On Stage (Bonus): Pokey LaFarge, old-time with a new twist

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Pokey LaFarge

Pokey LaFarge’s new album “Manic Revelations” was just released on May 19 on Rounder Records. On the following day, he started a tour in support of the album with a special album release show at St. Louis’ The Pageant.

The tour makes a stop locally on July 14 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com)

“We’re now at the trail end of a five-week tour,” said LaFarge, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a tour stop in New York city.

“We recorded the album last year in St. Louis. That’s where we live. It was in our backyard – Cherokee Street. We cut the album at Native Sound Recording.”

Reviews of the album – and of LaFarge’s music in general – use descriptions such as ‘old-time” and “old fashioned.”

His music does have a vibe of the past in its DNA but it is also firmly rooted in the present – especially with lyrical topics. There is a juxtaposition of the old and the new.

“There is juxtaposition in all different ways – especially the musical foundation with current events,” said LaFarge.

“People talk about an old-time genre. But, in terms of adhering to any type of genre, I don’t do it. Each album has its own vibe.

“Vibe is something you search out. It’s a feeling and you chase the feeling. When making an album, you definitely want the best songs but you also want them to meld together. With my music, coming from the same source, they fit together.”

Recorded in LaFarge’s hometown of St. Louis, “Manic Revelations” features 10 new original songs and was recorded by the Southside Collective — LaFarge, Joey Glynn (bass), Ryan Koenig (harmonica, guitjo, electric guitar), Adam Hoskins (electric guitar), Matt Meyer (drums, percussion), Luc Klein (trumpet, euphonium, piano, glockenspiel), Alec Spiegelman (saxophone, piano, tubax, organ, clarinet, flute), David Beeman (tambourine, stylophone, guitar, organ)—along with additional production by Tony Hoffer.

According to LaFarge, “The manic revelation is the state where artists create. I got to the point in writing these songs where I felt like a house on fire that just kept burning.

“This album is about confronting yourself. It’s about confronting your city, its relationship with the world, and all its people.”

LaFarge is a prolific writer who has released eight studio albums in the last 10 years.

“I’m always writing,” said LaFarge, who was born Andrew Heissler 34 years ago. “It’s a daily thing. I don’t do it consciously. It just comes to me.

“When you’re a writer, you write – it’s what you do. Writing is like eating – it’s every day. I went in the studio with 20 songs and whittled it down. Some of the songs were recorded live. It depends on the song.

“I wait for songs to come along naturally. I get a lot of inspirations for my songs from traveling – from things that I’ve observed or experienced.”

That process results in songs like his new track “Riot in the Streets.”

“You live in the world today and there is plenty of trouble out there,” said LaFarge. “St. Louis is an American city with real problems — race relations, economic disparity and Ferguson.”

Even though “Manic Revelations” has been out for 10 weeks, LaFarge’s fans have already seriously embraced it.

“We’re playing quite a bit of new songs on this tour – anywhere from five to eight to 10 to the whole record,” said LaFarge. “The audiences have tapped into the new record and is already singing along with the songs.”

Video link for Pokey LaFarge – https://youtu.be/kr2akqqrpW0

The show at the World Café Live, which has Kelsey Waldon as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are The Dukes of Destiny, Nothing Wrong on July 14; The Clock Reads, Gnarbot on July 15; Charles Havira with Band and OXBLOOD, BobbyrocK on July 16; The Nightowls on July 18; The Crane Wives on July 19; and Devon Gilfillian and Cris Jacobs on July 19.

Roselit Bone

Roselit Bone, which is headlining a show July 14 at The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com), has a musical style that is hard to pin down.

The foundation is traditional folk and country but the final result is unsettling music with lyrics that can stimulate and disorient you at the same time.

Formed in Portland in 2011 by Joshua McCaslin and Ben Dahmes, Roselit Bone has since expanded into a nine-piece featuring pedal steel, trumpets, flute, accordion, violin, guitar and more.

The music combines the visceral, haunting songwriting and energy of roots-driven post-punk bands with elements of Mexican ranchera, midcentury singing cowboys, and spaghetti western soundtracks.

A native of Southern California, McCaslin formed the band first as a duo with drummer Ben Dahmes, then a trio, and eventually a nine-piece ensemble.

McCaslin is a versatile and accomplished guitarist, a powerful writer of vivid-nightmare poetry, and a singer unique with the ability to croon like Marty Robbins, bellow like Nick Cave, and scream, grunt and wail like a defiant, wounded animal.

“I just generally gravitate toward morose songwriting,” said McCaslin, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from a tour stop in Washington, D.C.

“I draw from Lee Hazlewood a lot. I got into country music because my grandparents listened to a lot of country acts like Marty Robbins. As I got older, I grew up in L.A. and listened to a lot of L.A. punk bands.”

