Pokey LaFarge

The Grey Eagle and Worthwhile Sounds Present

Pokey LaFarge

Lillie Mae

Sun, June 25, 2017

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

$18.00 - $20.00

This event is all ages

STANDING ROOM ONLY

Pokey LaFarge
Pokey LaFarge
In three parts
I. Reshuffling the Deck
II. Ten Daggers on the Table
III. The Songs

I. RESHUFFLING THE DECK

Day after day, pencil in hand, always dressed in blue. Never feeling satisfied. Itchy. Incomplete. Attired halfway between a businessman and a janitor, Pokey LaFarge tries to make sense of trouble he’s seen and trouble he’s been in. This is the Great Why of his unending passion for songwriting. An unquenchable need to be heard in a world where everyone is talking and nobody is listening.

The songs on Pokey’s transformative new album MANIC REVELATIONS demand your attention. Here, you get the feeling this man is constantly reshuffling the deck in favor of some outcome or other. Each chord, each riff shades the stories he sets up in his lyrics. But make no mistake – no matter how the cards lay, he is searching for the purest truth; he loves laying in the muck. Whatever it takes to serve the song. He wouldn’t know what to do if his life were any other way.

Sit with him over a cup of coffee at The Mud House on Cherokee Street in South City St. Louis, and you’ll see for yourself: he easily is uneasy, pushing one squalid thought away to make way for another, sometimes darker one. It’s not that he’s a miserable guy; quite the opposite. To lay it plain: you simply don’t get songs like these without becoming very friendly with the darkness in your head, and with the social distortion of the day. These are the currents Pokey dips into to create his songs.

In conversation, he’ll stare right through you as you speak. They call it the Quiet Eye. It’s that uncanny ability the best athletes in the world have; it’s what sets them apart. Pokey has it too. You see this with pitchers in Pokey’s beloved game of baseball. A guy can look at a complex scene and instantly focus on what he needs to do to get a strike. In a noisy stadium, there’s a focus from the mound to the catcher’s mitt. That’s the game. In a flash, the ball moves at 90-some-odd miles per hour, and the fate of an entire city hangs in the balance. When that pitcher’s focus delivers, a game is won – and a banged up old Midwestern city like St. Louis is instantly elevated to an all-century high.

Taking a sip of his ever-present cup of black coffee (switched out for red wine every day at sunfall), Pokey is the pitcher who breaks his stillness, winds up, and fires off the final strike of a shutout. At the table, he eventually tips his gaze to you, inhales, and launches back into the conversation. In these moments, Pokey’s as likely to agree with what you’ve just said as he is to turn the table upside down.

Knowing that music is as influential in today’s jagged American culture as the country’s favorite pastime, it’s powerful to see Pokey locking into and emerging from his Quiet Eye stance. Again, you don’t get songs like these without a little fire. And when the conversation turns to the heat that brews in his own belly, Pokey leans in, stares straight ahead, and offers this: “The darkness? The anger? It comes out in my singing. With a beautiful lyric and a beautiful melody. It comes out in the passion.”

“All these opinions out there…” he trails off, looking over his right shoulder at a painting of Woody Guthrie hanging on the wall. “It’s about getting people to feel something. Other than anger.”

Plenty of feelings reveal themselves in the 10 forlorn, haunting melodies on MANIC REVELATIONS. Each one of these songs is the culmination of a decade of hard work in what has become something of a bellwether city. And with the release of these 10 songs, St. Louis will have something more than World Series wins to mark a moment in time.

But Pokey has no intention of winning any accolades with his music. He just wants to get more at home with the noise in his head. Comfortable would be nice, but nobody’s ever heard Pokey speak of a dream of an easy life. Those types of songs are for somebody else to sing. Pokey LaFarge makes good truck out of this thing that he pushes against – whatever it may be in a given moment.

“That’s what the record’s about: confronting,” says Pokey. “For me, this whole album is about composing and confronting.”

II. TEN DAGGERS ON THE TABLE

Pokey LaFarge is a musician. He is a storyteller. He is a feeler of feelings. He is a narrator of the messy, unkempt American experience. He sits, he watches, he writes. Everything that’s worth happening happens in his songs. Like the long line of writers and performers he descends from, music isn’t something Pokey does – it’s something he is.

