Michael Schembre, Justin Easter, Opal Agafia, David Lucas Gesualdo, & Ron Landis — 21st Annual Woody Guthrie Festival, 2018

Woodyfest 2018: Opal Agafia & the Sweet Nothings

Ozark Mountain Soul

Ozark Mountain Soul

The biggest musi­cal influ­ence [Sidenote: This arti­cle is entry num­ber thirty-one in our cov­er­age of the 2018 Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, fea­tur­ing Arkansas soul singer Opal Agafia.] in Opal Agafia’s life is her mom. Agafia char­ac­ter­izes her­self as a life­long seri­ous shower singer, [Sidenote: Agafia, quoted in Kuykendall, Kristal, Highberry 2017 Standouts: Opal Agafia, Floozies, DSO, Marcus King Band … and BUBBLES!,” ArkanSounds​.com (8 July 2017).] say­ing that she grew up singing with her mother, DeAnna Smith. [Sidenote: Ibid.] Smith sang with Agafia and her younger brother every day, through­out the day — in the car, around the house, and espe­cially at bedtime. [Sidenote: Kristal.]

Agafia first tried her hand as song­writ­ing when she was eigh­teen, even­tu­ally begin­ning a song­writ­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with Smith while at uni­ver­sity. While most of the mate­r­ial on Agafia’s début album, One Down, Forever to Go, are Agafia orig­i­nals, a few were co-writ­ten with Smith.

Opal Agafia — “Them Bones”

Make Mine Moxie

Agafia’s stage pres­ence is viva­cious, gutsy, and soul­ful. The twenty-five-year-old exhibits no ner­vous­ness or stage fright — she’s pure moxie, address­ing the audi­ence between songs, mak­ing eye-con­tact, demon­strat­ing con­fi­dence and maybe even a lit­tle swag­ger. [Sidenote: Agafia’s con­fi­dence is earned. She’s prac­ticed karate and other tra­di­tional mar­tial arts since she was six, going so far as to become a mar­tial arts instruc­tor for youth. — Ibid.] She pos­sesses a pow­er­ful voice and stel­lar tech­nique. Her into­na­tion is accu­rate and con­sis­tent, but not so per­fect as to sap the life out of the music. When she hits a par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant note she’s apt to growl like an old Delta blueswoman.

Agafia’s back­woods child­hood is evi­dent in her slight coun­try twang, but there’s more than a lit­tle gospel and soul in her deliv­ery as well. A com­fort­able loose­ness in her back and forth with the band reminds this writer of an expe­ri­enced jazz combo’s ensem­ble spirit.

For her Woodyfest début, Agafia was accom­pa­nied by her band, The Sweet Nothings. The band com­prises Michael Schembre (fid­dle & vox), Justin Thomas Easter (acoustic gui­tar & vox), David Lucas Gesualdo (upright bass & vox), and Ron Landis (res­onator slide gui­tar & vox). Their sec­ond album, Share What You Own, was released just prior to their Woodyfest appearance.

Gallery: Opal Agafia & the Sweet Nothings


About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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