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Afton Wolfe (from the album The Harvest available on Grandiflora Records) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Following on the heels of last year’s well-received EP, Twenty-Three, which, in turn, provided a follow-up to his striking debut LP, Kings for Sale, Mississippi-born, Nashville-residing singer/songwriter Afton Wolfe sets a new standard for himself with a daringly diverse five-song set tellingly titled The Harvest. He expands his template considerably, not only by adding sax, flute, violin and some soulful singers to the instrumental mix, but also by varying the tone with each of the individual songs and creating a dramatically diverse impression in the process. For starters, opening track “Harvest” comes across as a surprisingly giddy entreaty, an upbeat introduction to a series of songs that appear mostly biographical in content.
By the time the second track “New Orleans Going Down” comes around the mood darkens considerably. Afton Wolfe’s gritty vocals come to the fore with a sound best describe as gruff, edgy, and confrontational and with a striking similarity to Tom Waits in particular.
Given Wolfe’s early environs, the contrast isn’t quite as surprising as it might initially seem. With roots firmly entrenched in the Mississippi Delta and the surrounding backwaters of America’s mightiest river, it’s little wonder that a cascading torrent of Blues, Rock, Soul, Jazz, and Gospel should be infused in his approach. Nevertheless, Wolfe maintains his own distinct persona, and on songs such as the bluesy “Mississippi” and the emotive “Lost Prayers”, the drama and dynamic combine with a full flourish. He conveys “Hello, Mr. Wolf” with a deep, breathy spoken narrative and some click-clack percussion, both of which serve to heighten the tension while adding a palatable sense of ominous intrigue. Likewise, “Til the River No Longer Flows” comes across as a veritable tour-de-force, with Afton Wolfe’s rough, rugged vocals creating a highly charged onslaught of intense emotion.
Interestingly enough, one L.H. Haliburton is given credit for writing these songs, but that doesn’t indicate there’s any distance or divide. Haliburton is Wolfe’s father-in-law and as many of the credits attest, The Harvest is actually a family affair. Wife Robin sings on some of the songs, sister-in-law Erin Haliburton contributed the album’s artwork and his mother-in-law Paula Haliburton is given a special thanks.
Though only seven songs long, The Harvest offers a bounty of well-expressed emotion, a powerful performance that affirms Afton Wolfe’s indelible presence and persona. Even though he leaves a somewhat subdued impression with his final send-off, the dark and dire “Here to Stay”, it’s clear he’s committed to all the title implies. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Afton Wolfe from AMAZON
For more information, please visit the Afton Wolfe website
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