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.
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.
Roots music legends, Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, have been friends for 30 years, but only recently realized they had never played music with each other before. So in 2017, Grammy winner Alvin and Grammy nominee Gilmore, decided to hit the highway to swap songs, tell stories, and share their life experiences.
Though Texas born Gilmore was twice named Country Artist of the Year by Rolling Stone, and California native Alvin first came to fame in the hard rocking rhythm and blues band The Blasters, they discovered that their musical roots in old blues and folk music are exactly the same. In these spontaneous shows, audiences enjoyed classic original compositions from the two, and also songs from a wide spectrum of songwriters and styles - from Merle Haggard to Sam Cooke to the Young Bloods. Mutually energized and inspired by these performances, Dave and Jimmie agreed to hit the road again in 2018…
this time with a full band and some new stories to share.
Dar Williams has been called “one of America’s very best singer-songwriters” by The New Yorker. She’s released ten studio albums and authored four books including her latest, What I Found In A Thousand Towns, to be released in September 2018.
Known as much for her staunch progressive ideals as her raw acoustic energy, Williams has been captivating audiences with her sheer elegance and honesty in her folk-pop songwriting since the '90s. Williams’ growth as an individual over her two-decade-long career has gone hand-in-hand with her evolution as an artist, touring along the way with such distinguished peers as Joan Baez, Patty Griffin, Ani DiFranco, Loudon Wainwright III and Shawn Colvin among others.
Dar's most recent album, Emerald, “deals as bluntly as ever with the shadowy, subtle corners of humanity” according to Rolling Stone, and was recorded with friends such as Richard Thompson, Jill Sobule, Jim Lauderdale, the Milk Carton Kids, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Suzzy Roche, the Hooters and others in various studios across the U.S. It is a sparkling collection of new original material, inspired collaborations and some surprising covers such as B.A.D.’s “Johnny Appleseed” making this album one of her best yet.
"Dar Williams, one of America's very best singer-songwriters… Her songs are beautiful. Some are like finely crafted short stories. They are, variously, devastatingly moving, tenderly funny, subtle without being in any way inaccessible, and utterly fresh—not a cliché or a clunker in her entire songbook." -The New Yorker
Paxton has been an integral part of the songwriting and folk music community since the early 60’s Greenwich Village scene, and continues to be a primary influence on today’s “New Folk” performers. In describing Tom Paxton’s influence on his fellow musicians, Pete Seeger has said: “Tom’s songs have a way of sneaking up on you. You find yourself humming them, whistling them, and singing a verse to a friend. Like the songs of Woody Guthrie, they’re becoming part of America.”
He has performed thousands of concerts around the world in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Scandinavia, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland and Canada. That these fans still enjoy his work is a testament to the quality of his recent work, and to the enduring power of modern standards like The Last Thing On My Mind, Ramblin’ Boy, Bottle Of Wine, Whose Garden Was This?, Goin’ To The Zoo and The Marvelous Toy. Paxton’s songbooks, critically acclaimed children’s books (available from HarperCollins – see the page for children), award-winning children’s recordings, and a catalog of hundreds of songs (recorded by artists running the gamut from Willie Nelson to Placido Domingo), all serve to document Tom Paxton’s 40-year career.
Tom received a 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy during the 51st Annual GRAMMY® Awards. He was nominated for a GRAMMY for Comedians and Angels in 2007, and Live in the U.K. in 2006. He was also nominated for GRAMMYS in 2003 for his Appleseed Records CD, Looking For The Moon, and in 2002 for his children’s CD, Your Shoes, My Shoes. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from ASCAP, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the BBC in London.
Guy Clark adds: “Thirty years ago Tom Paxton taught a generation of traditional folksingers that it was noble to write your own songs, and, like a good guitar, he just gets better with age.”
“Thirty years ago Tom Paxton taught a generation of traditional folksingers that it was noble to write your own songs, and, like a good guitar, he just gets better with age.” (Guy Clark)
“Tom Paxton’s songs are so powerful and lyrical, written from the heart and the conscience, and they reach their mark, our most inner being. He writes stirring songs of social protest and gentle songs of love, each woven together with his personal gift for language. His melodies haunt, his lyrics reverberate. I have sung Tom’s songs for three decades and will go on doing so in the new century, for they are beautiful and timeless, and meant for every age.” (Judy Collins)
“Tom Paxton embodies the spirit of folk music in the most beautiful sense. Not just in his song crafting, his work ethic, his politics and his dedication to people’s music, but also in his kind and generous heart. When I first started playing folk festivals, I was all of eighteen, shaved headed and politically outspoken. Many people in the folk community at that time seemed defensive and threatened by me, but I remember Tom was a notable exception. He was nothing but warm, welcoming and supportive to me from the git go. He’s the coolest.” (Ani DiFranco)
Wild! Wild! Wild!, the new collaboration between Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Robbie Fulks and rock-and-roll royalty Linda Gail Lewis, gleefully lives up to its title. It’s Americana music that’s as butt-shakin’ as Beale Street, deep-rooted as the Grand Ole Opry, and hip as a trip to The Strip. Subversive as it is reverential, the album jumps the genre tracks of nitty-gritty rock-and-roll, country-and-western, rockabilly, jump swing, and gospel, landing in a strange slice of spacetime—call it 1954—when all these were One (and Linda was 7).
Robbie Fulks, the record’s producer, is “one of the most observant and wry songwriters of the past two decades” (Rolling Stone). Ground-zero Louisiana-born rocker Linda Gail Lewis is the younger sister and frequent performing partner of Jerry Lee Lewis, whose piano innovations she carries forward. Her present-at-the-creation cred buoys the record while Robbie—who sings, plays, leads the band, writes most of the songs, and arranges the others—provides an anchoring sensibility, one that savors old sounds but sidesteps nostalgia. Their two talents have fashioned a record that’s urgent, honest, and fun. Remember fun?
“Round Too Long,” “Boogie-Woogie Country Girl,” and the title track all crackle with the unmistakable Lewis pumping piano; here is a fresh blast of the rowdy religious fire that devastated polite America 60 years ago, delivered with genetic precision and power. “It Came From the South”—co-written by NRBQ’s classic-era guitarist Al Anderson and played by its current one, Scott Ligon—recounts the origin story of rock-and-roll with pithy phrases and a neat beat. “Memphis Never Falls From Style” grooves with three of Chicago’s finest jazz elders, notably Eric Schneider, who cut his teeth in the road bands of Count Basie and Earl Hines.
Robbie sings lead on “Foolmaker,” which is saturated with Stax soul. It benefits mightily from two Chicago singers, Joan Collaso and Yvonne Gage, whom he learned of not through their decades of high-visibility work with people like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and Madonna, but by sitting home idly watching Empire. Two more Robbie originals, “That’s Why They Call It Temptation” and “I Just Lived A Country Song,” are the kind of weapons-grade country now found only in the shadows of Music Row. The classic “Your Red Wagon” is presented as a B3-fueled dash through a Naugahyde supper club. “Who Cares,” the Don Gibson hit, poses the question, "What can’t the great Merle Haggard sideman and Telecaster master Redd Volkaert do on a 1959 Gibson L5?" The answer: Stop playing. (The fadeout was strictly necessary.)
Linda Gail Lewis’s recording career spans almost 50 years, loosely bookended by the present record and 1969’s Together, her duet album with Jerry Lee—with her acclaimed summit with Van Morrison, 2000’s You Win Again.