Afton Wolfe – The Harvest
As far as the songs the folky approach is a bit retro but made refreshing by the addition of a flute on the first song that comes as a small surprise. Wolfe’s gravelly voice has authority & a pleasant autumnal tone. Nashville recording artist Afton Wolfe has a relaxed showcase though it’s his sand-papery voice that is the focus. The tales he unravels are fairly basic but tunes like “New Orleans Going Down” have a nice gritty nostalgic melancholy charge to it.
Afton has a Tom Waits meets Dr John type of integration. There isn’t a thing here that’s boring. The tunes are mixed up nicely – some are dusty, some are loud but there is also a share of poignancy.
At no time are the songs silly or juvenile. Each has sincerity, a story, or a message. There are only 7 cuts that bless The Harvest (Drops Nov 10-Grandiflora Records) but the 28-minute CD is well-recorded & it bares its soul with verve & vigor. “Lost Prayers,” leans more into a spiritual niche & it ripples with Gospel warmth & intensity.
Afton doesn’t have a smooth polished vocal tone but it’s that reason his voice possesses dark truths with its warmth. Not every song in the entertainment business works if the vocal is so perfect. There needs to be a little rawness, some exerted soulfulness that comes from somewhere deeper than a voice box trained to project with clarity. “Me & Bobby McGee,” by Janis Joplin works with her rawness & desperation but I hardly think a song like that would be sincere if sung by Barbra Streisand.
Taking a page from Tom Paxton’s old songbook Afton’s fine narrative on “Hello, Mr. Wolf,” is mindful of Paxton’s “Mr. Blue” (especially as sung by the band Clear Light) makes a scary folk reading. This set was recorded in Portland, TN & produced by Doc Sarlo with all songs written by L.H. Halliburton (Afton’s father-in-law & Nashville veteran songwriter).
Closer to Tom Waits in tradition & a rockier tune is “Til The River No Longer Flows,” a real cooking melody electrified by an aggressive lead guitar. As well as the narrative performance of “Here To Stay.” Both are done quite well.
Highlights – “New Orleans Going Down,” “Lost Prayers,” “Hell, Mr. Wolf,” “Til The River No Longer Flows” & “Here To Stay.”
Musicians – Robin Wolfe (vocals), Seth Fox (flute/sax), Madison George (drums), Erik Mendez (bass), Ilya Portnov (harmonica), Anthony Saddic (keyboards), Mark Robinson (guitars), Anna Eyink (violin), Courtney Santana (vocals) & Will Hammond (shredding).
B&W image courtesy of Jeff Fasano/Color image courtesy of Scott Willis. CD @ Amazon & https://aftonwolfe.com/
Enjoy our previous coverage here: REVIEW: Afton Wolfe “Twenty-Three”