This is why MANIC REVELATIONS shines like 10 daggers laying on the kitchen table in his St. Louis home. From that vantage point, in the center of this vast continent, Pokey takes long looks from shore to shore, feeling the direction of social winds, ingesting sights and sounds from all around, observing the news of the day.

And so he was ready for the evening when a sociological tinderbox caught fire. Mere minutes from his front door, night after night, social unrest caused everyone in America to stop and wonder which side they were on. In the face of this upheaval, Pokey took to his studio and began writing. That’s how artists deal with uncertainty: they bleed on paper until the pain subsides. Soon, he found that one song led to the next. He couldn’t put it down. One manic revelation led to another. In the thrall of it all, an album started to appear in front of him.

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

But long before he caught fire, he started on the smallest stage one could imagine: playing by himself on street corners. He moved to the west coast to follow the ghosts of the Beat writers, and Steinbeck before them. He began to ply his craft in the bitter cold of Madison, Wisconsin; in Kentucky, he learned the mandolin; and in the sweltering humidity of Asheville, North Carolina, he learned the fiddle. That’s where he met a few guys who would urge him to come to St. Louis to play; soon after, they would become his backing band, the South City Three.

And now, thousands of shows on four continents later, we find ourselves here, on the eve of release for Pokey’s most powerful album.

“I’ve always felt that the live shows were the best representation of our music,” he says. “Only now do I feel that I’ve made a better record than the live performance.”

This is the one where the style of music recedes, as the foreground swells with evidence of Pokey’s observations of pain, joy, confusion. This one is where his artistic character shines. And where we see that artistic blood on the page, unvarnished and raw. MANIC REVELATIONS is the second coming of an artist who, over the past decade, has taken the workaday approach to building a body of work, and a worldwide fanbase. After a decade of struggle, it’s all paid off here. And it’s all riding on this album.

“A lot of things haven’t gone my way,” says Pokey. “I’ve haven’t become successful in spite of the things I had to overcome, rather, I’ve become successful because of what I had to overcome. It’s all made me better. And now there’s no going back.”

True to this statement, there are no lookback songs on MANIC REVELATIONS. This album is all about looking outward, looking forward – and we’ve never seen Pokey’s observational craft in a more stark relief. This hasn’t happened by chance. Artists who write from real life experience have no choice but to change themselves if they want to progress their art. With this in mind, Pokey has been hard at work pushing out the corners on himself.

“This album is about confronting yourself,” explains Pokey. “It’s about confronting your city, its relation with the world, and all its people. In the pursuit of making myself a better person, I create better art. Which hopefully makes the world a better place. Still, at times, I need to get away from it all.”

III. THE MUSIC

MANIC REVELATIONS kicks off with a cold open.

A crack of the snare and an insistent upright bass riff are the clarion call. From there, “Riot in the Streets” throttles up, ripping MANIC REVELATIONS wide open.

Halfway through the song you realize this story—where the rich and the poor alike line up to riot, or peacefully protest, while TV news anchors somewhat unreliably narrate the scene—is reported judiciously; he isn’t swaying the listener to one side or the other.

“Look, I’m an opinionated person,” says Pokey. “But that doesn’t extend itself into my writing. I’ve always been an observer. Telling a story isn’t always about having an opinion. It’s about painting a picture.”

In “Must Be A Reason,” people fall into and out of—and back into—love. On this song, and all over the album, he shoves in the crying wherever he can. Not because he thinks it’s entertaining. Because he’s lived it. And he knows that others know this sadness, too. On an album filled with personal and cultural pressure release valves, this tune is the one about the politics of romance.

“In a relationship,” says Pokey, “you run out of stories to tell. You run out of excuses. You run out of ways to get her back. Sometimes you’re on the precipice—she’s getting ready to leave. But I always remember someone saying: the only way to stay together is to fucking stay together.”

“Bad Dreams” illustrates a classic “wherever you go, there you are” story: lovers leave home to travel the world. They want to escape the friction at home. Some call this “pulling a geographic.” When they return, it’s clear that changing location didn’t help; the real problem is still staring them in the mirror.

“You realize you’re coming home,” Pokey explains, “to the same problems that caused you to go away in the first place. It’s not the city. You can’t get away from yourself.”