Roselit Bone – Josh McCaslin, guitar, vocals; Victor Franco, guitar; Matt Mayhem, bass, trumpet; Barry A. Walker, Jr., pedal steel; Valerie Osterberg, flute, percussion; Andy Manla, keyboards, percussion, accordion; Daniel Gruszka, trumpet, saxophone; Ben Dahmes, drums – just released its sophomore album “Blister Steel” on June 2 via Friendship Fever, a new Sacramento-based label distributed by House Arrest/Fat Possum.

The band’s 2014 self-released debut “Blacken & Curl” set the tone. “Blister Steel” refines and expands it.

McCaslin’s lyrics are crueler and darker, the arrangements bigger and more ambitious, the vision and scope blown up into a panoramic, foreboding landscape that looks disturbingly familiar.

“A few of the songs on ‘Blister Steel’ were written before the first album came out – a long time ago,” said McCaslin. “Some were written not long before we recorded the new album. I wrote the title track after most of the session was finished.

“Our songs are kind of all over the place. Some are traditional country melodies. Some are free-form poetry. At times, I’ll sit on lyrics for a few years.

“There is a lot of literary influence that I draw from. One of the themes is drug abuse. There is a lot of darkness but even traditional country music has its darkness.”

“Blister Steel” took a while to come together in its final form.

“It was recorded in a few sessions,” said McCaslin. “The first was in a cabin studio in Corvallis, Oregon.

“A couple months later we did a few live tracks at Get Loud Studio in Portland. And, two or three tracks were done at my house. For most of the songs, we did the basic tracks and then overdubbed later.

“There is always nine or 10 musicians in the band here are nine of us on tour right now. In the past, it’s been hard to break even when touring with so many players. This tour has been better.”

Video link for Roselit Bone – https://youtu.be/BqrcmQvtxqo.

There is no cover or ticket fee to attend. All that is asked of you is that you leave a donation at the door on your way out if you enjoyed the entertainment for the evening.

On July 15, Steel City will host the Morelings and Queue.

Darrell Scott

Darrell Scott has been making music for a long time – both his own music and as a hired player for other acts.

That’s the role Scott is currently playing as he tours America with the Zac Brown Band – a tour that visits the BB&T Pavilion (1 Harbour Boulevard, Camden, New Jersey, 856-225-0163, www.livenation.com) on July 14 and 15.

Scott plays his own set as the opening act. After intermission, he returns to the stage as a member of the Zac Brown Band.

Whether it’s rock, folk, country or blues, Scott, a four-time Grammy-nominated Nashville singer-songwriter, has written hits all the way from Brad Paisley and the Dixie Chicks to Del McCoury, Sam Bush and Keb Mo.

“Aloha from Nashville” was Scott’s debut album in 1997. His most recent is “Couchville Sessions,” which was released in 2016. Scott wrote nine of the 14 songs on album.

“The album came out last year but I tracked it in 2001 and 2002 along with two other albums,” said Scott, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Hartford, Connecticut.

“I worked the songs back then. Two of the albums got released and the third didn’t. ‘Couchville Sessions’ is me going back to those songs from 14 years ago.

“14 years ago, it was tracking with all the musicians in one room and microphones leaking into others. Now, 14 years later, you record in an isolated room.
“Songs don’t have expiration dates if they are good songs. The songs of greats like Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie have great staying power.”

Writing new songs isn’t on Scott’s current agenda.

“I’m in a period where I’m not really writing much unless I have something to say,” said Scott.

“I’m not as prolific with songs as a lot of other musicians. When I first got to Nashville, I tried writing for other people. But, I wasn’t really happy doing that.

“I write for myself. I like it better – and so do other people. A strength of mine is to write about whatever I want to. There is an authenticity to it I don’t ever take a paint-by-number approach.

“One of my favorite writers was Ray Bradbury. He would go and face the typewriter every day. I don’t have the3 discipline to do that.

“I’m here in Hartford and I just finished visiting Mark Twain’s home. I’m always curious about writers and how they do this thing.

“For me, the inspiration cones first and that will take me to a lyric or a melody. When it hits me, I do it. A few times, I’ve written two songs in one day. Other times, I’ll go nine months without writing a song.”

Video link for Darrell Scott — https://youtu.be/IBJfh3rQVsc.

The show at the BB&T Pavilion will get underway at 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from $35-$64.50.

Sir Sly

Sir Sly is an indie pop band from Los Angeles. The band features vocalist Landon Jacobs along with instrumentalists Jason Suwito and Hayden Coplen. On July 15, the band will headline a show at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com).

“Don’t You Worry, Honey,” the sophomore album by Sir Sly was released on June 30 on Interscope Records.

