Pokey LaFarge’s appearances at the 2016 and 2017 Muncie Three Trails Music Series attracted some of the biggest crowds in our history, so we were anxious to have him back. However, we have had to wait, as Pokey, born Andrew Heissier in Bloomington, IL, had some personal travails to deal with, self-described as “a fall from grace”. This was swiftly followed by the Covid pandemic, about which Lafarge says, “Before the pandemic, I was in a dark place but the pandemic actually created the much needed space for me to reflect. Turns out that being completely sedentary for once was a good thing. I found peace in the stillness. I was able to recalibrate what it is I do and why I’m doing it. Who I’m to do it with and most importantly, who I’m doing it for.”
The results of these periods of struggle and reflection have been two stellar, though very different, albums. 2020’s Rock Bottom Rhapsody, hailed as a “Best of 2020” by NPR’s Fresh Air, was dark, lean and melancholy, without horns or anything else that might interfere with the vocals and the lyrics. “That desperation, that struggle,” LaFarge ponders. “Did it add something to [that] record? It certainly did. I mean, I don’t know if it made it better; it just is what it is…. [T]hat fall has certainly given some deeper meaning to things that I’ll write going forward, and that’s something to be grateful for.” By contrast, 2021’s In The Blossom of Their Shade showcases the positivity of coming out of the darkness and into the light, capturing the vibe of a perfect summer afternoon soundtrack. As with all his previous works, In The Blossom of Their Shade continues to mix and match a wide variety of styles and traditions. This time around, in addition to drawing on sounds from hot swing, ragtime, country blues, and Americana, Pokey has also incorporated influences from the Southwest, South America, and the Caribbean. While continuing to introduce (or re-introduce) listeners to aspects of their musical heritage that tend to be largely forgotten in the “next new thing” world of popular music, Lafarge, now armed with a newfound faith resulting from his fall from grace, has added yet another aspect to his musical (and personal) journey.
LaFarge never wanted to be an artist that had one gigantic record and then kept repeating the same thing over and over. His latest gives evidence that he is in no danger of doing that. Even having just completed In The Blossom of Their Shade, LaFarge hasn’t put down his pen. You just can’t keep a great songwriter idle, and it is anybody’s guess what will spring up next on his musical horizons. But one thing you can be sure of – he will continue to entertain audiences everywhere with his unique mix of styles and dynamic showmanship. We are extremely pleased to be able to welcome Pokey LaFarge back to the Three Trails stage.