On a recent spring afternoon, Pokey LaFarge was planning a bike ride around the city he calls home between tour dates - Saint Louis, Mo. Much like the musician's tunes, his bike is a refurbished classic that sometimes squeals and rattles.
LaFarge promised to pedal at a leisurely pace to the park a few blocks away from his house. Can't risk breaking his hand, he said. It would be hard to strum a guitar or mandolin in a cast.
"The best part of calling the Midwest home is that it has four seasons," LaFarge said. And before he embarked on his favorite time to tour "festival season" - LaFarge said he was going to spend some time visiting friends, canoeing, camping and riding his 1960s German-made bicycle.
It would be a short respite from a European tour and weeks of jumping from Nashville to New Mexico to New York for various recording sessions and shoots, LaFarge said. Then, it's back on the road for tour dates and festivals from France to Philadelphia through fall.
Right after he turns 29, he'll perform a CapLive concert June 27 at York's Strand Capitol Performing Arts Center with the band he's been with since 2009 - The South City Three. Before he joined forces with the Saint Louis trio of Joey Glynn, Adam Hoskins and Ryan Koenig, LaFarge broke onto the scene with two solo albums that featured a musical mash-up of American roots styles.
He couldn't be happier to be coming to York County, where bluegrass great Del McCoury got his start.
"He's one of my favorite musicians," he said. "He's a legend."
And LaFarge takes care to respect and preserve the past - down to his 1940s Epiphone guitar. He doesn't like to fly because it sometimes means it has to be stowed in baggage.
That's the type of trait other musicians can appreciate. More than a year ago, LaFarge got a call from Jack White - one half of The White Stripes. White had heard the group on the radioand later produced one of their tunes on his label. Then, White asked LaFarge and the group to be backing musicians for a track on his first solo album, "Blunderbuss," released earlier this spring.
"He seems to have taken a shine to us," LaFarge said.
White asked LaFarge and The South City Three to open his whole tour, but because of other bookings, it couldn't happen. Instead, they filled the opening spot at five dates, which was an honor, LaFarge said.
In addition to fellow musicians, other industry professionals have taken notice to the group. It won Best Americana album at the Independent Music Awards two years in a row. And another album is in the works.
"The idea is to evolve the sound," LaFarge said. That means adding a new dynamic with instruments including pianos, horns, guitar steel. It means mixing electric and acoustic. It means working with Ketch Secor of the Americana group Old Crow Medicine Show.
The album is about half finished, LaFarge said, and the hope is to release it in Spring 2013.
"I think it's going to the best album I've ever done," he said.
But before it hits music stores and sites, LaFarge said he's looking forward to outdoor concerts, watermelons, peaches and having a baseball glove within reach.
But he's not a Saint Louis Cardinals fan. Like in music, LaFarge sticks to his Illinois roots. And that means rooting for the Chicago Cubs.
- Erin McCracken,