFarge is based in St. Louis, Missouri. (Joshua Black Wilkins)

Stephen Thompson, writer and editor for NPR Music, brings us a new song each week.

This week he introduces us to the music of musician and songwriter Pokey LaFarge, with his new song “Central Time” from his self titled album.

  • More song recommendations from Stephen Thompson
  • Transcript


    As he does every week, NPR music writer and editor Stephen Thompson comes to recommend a new song for us. And Stephen, it wakes our brains up. So what have you got?


    STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Always happy to wake up a brain. I’ve got a really fun singer this week: a guy from Missouri who goes by the name Pokey LaFarge. He plays…

    YOUNG: Well, that right there.

    THOMPSON: Right there. I feel like we’re done.


    THOMPSON: Everybody’s just sold.


    THOMPSON: He plays very authentic, old-time music, complete with, you know, kind of washboard-type percussion. It seems like it might be a shtick, especially when you look at sort of period outfits and everything. But the music is very, very charming with this solid, catchy, sturdy songwriting at its heart. This is the first track from a new self-titled album by Pokey LaFarge. The song is called “Central Time.”


    POKEY LAFARGE: (Singing) The Missouri is my right arm. The Ohio is my left. But I’m living on the Mississippi River where I like life the best. I don’t mind the West Coast, and I don’t mind the East Coast. Oh, baby, but I ain’t going top live on no coast. I’m just a plain, ole Midwestern boy, yes, getting by on Central Time.

    YOUNG: You know, it’s reminding me of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

    THOMPSON: A little bit, yeah. Another artist that does very faithful renditions of old-time music. And I have to say as a Midwesterner who was dragged to Washington, D.C., by the siren song of NPR, I can relate to his bone-deep love of the Midwest. In my case, Wisconsin. But it’s just a fun, very period-specific and yet strangely timeless sound.


    LAFARGE: (Singing) Getting by on Central Time. Well, I won’t worry if the world don’t like me. I won’t let them waste my time. There ain’t nothing going to change my mind. I’m feeling fine, getting by on Central Time.

    YOUNG: Tell us more. Where does he play? Which festivals does he go to? How would you characterize his music?

    THOMPSON: Yeah. It’s almost tricky to pin down a genre. He’s played the Newport Folk Festival. He’s on the record label run by Jack White of The White Stripes, who likes a lot of very stripped-down music and, you know, a lot of blues music, a lot of old-time music. I would maybe describe the sound as like old-time rural Americana or like rootsy folk music. But his songs can be darker and more modern and more sophisticated and maybe old timeless.


    THOMPSON: It’s a present-day voice from the past.

    YOUNG: Well, here he’s singing about Central Time, you know, a Midwesterner. But what are some of the – what would be darker?

    THOMPSON: It’s just that there are little modern hints occasionally will sneak into his lyrics. He writes very much from the perspective of being a rambler as much as there were ramblers in any given era. This is a guy who put out an album on 78 rpm awhile back. Actually, I once encountered him in person and was surprised. It almost like – I was like, why aren’t you even in black and white? You should look like an old photograph.


    YOUNG: OK. Well, it’s Pokey LaFarge from Missoura. When you say if you live there, Missoura or Missouri, I always get people commenting.

    THOMPSON: You know, it’s funny…


    THOMPSON: …I hear the pronunciation Missoura and I immediately assume that it’s anachronistic because there’s a line on “The Simpsons” where Grampa Simpson says, I’ll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Missoura.


    THOMPSON: And so I always assumed that it’s the way Grampa Simpson talks and that…

    YOUNG: Oh, thanks.

    THOMPSON: And not – and no, no, no offense, Robin.


    THOMPSON: I’m sure you’re much more authentic than Grampa..

    YOUNG: Well, we’ll just listen – hear from listeners. And what do you think of Pokey LaFarge, especially if you’re in the Midwest? Is life really better on Central Time? You can tweet us, @hereandnowrobin, or tweet Stephen, @idislikestephen. There’s a back story there, but what’s important is how do you like the song that he has brought us this week, Pokey LaFarge’s “Central Time.” Stephen, thank you so much.

    THOMPSON: Thank you.


    LAFARGE: (Singing) I’m just a plain old Midwestern boy just getting by on Central Time, just getting by…

    Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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