Now, if you listen to only one of these manic revelations, it should be “Silent Movie.” He wrote this one in 15 minutes. 15 minutes! That decade of looking and writing and traveling and playing culminates in this song. And truth be told, we’ve never heard this kind of song from this guy.

“Silent Movie” is on par with the best social narratives of Nilsson, Campbell, Kristofferson. As a lone guitar line drags the song along, Pokey pulls focus on a kid adorned in headphones on a Chicago El train. He may be on his way to school, or he may be on his way home. Regardless of the position of the sun in the sky, the world outside the windows is too much for this kid to take in. “Cover your ears and watch the world go by,” Pokey sings, “That’s how we survive.” A clarinet drizzles a saddening pattern over the entire scene, and we begin to wonder: where are we headed if a whole generation is growing up feeling this way? Shoving in the sadness. The song goes on: “Growing up is a scam / The truth is a lie / Better off staying a child / Till the day you die / Stay inside your mind / Or go outside and find a place to hide.”

“The song is about shutting out the noise,” says Pokey. “Coming up with your own soundtrack, in this country where there’s more questions than answers, it seems.”

Never feeling satisfied. Always dressed in blue. Diving into the darkness. Turning the table upside down. Wherever you go, there you are. Fucking stay together. Better off staying a child. This album is an epoch for Pokey LaFarge. You feel it all over these 10 revelations.

“Now I’ve found my groove,” says Pokey. “I don’t have to overcompensate anymore. Nobody looks and sounds like me. And I’m OK with that.”

END
Lillie Mae
Lillie Mae
Lillie Mae has been singing and playing on stages across the country since she could stand on her own two feet. FOREVER AND THEN SOME, her much anticipated Third Man Records debut, sees the Nashville-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist weaving her own extraordinary experiences with the myriad strains of Americana to create a breathtaking song cycle of romance and struggle, solitude and adventure. Songs like “Wash Me Clean” and the plaintive first single, “Over The Hill and Through The Woods,” stand out as snapshots of intimacies, encounters, and moments that matter, reverberating with earnest emotion and restless creative energy. Produced by multiple GRAMMY® Award-winner Jack White III at Third Man Studio in Nashville, FOREVER AND THEN SOME affirms Lillie Mae as a remarkably gifted musical storyteller, a bright new star that’s been here all along.

Born in Illinois but raised on the road, Lillie Mae first started singing when she was but three years old, picking up the fiddle at the age of seven. Her dad, Forrest Carter Rische, taught all five of his children to sing and play alongside him in his Forrest Carter Family Band. The family traveled America in an old motor home, busking country, gospel, and bluegrass from the Branson Mall to RV parks in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Though they spent most of their time among other well-traveled musicians, the Risches led a cloistered life, intensely religious with boundaries against anything deemed “too worldly.”

With few friends and limited access to the outside world, Lillie Mae and her siblings forged a special bond that remains to this day, a deeply ingrained familial link that fueled their own original musical approach. In 2000, the family was invited by country music legend Cowboy Jack Clement to visit Nashville for an audition. Clement saw tremendous potential in the young musicians, especially the pre-teen Lillie Mae, who he declared “a major voice” at the tender age of nine.

“Cowboy was closer to me than any grandparent I ever had,” she says. “His influence on me is still strong. He always pushed me to play different instruments; he saw how I would pick up everything in the studio. He was a good friend to me and we remained close until he passed away.”

By now all in their teens and beyond, Lillie Mae, brother Frank, and sisters Scarlett, Amber-Dawn, and McKenna Grace, next formed their own group, known around Nashville as simply The Risches. The band’s extraordinary live sets at the famed Lower Broadway honky tonk, Layla’s Bluegrass Inn, made them into local heroes, acclaimed for their electrifying musicianship and groundbreaking bluegrass/country/pop fusion.

Eventually dubbed Jypsi, Lillie Mae and her siblings signed to a major label and in 2008, released their self-titled debut album. The group scored a top 40 country hit with “I Don’t Love You Like That” but their multi-hued Americana proved to be a bit more “far out” than the country world was yet ready to handle.

