Afie Jurvanen grew up about as far from a tropical island as you can get, in the cold and dark of Barrie, Ontario.
So perhaps it’s telling that he chose the name Bahamas to serve as his on-stage moniker, a nod to a far flung paradise that a kid from Canada could only see in magazines. Or maybe he just thought it would be funny for a flannel-clad dude from the far north to go by a totally disassociated name.
Judging from Jurvanen’s dry humor onstage at the Bottleneck the other night, I’m guessing it’s the latter.
“This next song has a bit of a TLC vibe to it,” deadpanned Jurvanen, who had donned a Royals ball cap that he said he picked up for a couple bucks at the antique mall.
Instead of Creep or Waterfalls, though, Jurvanen and his band – made up of only two female backup singers and a drummer – eased into Never Again, a sweet and soulful song of mistakes, realizations, and resolutions.
Jurvanen’s voice was stellar live, reminding me a bit of M. Ward crossed with a touch of Joe Purdy and Nathaniel Rateliff. It has that honest, unstrained, easy way about it that makes you believe every word he says.
But his guitar playing was equally effective and interesting.
Though the songs were folky and generally simple, Jurvanen added flourishes of high-on-the-neck jazzy type runs and little embellishments that made it obvious he’s a solid lead man.
Indeed, before deciding to start releasing his own material a couple years back, Jurvanen toiled as a guitar player in several different bands, notably as the lead man for Feist. Not satisfied with playing other people’s material, he quit all that and holed up in a … wait for it… yes, a cabin in the woods, where he self-recorded his debut, 2009’s Pink Strat.
That album was recently followed up with Bar Chords, which after the first listen became my favorite album since the ACB’s Stona Rosa. Listen to Bar Chords here.
Now that I think of it, there are some similarities between the two, like washed out surf guitar tones and catchy as hell melody lines backed with high harmonies.
Unfortunately (for the band, and those not in attendance) only about 30 people got to see Bahamas’ set. But it was memorable for those of us who could get as close as we wanted, to listen to our own private little concert from a musician that I’ll be keeping an eye on.