Buffalo Nichols Album Review
Buffalo Nichols (Fat Possum)
The thorny, restless travelers' existence, ready material for the blues, threads Buffalo Nichols' self-titled debut. From his current base in Austin, the Houston-born musician's introductory LP follows an upbringing in Milwaukee and time abroad. Billed as Fat Possum's first solo blues signing in some 20 years, Nichols' thick, weathered voice carries the title. Eight songs amble wide in a subtle referendum on the form. (Prior, a track by his Wisconsin project Nickel&Rose called "Americana" thoughtfully criticized their genre.)
Especially refreshing in this city, the player lets his modern blues simmer and smoke, avoiding pyrotechnic blister. Somber and guarded, opener "Lost & Lonesome" pins the simple tools behind most of the album – evocative acoustic guitar, barely there percussion, and Nichols' wisely pleading voice. It sounds just right weighing the heaviness of heaven and hell ("Living Hell") and suffering ("Sick Bed Blues"). With "Another Man," the artist deploys his age-old storytelling method on modern police violence. He also addresses the music's constraints: "Maybe I'm just angry and my words may be cliche/ It's hard to write a song while folks get murdered every day."
Alongside roots cuts, Nichols tries on violin-supported singer-songwriter stylings and retro rock friendly for Black Pumas fans. The last two tracks add electric guitar in a half-decided aesthetic swerve, restrained to compromise with the preceding materials' unvarnished appeal. Each song with forward energy, Nichols' first solo outlook presents many potential roads.