Afton Wolfe – Twenty-Three
There’s a nice soulful touch to this 5-track EP that begins with “Cry.” The nice soulful vocals of Regina McCrary & Melanie Dewey framed by solid horns punctuate the growly vocals of Southern troubadour Afton Wolfe who knows how to use his expressive voice.
If you’re tired of wimpy mainstream vocals of pimply vocalists who haven’t lived yet — this is the cure. Wolfe sings with authority, experience & realism. He pours it dramatically but never artificially. He could sing songs that are Tom Waits-embellished or go full-tilt bluesy like Howlin’ Wolf. To show expertise with his repertoire Wolfe falls back on the absorbing “The Moon Is Going Down.” It sounds like a beautifully delicate clarinet – could be the Seth Fox sax. Nice surprising touch, nonetheless.
Lyrically, Wolfe chooses songs that are excellent storytelling pieces. One listen to M.E. Mann’s “Truck Drivin’ Man,” enforces that type of song. No meandering cliché riddled lines – there’s often a little darkness but this atmospheric melody is gripping & the voice — captivating.
This extended play (EP) set only provides a mere 5 tracks to whet the appetite on Twenty-Three (Drops Feb 3-Grandiflora Records). There isn’t a weak song in the bunch. It’s an appetizer – but it will stimulate the appetite of those who enjoy their music as whiskey straight instead of cocktail sweet with a little paper umbrella.
“So Purple,” could appeal to Tom Waits/Captain Beefheart fans since Wolfe sings it straight in a deviant blues atmosphere. I don’t usually like electric piano, too cheesy. But Chad Stuible’s keys are well-applied here — deliciously creepy & add to the riveting melody.
There’s an element of bohemian/Beat Generation tradition in Afton’s approach but never so much as to interfere with his well-marinated tales. “Late Night Radio,” is a little closer to middle-of-the-road but then picks up to a finger-snapping easy-listening jazz piano salted with acoustic guitar & warm sax. Mindful of the Mark-Almond style with a more forceful vocal than the late Jon Mark Quite a good combination – like potato chips & dark chocolate.
Additional musicians – Madison George & Asa Lane (percussions), Hayden Cotcher & Justin Amaral (drums), Zachery Gregory (trumpet), Mike Miz (guitar), Daniel Seymour (bass/autoharp), Brett Ryan Stewart (bass), Seth Fox (sax/flute), Rebecca Weiner Tompkins (violin) & Robin Wolfe (vocals).
Photography courtesy of Jeff Fasano. The 22-minute CD available @ Bandcamp + https://aftonwolfe.com/home