Music Reviews
Pokey LaFarge

Pokey LaFarge

Rhumba Country

New West Records

Pokey LaFarge’s newest album, Rhumba Country, released this spring, but it’s really a summer album. I’ve followed along with LaFarge’s output since seeing that he and the South City Three were performing together. They opened for Jack White on his Blunderbuss tour in 2012 (at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, no less), and Pokey’s distinct flavor of country music intrigued me. He and the band were dressed like dapper gentlemen from the 1930s, fedoras and all. Sharp. A certain sort of American timelessness from when the country music genre began. Rhumba Country is different. It’s positive!

Pokey LaFarge
Fabian Fioto
Pokey LaFarge

I had come to expect a certain lyrical theme from LaFarge in his songs, traditional country themes of heartbreak and celebration of good spirits and the honky tonk. The dancing, the flirting, the music, the booze, and how it all contributed to the life of a troubadour. Rhumba Country turns all that upside down. It’s an album about being in love (unsurprisingly, I see LaFarge was married in 2023) and the joys of spending time with that lover. It’s a lazy afternoon album, and I don’t mean this as a slight at all. Celebratory, warm, and full of exaltations of being in an excited state of peace because of finding their person. There’s an honesty in the platitudes that you often don’t find in country music, in general or even throughout LaFarge’s discography.

The instrumentation follows the lyrics in being positive and warm and engaging. There’s a tinge of Marty Robbins’ Island Woman record from 1964. A bit of Caribbean flair layered and threaded throughout the album’s 10 tracks. From Cuban rumba (I don’t quite understand the spelling for the album title), calypso percussion, salsa, and a bit of jazz voicing with the stand-up bass and guitar chording, the record can get you moving on the dance floor. Your hips will move. There are songs that speak to this influence, “Like A Sailor” and “So Long Chicago,” that speaks of a city-clicker’s first out-of-the-US vacation to the beaches of Mexico. It all tracks. Still the wandering balladeer, but for a much different reason.

I like this newer Pokey! I like the near-tropical feel and the warm fuzzy blanket-ness of a love professed. I will definitely be listening to Rhumba Country throughout this summer, and it will be a mainstay for my own adventures in the Caribbean and sailing. Much like Robbins’ Island Woman, it’s an escape album. A love album. A little respite from your day in and day out. ◼

Catch Pokey LaFarge on tour, everywhere, all year long.

Pokey LaFarge


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