Buffalo (real name: Carl) Nichol’s thin and wiry music bristles in the best American blues tradition. Nichols’ unadorned voice is framed by steel picking, while the occasional bass drum wanders in to lay down a beat. His evocative storytelling speaks of a country that doesn’t work for everyone, with a voice in turns gritty, soulful, impassioned. Born in Houston, raised in Milwaukee, now based in Austin (“I heard great things about [the city] and wanted to see what it was like“), Nichols leaves wide-open spaces in his songs that speak of his own nomadic existence. “Listening to this record,” he says, “I want more Black people to hear themselves in this music that is truly theirs.” Without a misstep, his tales of suffering hit points both personal and universal, and with quiet grace, he pulls you deep into his world.
His debut album, Buffalo Nichols, is out now on Fat Possum Records, their first present-day blues signing in years. – Jeff McCord