Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three. Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra

Seems like every time we mention Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three here they’ve added another feather to their cap. Pokey recently had a song featured on the American TV series Empire Boardwalk, a rendition of Lovesick Blues (and there’s a great story behind this involving Jiminy Cricket, see here). In addition the band have been supporting jack White to huge audiences in the states including the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Radio City Music Hall. It’s great to see that they are gracing our shores again over the next few weeks and even better to hear their latest release Live In Holland that captures their rip roaring act perfectly.
Recorded at the Paradiso in Amsterdam the 14 cuts will be familiar to anyone who’s seen the band recently. Culled from the band’s two albums and singles and Pokey’s solo releases Marmalade and Beat Move and Shake along with a cracking version of Bob Wills’ Devil ain’t Lazy the live setting allows the band to cut loose and Pokey to holler and play the audience, wisecracking and adlibbing. It all adds up to a rollickingly good listen with the band seemingly enjoying themselves as much as the audience. It’s almost impossible to pick out highlights as throughout the album Ryan Koenig blitzes the crowd with his harmonica wizardry while Adam Hoskins’ guitar zips and slides splendidly. Joey Glynn on bass gets his moments to shine also especially on the raucous In The Graveyard. While Pokey, the ringmaster, ushers in the solos and is in fine booming voice the band deliver great harmonies and vocal asides that add to the vaudevillian element they create. Almost a perfect document of one of the most exciting bands around right now if this doesn’t move you then you should call a doctor

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Newcastle band, Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra are supporting Pokey and his gang on the upcoming UK tour just in time to promote their debut album Money isn’t Everything. While Newcastle isn’t St. Louis musically the tea pads inhabit much the same territory as the south city three, old time blues, ragtime and jazz with some Cajun riffs thrown in. While Heron tends to croon and scat rather than holler the syncopated rhythms and jazzy vamps are all there and executed with finesse, Ben Fitzgerald on guitar in particular plays some scintillating Django type runs. With three songs rerecorded from their EP including the mini epic Great Fire of Byker (about a huge conflagration on Tyneside) there’s a dramatic improvement in the sound and they come across as much more confidant and assured. Heron writes most of the songs although it’s hard to believe that they’ve not been dredged up from some archive of old time Americana. A version of Bob Miller’s Bank Failures from the 1930s nestles comfortably with Heron’s songs particularly the title track, in fact the album could have been called Songs For the New Depression and one wouldn’t have been surprised to find Buddy Can You Spare a Dime here, maybe they’ll do it live. With songs of escapism (the sousaphone led thump of Rich man Blues), booze (Hangover Blues) and exotica (the south American styled Biarro Alto) there’s a definite retro feel here that harks back to the dichotomy of the jazz age when the bright young things partied and the working class worked. A great debut and on the strength of this a great double bill on the forthcoming tour.

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One thought on “Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three. Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra

  1. Pingback: Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra. Talk About The Weather. | Blabber 'n' Smoke

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