of the current wave of punkish old-time country music. Returning to St. Louis, he put all these interests together in an uncommonly effective way, gathering a band called the South City Three and writing upbeat original songs modeled on old patterns.
Plenty of musicians specialize in note-perfect reproductions of early jazz, blues, old-time country, and the other genres that flourished around the rural Midwest between the world wars. But far fewer carry them forward in such a way that they seem contemporary and fun rather than scholarly and perfect. LaFarge plays archtop guitar and guitjo, a guitar-banjo hybrid, and he sings in a distinctively compressed high voice that recalls the high delicacy of the old bluesmen but hikes the volume a bit. Since 2006 he's recorded nine albums and accumulated quite a song bag.
It's the strength of LaFarge's songwriting and the overall imaginativeness of his repertory that has him gaining traction. Most of his songs are originals, and they update classic models without departing from them. LaFarge brags about living in the Central Time Zone, urges listeners to hit the road in "Pack It Up" because "life's a big ol' slot machine" (an image his models would never have chosen), and delivers a fine internally rhymed kiss-off: "Farewell, c'est la vie, so long, honeybee, goodbye." When he covers an old song, he either adds something to it or picks an unknown gem like "Chitlin' Cookin' Time in Cheatham County," a hilarious early country parody of the "St. James Infirmary" blues.