Photo by Jeff Fasano

Southern troubadour Afton Wolfe has announced the February 3rd release of ‘Twenty-Three,’ the follow-up to his critically-acclaimed debut LP, Kings for Sale, (Grandiflora Records) which The Rocking Magpie declared “The real deal in a very shallow world.” The epic 9-song opus made waves on both sides of the Atlantic, spawning indie rock treatises, “Cemetery Blues,” “Fault Lines” and “Mrs Ernst’s Piano.”

The new EP’s title is more than an allusion to its calendar date and the year of the nascent millennium. The number 23 has a revered history steeped sin mystical properties.

Wolfe explains, “The number 23 is Magic, and as such, it has been significant in my musical journey, so my delusional apophenia led me to release these 5 (2+3) songs together on 2.3.23 for the purpose of conjuring all the Magic I possibly could from this Music.”

While four of the five tracks on the EP have hit digital services, they’ll be compiled into a physical release for the first time. The lone wolf among the new chapters is the Memphis soul/Motown inflected “Cry,” which open-heartedly navigates the weight of grief and grieving.

Packing an emotional wallop with a dash of gospel doo-wop, the song features stirring vocal harmonies from Melanie Dewey and Regina McCray, of the McCray Sisters, daughters of Baptist preacher, Reverend Samuel H. McCrary, a founding member of The Fairfield Four. Regina toured with Bob Dylan for a stretch in the early 80s and has provided backing vocals for seminal albums by Carrie Underwood, Margo Price and Allison Russell.

Wolfe was thrilled the pair was able to add additional weight to the gravity of the sentiment, “Cry is a song that came about while I was trying to find the words to console a friend who had just suffered an unimaginable tragedy, losing his wife and the mother of his three daughters. After trying for days to compose a sentence or two to text him, this song was completely written in a matter of minutes. It’s the most emotional song I’ve ever written.”

Born in McComb, and growing up in Meridian, Hattiesburg, and Greenville, Mississippi, the roots of American music are in his DNA. Mississippi is the birthplace of at least three American art forms: country music, blues music, and rock and roll. Meridian is the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers, while the Mississippi Delta is the birthplace of the blues, and the first rock n’ roll notes ever played according to intelligent music historians, came from Hattiesburg. Spending his musically formative years in and around New Orleans, where the humidity of the Mississippi combined with the Cajun seasonings, the jazz, zydeco, creole, and gospel music, his Mississippi roots coalesce to add resonance and depth to his blues/country/rock influences.

Wolfe moved to Nashville in 2003 and quickly ingratiated himself into the burgeoning East Nashville music scene. Aside from being a regular fixture at the Basement East, Five Spot, Grimey’s, Dee’s Country Lounge and The Bowery Vault, he’s been invited to partake in all 17 of the annual Tom Waits Tribute shows each December in celebration of Waits’ mid-Sagittarius arrival into the pantheon of music history. At this year’s event, which was also a Benefit for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, Wolfe reprised his newfound role as emcee and christened the evening with a torrid rendition of “Train Song.”

To promote the release of Twenty-Three, which reunited him with frequent collaborator Seth Fox and producer Brett Ryan Stewart at Wirebird Productions, Wolfe is embarking on a short SE tour, which fittingly kicks off at The Underdog in Nashville on 2/3/23. Joining him will be local favorites Jon Latham, Mike Miz, Daniel Seymour, Dillon Warnek, and others. From there, he’ll head north for a run through New York, New Jersey and New England.

As a pre-amble, Wolfe returns to the Baja California Sur in Mexico, January 11-16, for the 2023 Tropic of Cancer Music and Arts Festival. Taking place in the paradisiacal town of Todos Santos, the 6-day fest features a who’s who of Nashville indie royalty including the Cordovas, Brian Wright and The Minks sharing the bill with former Black Crowes lead guitarist Marc Ford, Bay-area roots rockers The Mother Hips, Flamenco fusion excursionists Radio Free Honduras, psychedelic garage rock outfit Wand, and dozens more.

“A singular talent with a gift for wit, wisdom and wordplay, Wolfe displays an uncommon gift for insight and intelligence. There’s a certain gravitas that accompanies his delivery.” – Goldmine Magazine

“Wolfe’s Southern Mississippi roots are clear, but his beatnik storytelling lyricism is the star of the show.” – Nashville Scene

“Wolfe’s growly but sonorous voice holds the fort down, like if Tom Waits and Randy Newman were in your kitchen.” – The East Nashvillian

“Wolfe makes like Van Morrison meeting RL Burnside and conjuring up a raw soulful brand of Americana blues.” – Glide Magazine