High Fives 2021 No. 9 – Afton Wolfe

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We reviewed Afton Wolfe’s debut solo album In June 2021 and Allan loved it. “Kings for Sale” covered a wide range of styles and emotions and was one of those pieces that send you to your search engine to seek out more information about the themes covered in the songs. Afton has kindly agreed to share his favourite covers from his shows this year. As you would expect, it’s an interesting list.

Photo by Madison Thorn

2021 has been such a transformative year for me personally, and like so many other folks like me who live to write and perform the Language, it was a chance to get back on stage and make that Connection with people – on and off stage – that I covet so. I write (or discover) songs primarily, and I know that many of my sistren and brethren have different opinions about playing covers, but I personally love playing songs that mean a lot to me and have influenced my search for the Magic Connection of Music. I try to keep it to one or two cover songs per performance, and I don’t typically play standards or wedding songs like Mustang Sally or Margaritaville (though those are both wonderful songs), but I have no reservations about playing others’ songs in general. Like Dylan said, “I’m a song and dance man.” So, for my High Five, I wanted to highlight a few performances of songs I didn’t write (or discover) that were a part of this special year. These are in chronological order I think.

Photo by Lisa Linn Manley

Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – June 11 – The Lounge at the City Winery, Nashville, Tennessee.

This song, written by Bennie Benjamin, Horace Ott and Sol Marcus for the great Nina Simone, but popularized shortly after by The Animals, is one of the greatest songs ever written – universal lyrical theme, fantastic melodic interplay, and raw, bluesy foundation. I fell in love with Elvis Costello’s version first, before ever hearing Nina Simone’s. My friends and I performed this on the night of the release of my record Kings For Sale. It was a magical night, and this song was one of my favorite moments of the night. The version we ended up with had elements of Nina, Elvis and the Animals, but we really just let the song guide us.

I’m just a soul whose intentions are good.

Photo by Riley McNeel Johnson

Something’s On Your Mind – July 19 – The Basement, Nashville, Tennessee

Written by Dino Valenti, this beautiful song was originally recorded by one of my favorite vocalists, the great Karen Dalton. It is also a favorite of my friends that I play music with, and one day, while driving my dear friend and fantastic violinist Rebecca Weiner Tompkins to a rehearsal, it was playing in the car, and we decided that we should perform it. My voice doesn’t sound anything like Ms. Dalton’s ghostly wail, so we thought it would make a unique performance. I think it did.

I’ve seen the writing on the wall.

Who cannot maintain will always fall.

Photo by Elizabeth Wiseman

Come On Up to The House – September 22 – Brooklyn Bowl, Nashville

You may be aware of this already – I don’t go out of my way to keep it secret – but I’m a pretty big Tom Waits fan. My voice, strangely enough, was actually shredded up by being in a metal band in my teens before ever hearing Mr. Waits’ music, but I admittedly have since used said voice to cover Mr. Wait’s Music and my pursuit of accuracy has not done my nodules any favors. In any event, this was a really fun time, because it was an invitation from my friends Cordovas, who are at the same time some of the coolest, nicest, most generous and sweet dudes and also one of the best live bands you’ll ever be fortunate enough to see, if and when you do. They asked me to come join them for their AmericanaFest pre-party at the Brooklyn and Joe hand picked this song for me to sing with them. I eagerly and gratefully accepted, and I predictably killed.

Come down off the cross;

we can use the wood.

Photo by Chad Edwards, MCE Photography

Cure For Pain – 320 Fifth – October 2 – Laurel, Mississippi

Morphine is objectively the greatest band that’s ever been; I actually wrote a paper about it in a philosophy class in undergrad. But the crux of my objective argument comes down to how hard it is to cover a Morphine song well, considering how unique their entire project was. So, when I went on a little tour this fall, I figured I’d give this song a try, because I had great musicians with me that I knew could pull it off. It didn’t sound like Morphine, but I also believe that it’s hard (if not impossible) to play a great song too poorly.

I propose a toast to my self control.

See it crawling helpless on the floor.

Someday, there’ll be a cure for pain.That’s the day I throw my drugs away.

Photo by Madison Thorn

Acadian Driftwood – Basement East – East Nashville, Tennessee

A tradition in Nashville for the last several years has been The Last Waltz tribute show, where the coolest folks in Nashville come together and pay tribute to one of the greatest concerts in music history. This was my first time being a part of it, and it was an honor. The Band was a huge influence on me growing up, and The Last Waltz the movie is one of my favorite films ever. I sang half of Acadian Driftwood, sharing lyrical duties with the fantastic Van Darien, as a part of the great Jon Latham’s band The Lifers. I have no problem admitting that pretending to be a Canadian for one song, while an honorary member of the Lifers, though, is the height of my own pretension, as far as I can remember. Oh well. I had a blast.

This isn’t my turn; this ain’t my season.

Can’t think of one good reason to remain.

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