Buffalo Nichols has shared his new single ‘Back On Top’, the second from his self-titled debut album, due out on 15th October 2021.
“‘Back On Top’ is a song about living in the moment at the expense of others and paying a high price tomorrow for a good time today,” explains the Austin, TX-based guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist Carl “Buffalo” Nichols—Fat Possum’s first solo blues signing in nearly 20 years.
Since his earliest infatuations with guitar, Buffalo Nichols has asked himself the same question: How can I bring the blues of the past into the future? After cutting his teeth between a Baptist church and bars in Milwaukee, it was a globetrotting trip through West Africa and Europe during a creative down period that began to reveal the answer.
“Part of my intent, making myself more comfortable with this release, is putting more Black stories into the genres of folk and blues,” Nichols explains. “Listening to this record, I want more Black people to hear themselves in this music that is truly theirs.” That desire is embodied in his self-titled debut album, composed largely of demos and studio sessions recorded between Wisconsin and Texas.
Born in Houston and raised in Milwaukee’s predominantly Black North end, the guitar was Nichols’ saving grace as a young man. The instrument captured his fascination and provided him with an outlet for self-expression and discovery in isolation. A friend invited the teenage guitarist to church for a gig and the opportunity proved to be Nichols’ much-needed breakthrough to music circles in the area. But over the following years, he began to feel overextended and abandoned the demanding grind of a supporting role in nearly ten Milwaukee scene bands, none of which bore his vision as a lead performer. Stints in college and in the workforce led him overseas, where the appreciation of African-American folkways lit a renewed spark in Nichols. It was the bustling of jazz in places like the working-class areas of Ukraine, or in Berlin cafes where expatriate Black Americans routinely treat fans to an enchanting evening of blues, that would lead to his a-ha moment. Nichols returned home to America, meditating on his own place in the music that holds the country’s truest values and rawest emotions between bar and measure. “Before this trip, it was hard for me to find that link between all these blues records I heard and people who are living right now. I figured out it’s not a huge commercial thing, but it still has value. So, I came home and started playing the blues more seriously, doing stuff with just me and my guitar,” Nichols says.
Nichols admits that anger and pain are realities that colour the conversations and the autobiographical anecdotes behind his observational, narrative-based approach to songwriting. However, with his lyricism on Buffalo Nichols, he intends to provide a perspective that doesn’t lean heavily into stereotypes, generalizations or microaggressions regarding race, class and culture. The album sees Nichols wrestling with prescient topics, such as empathy and forgiveness, regret and loss, and the pitfalls of lives lived too close to the edge. At the forefront of each song is Nichols’ rich voice and evocative, virtuosic guitar-playing, augmented on half of the nine tracks by a simple, cadent drum line.
While acknowledging the joy, exuberance and triumph contained in the blues, Nichols looks intently at the genre’s origins, which harken back to complicated and dire circumstances for Black Americans. With this in mind, Nichols says there is a missing link, which he’s often used as a compass: Black stories aren’t being told responsibly in the genre anymore. To begin changing that, Buffalo Nichols gets the chance to tell his own story in the right way.
Buffalo Nichols tour dates…
10/2/21 – St Louis, MO – The Pageant*
10/4/21 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium*
10/6/21 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue*
10/8/21 – Chicago, IL – The Vic*
10/9/21 – St Paul, MN – Palace Theatre*
10/10/21 – Iowa City, IA – Englert Theatre*
10/12/21 – Madison, WI – Barrymore Theatre*
10/14/21 – Columbus, OH – Newport Music Hall*
10/15/21 – Pittsburgh, PA – Mr Smalls*
10/16/21 – Cleveland, OH – House of Blues*
10/19/21 – Detroit, MI – Majestic*
10/21/21 – Knoxville, TN – Bijou Theatre*
10/22/21 – Birmingham, AL – Avondale Brewing*
10/23/21 – Asheville, NC – Rabbit Rabbit*
11/3/21 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl*
11/4/21 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl*
11/5/21 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl*
11/6/21 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl*
11/8/21 – Wilmington, DE – The Queen*
11/10/21 – Winston-Salem, NC – The Ramkat*
11/11/21 – Charleston, SC – Charleston Music Hall*
11/12/21 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse*
11/13/21 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse*
11/15/21 – Little Rock, AR – Revolution Music Room*
11/17/21 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater*
11/18/21 – Austin, TX – Scoot Inn*
11/19/21 – Austin, TX – Scoot Inn*
11/20/21 – New Orleans, LA – Tipitina’s*
*supporting Drive-By Truckers