“You can put your butter on my guitar strings / But that ain’t gonna make ’em toast.”
Cue the sax.
This lyric comes from Nashville avant-garde jazz-folk fusion songwriter Afton Wolfe, who on Friday February 3rd held his release show for his latest EP, Twenty-Three, at The Underdog in East Nashville.
The line comes from his song “Paper Piano,” which is actually the opener from his 2021 full-length album, Kings For Sale, as he led his set Friday night with the catchy imagery-laden track.
The newer-ish Gallatin Pike dive bar and venue had a healthy amount of patrons that showed up not only for Wolfe, but a slew of other artists who performed that night, though Wolfe was the marquee performance.
He would run through a gamut of his originals and naturally his newest material, including the booming and soulful opening track to the EP, “Cry,” and the sensually brooding track with a penetrating bass line, “So Purple,” to which he teased The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek.”
Along with his new music, Wolfe also delivered a most delightfully curious and highly unexpected cover- a mega hit from the 90s, Melissa Etheridge’s “Come To My Window.” While he wailed through the vocals with his signature gritty delivery, I had ulterior motives as to why I was a bit disappointed.
It wasn’t the performance and execution – Wolfe and co. did a great job and had the bar singing along – but rather because Etheridge is a known Kansas City Chiefs fan. As this writer is a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan, this, you see, is a problem. If you know, you know.
But this is not the time or place to get bitter about this.
So back to the show and release.
A key component to the band’s sound was Seth Fox, who held down sax, flute, and guitar depending on the track played. This is what gives Wolfe a unique edge and differentiates himself from other singer-songwriters, and gives a most welcomed jazz lounge-like feel to any venue.
Between attempts at being dragged into the photo booth, getting passed a few drinks, and some prior indulgences including a Hot Chicken Week excursion to Buds & Brews and some light nibbles on a common fungus, Wolfe’s performance was a peak of this particular Friday.
Released on Grandiflora Records, Twenty-Three’s five tracks deliver an array of emotion and sounds, from tender heartfelt ballads to dirty, bassy funk-fueled jams, (Read: “So Purple”- can you tell I’m a fan?) and much in between.
Wolfe brings something a bit fresher to the Nashville scene in particular, as his unique genre gumbo stands out among the many John Jones singer-songwriters. And Friday night, he laid it all on the line for a hell of a performance with his stellar band.
Let’s just hope if he pulls from the 90s covers catalogue again, he busts out some Goo Goo Dolls. (Buffalo natives/likely Bills fans.)