Kings For Sale
Emotional and Rough-Edged Jazzy Country-Blues
Afton Wolfe released his debut EP in 2020;. Petronius’ Last Meal and was full of jazzy Country-Blues and rough-edged vocals, with a batch of well-written songs.
Kings For Sale reprises that formula; while kicking it up a notch with a colorful production by Grammy winner Oz Fritz that includes plenty of horns and some winsome pedal steel to go with Wolfe’s gruff, evocative voice.
The cover image shows Wolfe seemingly looking backward and forward at the same time, his inner thoughts reflecting on his outer self? A good primer for the music it accompanies.
The lead off track, “Paper Piano,” is a rocking delight complete with a perfectly matched horn section and rollicking piano.
The risqué “Dirty Girl” has a New Orleans flavor, making broad use of Wolfe’s sandpaper rough vocals and some simmering blues by his studio band.
Solid story telling with an old world melody and flavor in “Mrs. Ernst’s Piano” that goes beyond the simple morality tale it invokes. Interesting that this is the most easy to sing along with song on the album. Nothing like a tale of hard-headed racism at all, changing times, and karmic retribution to sing along with.
The fact that this tale seems to be set in olden days, yet is still sadly all too familiar today says much about our society. We need more like this.
“Fault Lines” reminds me a bit of John Murry’s lighter efforts; that is to say, this song is all rainy day grey, and bleak droning.
Yes, that is a compliment, by the way.
“Cemetery Blues” is the odd duck out on this collection in that it rocks the hardest with its distorted guitars and overblown rhythm section, yet it fits right in lyrically and emotionally.
A haunting memory—has a lover left, or are they dead?
When you’re so far gone in dark dreams and loss does it really matter?
This song is the bones of the dead cracking under your feet as you run headlong into the void, a dream of never ending desire that won’t let go.
Ending the album is “O’ Magnolia” and this is the song the state of Mississippi might not want, but sure does need.
A song of a changing South, a transition to a better, more inclusive future?
A hymn, not just to the new state flag of Mississippi, but to the South, and the United States of America in general. “Redemption will still take years,”
Wolfe sings on the final verse, knowing it’s not over yet, but in order for change to happen, one has to take that first, tentative and fateful step.
This is a smart song, as are all Wolfe’s song choices on this fine album, yet the emotion is not hampered by wordiness or all too clever for it’s own good word play.
Afton Wolfe is The Real Deal in a very shallow world.
Kings For Sale is a solid sophomore effort; give it a listen.
Review by the Legendary Roy Peak
Released 18th June 2021
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