Gig Review: Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three

Pokey LaFarge & The South City ThreeClassic Grand, Glasgow *****

THE WORLD is hardly lacking in neo-throwback Americana musicians right now, but when an act shines out so brightly and distinctively, amid such a crowded field, as this St Louis quartet, it's all the more testament to their singular calibre.

Though he just turned 28 yesterday, vocalist and songwriter LaFarge, who also slings a suitably battered pre-war parlour guitar, matches classic thrift-shop attire with an era-transcending mix of jazz, ragtime, jug-band, blues and western swing sounds. "Here's an old song I wrote," he said more than once, introducing his own compositions, which feature equally alongside traditional material in his repertoire, with an entirely apt oxymoron.

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In the captivating brio of this performance, too – lapped up by a near-capacity crowd – there was no adverse hint that it came two-thirds through a 40-date European tour, with no days off, highlighting the band's appreciation of old-fashioned graft as well as music.

The same vocational ethic paid rich dividends in their supremely relaxed yet minutely precise ensemble interplay, with bravura flatpicking solos and twinkle-toed rhythm work traded between LaFarge and Adam Hoskins's archtop guitar, as Ryan Koenig's dazzling harmonica runs floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, all underpinned by Joey Glynn's supple, vibrant double bass.

Koenig alternately lent extra percussive edge to some numbers, on a lavishly customised washboard or a single snare, while each of the South City Three chimed in behind LaFarge's lead vocals – whose compelling compass spanned a raw revivalist holler to a meltingly seductive croon – with insouciant yet perfectly-pitched harmonies.