Lillie Mae continued on, writing original songs inspired by her own uncommon worldview and experience. In 2012, she joined Jack White’s crack touring and recording combo, The Peacocks, playing fiddle and mandolin while also lending vocals to such tracks as “Temporary Ground,” from 2014’s LAZARETTO. The two musicians formed an immediate kinship, both being the youngest children of large families and instrumental polymaths. White was similarly appreciative of Lillie Mae’s songwriting, producing her 2014 Third Man debut single, “Nobody’s” b/w “The Same Eyes.”

Lillie Mae officially set to work recording FOREVER AND THEN SOME at Third Man Studios in March 2016, with White producing and GRAMMY® Award-nominated engineer Joshua V. Smith behind the board. Initially planned as “a trial run” for the album, it quickly became plain that Lillie Mae had come fully armed with chops, ambition, and songs to spare.

“We went in there thinking we would start with three songs,” Lillie Mae says, “see how they turned out. We finished the third song and Jack said, ‘You got another?’ It just became this steady flow from then on. We just kept churning them out.”

Her unique upbringing and lifelong immersion in music has led Lillie Mae to create an authentically original sound all her own. With FOREVER AND THEN SOME, she has forged a kind of Pop Americana, born and raised on country, bluegrass, folk, and blues but imbued with modernist energy and a willingness to push her songs into new shapes and directions. “Honest and True” begins as a heartland heartbreaker but eventually veers into baroque pop terrain while the quirky “Dance To The Beat Of My Own Drum” is as fiercely self-possessed and rhythmic as its title suggests.

“This has been going on my whole life,” Lillie Mae says. “People are always asking me, what kind of music is it? I hear my bluegrass influence and my country influence but there’s some stuff on it, I don’t know where it comes from. It’s probably all my love of melody, of melodies changing, that has to do with where the songs go.”

What binds FOREVER AND THEN SOME is Lillie Mae’s distinctive songcraft, a frank and utterly direct lyrical voice as warm and intuitive as her honeyed vocals themselves. The album’s songs – all penned by Lillie Mae, with arrangement advice and assistance on select tracks by her older sister Scarlett – span much of Lillie Mae’s adult life, exploring “the choices one makes” and what she calls “a string of similar events.”

“There’s not one song on there that’s not true,” she says. “I just jot it down the way I see it. If it didn’t happen, I’m not writing about it. It just doesn’t work like that for me.

When a song pushes through, it’s coming through from somewhere and I’ve got to write it down. That’s my obligation. I appreciate it too.”

FOREVER AND THEN SOME features backing throughout by the core combo of Frank Carter Rische on electric and acoustic guitars, Scarlett Rische on mandolin, and the veteran rhythm section of bassist Brian Zonn and drummer Tanner Jacobson, both longtime collaborators with the Risches. Other notables appearing include keyboardist Dean Fertita (The Dead Weather, Queens of the Stone Age), banjo player Ian Craft (The Howlin’ Brothers), and Old Crow Medicine Show pianist Cory Younts, with harmony vocals from McKenna Grace Rische and singer-songwriter Carey Kotsonis. Though all involved make vital contributions, make no mistake, this is very much Lillie Mae’s album.

“I had the luxury of making the record with people I’ve played with most of my life,” she says, “I brought them in because there aren’t any better musicians around that I would rather have play on my record. I was able to really rely on those guys.”

The Third Man sessions continued through October, thanks to Lillie Mae’s abundant songbook as well as her own and her producer’s ever-busy schedules. Lillie Mae admits she would have been perfectly happy to continue, “but Jack finally said, we have a lot of songs to choose from, let’s put a cap on it and call it a day.”

FOREVER AND THEN SOME stands simultaneously as both grounded and adventurous, an indelibly special collection touched by authenticity, resourcefulness, and passion – a passion that shines through in the music itself and Lillie Mae’s live performances.

Though she gave her all to craft this remarkable album, Lillie Mae’s greatest pleasure remains performing live alongside her beloved siblings and fellow musicians.

“I’ve been writing these songs my whole life,” Lillie Mae says, “I was blessed with someone that believed in me and gave me the opportunity to record them. Now I’ll get on the road. That’s all I want, I long for it. Touring is where I feel most comfortable in the world. The happiest I could ever be would be to have a gig every day.”
Venue Information:
The Grey Eagle
185 Clingman Ave
Asheville, NC, 28801
http://www.thegreyeagle.com/