Artists such as Afton Wolfe make my life richer and more difficult in equal measure. Richer because he is a superb multi-genre artist making a great album of songs. Difficult because he cannot be pinned down to an easy pigeonhole or even just thrown at the ‘Americana’ catch-all. On balance, I’ll take ‘richer’ because this album gave me the shivers from beginning to end.
Collaborating with producer Doc Sarlo (Feisty Records, Altered Statesman, Adam Trumbo, Jim Skinner Blues Trio) on a seven-track record of songs all written by veteran Nashville songwriter (and Wolfe’s father-in-law) L.H. Halliburton. ‘The Harvest’ enforces and expands Wolfe’s genre fluidity, but it mostly showcases great songs artistically produced and arranged and powerfully performed. You can find Country, Blues, Gospel and New Orleans Boogie in here, even old fashioned rock & roll, but it is all bent to his dark and angry voice (although there is also a great sense of caring there too).
There isn’t a single track that is filler, or ‘lesser’, just seven tracks that stand alone and demand to be played constantly. Opener ‘Harvest’ feels as though it should have early Dylan’s nasal vocal or Neil Young’s whine against it – some delightful flute playing by Seth Fox – but Wolfe’s vocal shows his softer side. ‘New Orleans Going Down’ has a wonderful 2nd Line groove to it set against Wolfe at his angriest as he describes the state of the Crescent City during Katrina. ‘Lost Prayers’ is country at its best, with fiddle – Anna Eyink – and sweet backing vocals
leading into the magnificent ‘Hello, Mr Wolf’ with Wolfe’s vocal almost spoken and grizzled.
‘Mississippi’ has a lazy rock & roll beat to it and then there is ‘Here To Stay’ – very Tom Waits with reverb vocal, standup piano and the hiss of old valves and utterly fabulous.
Mid-November and a new entrant into my personal top 10 of the year. A real gem.