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We know that Afton Wolfe is a deft and articulate songwriter in his own right, so it is interesting that his latest release, a seven-track salvo called The Harvest, is his take on songs written by L. H. Halliburton, a contemporary and friend of his. Right away, such an act speaks volumes about Afton. It tells us that his driving force is the song, the collaborative experience, the creativity, and the joy of making music and building it from tiny musical acorns into mighty sonic oaks. Not his ego, the need to own the publishing rights, or any such misguided, materialistic notion. Other artists should take note.
We are greeted by the title track, a joyous country lilt, all fluttering flutes and jaunty rhythms. A seductively simple song that carries a poignant message. It is a “good things come to those who wait “ theme, the idea that spring might be when the world seems most alive but the end of summer when the earth delivers its most successful harvest can be the most bountiful of times. A Brilliant metaphor for life and a reminder that even in our later years, there is so much to be lived for.
“New Orleans Going Down” is all about the groove, a slinky, earthy rhythm that by-passes the brain and engages directly with the hips and feet, a song about the life-changing, and indeed city-changing, effects of Hurricane Katrina but which could be about so many coastal cities, so many devastating weather fronts, so many communities and lives. Perhaps made even more poignant given the rapidly changing climate we are battling.
One of the most intriguing songs is “Til The River No Longer Flows,” a grungey blues number that highlights Afton’s Waitsian growl perfectly and a song given added weight with the almost heavy metal guitar sounds that have been coiled around and through the song. By contrast “Mississippi” is an R&B-soaked, blasted-blues number, a love letter to that great waterway and the state that takes it’s name, and a song that sounds like the last dance of the night and the soundtrack to a road trip along its shores.
Afton makes music where the landscape and location are very much characters in the songs, looming large over everything that takes place. You can see the sun reflected on the water; you can taste the dust of the back roads; you can feel the humidity – a sonic road trip for the audio passenger. The Harvest is not just a collection of great songs, and it is undoubtedly that, but a passport and a soundtrack to a place both timeless and contemporary, a place of hardship and beauty, and of course, a place of fantastic music.
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