“We’re all from Orange County but we’ve all lived in L.A. for a while,” said Jacobs, during a phone interview Monday morning as the band traveled from a gig in Charlotte, North Carolina to Newark, New Jersey.

“We’ve been a band for five years. Our first single ‘Ghost’ came out in 2012 and we were playing local shows. We didn’t start touring until 2013.

“Hayden and I met singing in church when we were around 14 or 15. It was at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. We met Jason, started making music together and formed a band.

Saddleback Church is an evangelical Christian megachurch located in southern Orange County and affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The church was founded in 1980 by Pastor Rick Warren. Weekly church attendance averages over 20,000 people.

“We’re not a Christian rock band – in the slightest,” said Jacobs. Jokingly, I say I’m an Apostate.”

Ironically, Sir Sly released a single from the album in June titled “Altar.”

According to Jacobs, “Growing up in evangelical Christianity, I was taught and became convinced that divorce was synonymous with moral deficiency. Even if folks didn’t come right out and say they believed it, they’d insinuate it beyond any shadow of a doubt.

“After my own divorce, I needed a song that made sense of the pain, shame, and cognitive dissonance I was feeling. The idea for ‘Altar’ was to use my roots in gospel music and storytelling to heal from those feelings of guilt and inadequacy.”

Jacobs and his mates devoted a lot of time to making “Don’t You Worry, Honey.”

“The last two years, we’ve been completely off the road and have been working on the new record,” said Jacobs.

“We wrote and recorded everything at Jason’s studio Noise Coalition in Costa Mesa. We kept close – the three of us plugging away and finding ourselves.

“There was a period of writing, a short time off to tour and then writing again. I split with my ex-wife and then it was more writing. We tried a new producer and that didn’t work.

“Then, my mom died of brain cancer and that inspired more writing. After that, it was plugging away to make the album. We’re an alternative band wearing R&B and hip-hop influence.

“An uplifting attitude was the inspiration for this album. I use my own personal experiences to show that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Writing songs is what I do and they’re personal. Music has always been a catharsis for me.

“The new album isn’t all about grief and sad news. It’s also about treating life as a celebration. It has a hopeful vibe that hopefully will help people feel not alone.”

Video link for Sir Sly – https://youtu.be/qIOaU7Sm-ZE.

The show at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia, which has SHAED as the opening act, will start at 9 p.m.

Tickets are $18.

Other upcoming acts at The Fillmore are Splintered Sunlight on July 14, Why Don’t We on July 15, Wheeler Walker on July 16, and Morgan Heritage on July 19.

If you’re looking for a concert on July 15 with a heavier vibe, check out Bloodclot’s show at Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org).

Bloodclot, which features hardcore pioneers John Joseph (Cro-Mags), Todd Youth (Warzone, Murphy’s Law), Joey Castillo (ex-Queens of the Stone Age, Blast!), and Nick Oliveri (ex-Queens of the Stone Age, Dwarves), is now out on a national tour with Negative Approach.

“Up in Arms,” the new album by Bloodclot, has a July 14 release date on Metal Blade Records.

“We did one show – Power of Riff – in L.A. and people were digging the shit out of it,” said Joseph, during a phone interview Monday morning from his home in New York. “That was a good sign.

“We all played in bands together at some point. Me and Todd were friends a long time – ever since he was a kid in Agnostic Front. I knew Joey from Wasted Youth and Todd had been working on stuff with him.

“A little while ago, Todd played me some stuff he was doing and it was dope. I started doing lyrics for songs and we got studio time to do a demo.

“NRG gave us studio time so we hired a drummer. We sent the demos to Joey and he said – I’m in. We shopped the demos around and Brian Slagel from Metal Blade took notice.

“He flew to New York and we talked. I needed a bass player and Nick called. Brian listened to the tracks we made and said – this is killer and I want to put it out on Metal Blade.

“We went to L.A. to make the record. I’m in New York and the rest of the guys are in L.A. So, some of the music was stuff we jammed just before making the record.

“We made the record at NRG Studio in the Valley and Chris Zeus produced it. It’s a great studio and the vibe is really cool.
“We just set up and played live in the studio. This is a real record – old-school style with no samplers. I’m a vinyl guy. There’s nothing like the warmth and fidelity of vinyl. Joey has an amazing vinyl collection.”

Now, Bloodclot is taking its music to the people.

“We play the whole album in our live show along with a couple cover songs,” said Joseph. “This is a great live band – a band with 140 years our touring experience between us.”

Video link for Bloodclot – https://youtu.be/5k9t_-a-TOQ.

The show at Underground Arts, which also features Negative Approach, Fire & Ice, and Please Die!, will start at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $15.

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