Pokey LaFarge's story seems almost too good to be true.
These days, LaFarge is a slick-talking type in vintage clothes, a medicine-show salesman who peddles old-time Americana music rather than miracle cures.
And if you could concoct his upbringing, it'd probably include tales of open roads and hitching rides, crisscrossing the country with like-minded musicians and playing songs whenever and wherever the opportunity arose.
Check, check, check and check. The bio at www.pokeylafarge.net covers all of those elements.
The question is this: Does the man's background dovetail that perfectly with his music? Or might there be some tall tales being told, Pokey?
“I can't verify that everything that everyone is saying is true, but I will definitely endorse myself as a full-fledged, traveling old-time musician,” LaFarge said in an interview Monday. “Always have been, always will be. And busking and hitchhiking definitely comes along with that.”
Fair enough. If you've seen and/or heard LaFarge and his band, The South City Three (named after a neighborhood in their current home town of St. Louis), you probably don't want to know the whole truth anyway.
That's because LaFarge is too much fun as is, no matter where he's from or where he's been. On Wednesday, he'll be in Bend to play a show celebrating five years of Bend's community radio station, KPOV (see “If you go”).
Both looking and sounding the part, LaFarge is one of a growing number of young musicians who not only draw inspiration from the American music of the early 20th century, they've immersed themselves in the styles and sounds of the era.
But while some of his contemporaries focus on a particular niche, LaFarge's work tramples old-time genre boundaries, bouncing around from folk to blues to swing to jazz, but always rooted in American tradition, and always rooted in what he calls the “purity” and “honesty” of acoustic music.
It's a style that attracted LaFarge in his teens, which is when he figured out just how much he prefers the sound of America's past over the sound of its present.
“When I realized that rock and pop and all this other kind of stuff sucked, right around the same time, I started listening to the blues ... and I started digging my way back from there,” he said. “I started getting into bluegrass, which got me into old-time fiddle music, which in turn got me back into old country-blues and jazz and ragtime and Western swing and all that kind of stuff.
“So it's kinda just dancing around the whole ‘20s and ‘30s, y'know, back and forth,” he said.
It does take some digging to get this deep into that world in 2010, but with the Internet and other technologies, once you start digging, it's a long way down, LaFarge said. He credited labels like Yazoo Records and Document Records for unearthing and preserving America's finest early sounds, and making them available to those who are interested.
“You can take it with you everywhere,” he said. “You don't need a Victrola.”
Granted, the segment of the population that even knows what a Victrola is isn't exactly huge. They're out there, though.
“Music is a big connector for people,” LaFarge said. “The people that are into this kind of music may be few and far between, but I've definitely found them.”