Album Premiere: Pokey LaFarge Transports Listeners to a Brighter Place with ‘Rhumba Country’

Pokey LaFarge will release his new album Rhumba Country tomorrow (May 10) via New West Records. Today, American Songwriter is proud to premiere what may be the most upbeat album of the year a day early. Listen to the full album stream below.

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Rhumba Country gives listeners exactly what the title suggests and more. A well-traveled singer/songwriter with a love for a variety of musical styles, LaFarge blended several sounds on his latest album. The first two tracks blend the Afro-Cuban influences of rhumba with country music. The rest of the album sees the Illinois native stitching together a series of genres to create a representation of the musical quilt that keeps him warm and his creative juices flowing.

More than anything, Rhumba Country is an upbeat mood booster of an album. Each of the ten tracks is almost guaranteed to put a smile on your face while making your toes tap. As a result, it’s the perfect soundtrack for a warm summer day. At the same time, it’s the kind of album you put on when you need to push the dark clouds away.

Ahead of the release of the album Pokey LaFarge sat down with American Songwriter to discuss his new album.

Pokey LaFarge on What Inspired Him to Create Such an Upbeat Album

When asked what inspired him to make such a mood-booster of a record, the answer was simple. “Jesus,” LaFarge replied. Then, he elaborated on the answer. “For most of my career things have been pretty upbeat. I would say Rock Bottom Rhapsody, not so much, and maybe the album before that. There were some years there when I was in the doldrums and kind of in a dark place, of course, the music is going to reflect that,” he explained.

“Then, on January 12, 2019, I came to Christ and there’s been a big transformation ever since. So, the last two records are a reflection of that transformational journey. This record is just another step in that direction,” LaFarge said. “Everything you are as a person comes out in your music. You don’t know where it’s coming from. But people can feel it, especially your voice. The voice is perhaps the rawest expression of one’s soul. If you’re in the midst of a supernatural transformation, that is of course going to affect my voice, my songwriting, everything,” he said of how his faith impacts his music.

The Origin of the Title Rhumba Country  

“The title Rhumba Country is sort of a genre title for this record. Maybe not all the songs but the second song specifically, the first song perhaps. They’re like the only two rhumbas on the album,” Pokey LaFarge explained.

“I was listening to the playback on ‘For a Night’ which is the second song and I was like, ‘Man, this is a weird song.’ It’s like a rhumba but It’s also a country song,” he recalled. “So, that’s where the title came from. But, it’s also like a state of mind. It’s a place that I wasn’t to take listeners to, sort of like paradise. Just more of a brighter place,” he added.”

“It’s not necessarily escapist because there’s substance in terms of my belief system behind it. There’s a foundation for that. So, it’s not just like ‘Oh yeah, let’s escape to a brighter place,’ for no reason.”

Then, he pointed to the track “Run, Run, Run” as an example of the spirit of the album. “We’re all going through struggles and we all have to persevere and overcome those things. So, it’s something that we’re all in together. We all have to fight somewhat daily for positive thinking,” he explained.

Pokey LaFarge Chose a Reggae Tune as the Only Cover on Rhumba Country

LaFarge wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on the album. The only one he didn’t have a pen on was “Home, Home, Home,” which was written and released by Reggae great Ken Boothe.

“I listen to a lot of rocksteady and a lot of early reggae music. It’s obviously strongly North American-influenced music—a lot of soul, a lot of country, a lot of gospel influence. But it’s got everything you need, it’s upbeat, great dancing music, great harmonies, great bass lines, great songs,” LaFarge explained, giving some context.  

“So I’ve been listening to that stuff and learned to play a few of those songs. I got into a session a couple of years ago and did some cover songs. I was in Chicago hanging out with some of my boys up there and we never released any of it,” he recalled. “This is one of the songs that I had just sitting around from that session. I thought that it be a nice combination with this record,” he added.

“So, ‘Home, Home, Home’ is a kind of a gospel song and obviously a Jamaican tune. It just kind of felt like my own. It felt like a song with a message. Going home, for me, has a specific significance. For everybody else, the message is just to keep on keeping on.”

Rhumba Country will be available on all streaming platforms tomorrow (May 10). You can also buy a copy directly from New West Records.

Featured Image by Fabian Fioto via New West Records

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