Pokey Lafarge’s ninth studio LP is a triumph, musically and spiritually. This varied and life-affirming album belies its title. Pokey states, “This album is the story of who I used to be.” Songs reflect both his struggles with “the darkness” of a “fall from grace” and his subsequent redemption and awakening

Lafarge is a great troubadour of Americana, an award-winner who does much more than evoke past genres. He calls Rock Bottom Rhapsody “a mixtape.” Tracks are tinged with bluegrass, jazz, doo-wop, boogie, rockabilly, country and 50s R’nB. Bluebird, for instance, Pokey describes as “Amy Winehouse meets Duke Ellington”, and its Louis Jordan inflections work superbly. There are tight, playful vocals which interplay with more stripped-down instrumentation and backing chorus. Just The Same’s country moods, the bluesy Lucky Sometimes and the Everlys’ mood of Carry On and End Of My Rope show the album’s marvellous eclectic flavours. While his lyrics can still verge on the clichéd, Pokey matches rhythm and genre to mood and tone with growing skill. Compassion and contemporary concerns emerge strongly in the atmospheric Lost in the Crowd.

Stand-out track: Fuck Me Up – Keene McRae’s and Brandon Bernath’s music video is a must watch. The bar-room boogie and chorus are wonderfully complemented by surreal images of Pokey crooning from his coffin before reappearing at the piano in demonic scarlet.

These thirteen songs take Pokey to a new high in versatility and depth. Chris Seefried’s production is crisp and direct. The band is terrific, too: Joel Paterson on guitar, Scott Ligon on keyboards, Detron Johnson on piano, Jimmy Sutton on bass, Alex Hall on drums, plus Paul Cartwright’s string quartet. Pokey is much more now than “that little hayseed that you know/ from somewhere south of Chicago.”