New Austinite Buffalo Nichols digs deep into acoustic blues on debut album
Austin360 On The Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists.
Buffalo Nichols, self-titled (Fat Possum). Born Carl Nichols in Houston but raised in Milwaukee, where he had bands including the duo Nickel & Rose, this now-Austin-based singer-songwriter makes his solo debut with an eight-song, 27-minute set that’s tightly focused on acoustic blues music.
This is a mostly solo affair, with Matthew Wilson adding bass and drums to some tracks atop Nichols’ fluid acoustic picking and emotionally charged slide-guitar accents. A cover of 20th-century Delta blues legend Skip James’ “Sick Bed Blues” signals the traditional blues structure and dark lyrical themes that permeate Nichols’ seven original tunes.
The characters in Nichols’ songs are often down on their luck or at the end of their rope. “Living Hell” is as bleak as it sounds, the narrator asking flatly: “Will I die and go to heaven or keep living in hell?” In the apocalyptic “Back on Top,” the singer celebrates getting “$100 for my pay” by opting to “go drink it all away.”
Mid-record, “These Things” and “How to Love” are classic love-gone-wrong songs that feature some of Nichols’ most vivid lines. “If we’re gonna die together, let’s do it to the rhythm of the band,” he sings in the former, before declaring in the latter that “the way you hurt me showed me how to love.”
The song that cuts deepest, “Another Man,” is a re-recording of a tune he released with Nickel & Rose in 2019 that has resonated even deeper in the wake of race-related killings nationwide in 2020. Nichols references a series of deaths in the verses before lowering the boom at the end: “Don't need to hide behind a white hood/ When a badge works just as good/ Another man is dead.”
Playing Nov. 18-19 at Scoot Inn (opening for Drive-By Truckers). Here’s the track “Back on Top”:
David Beck’s Tejano Weekend, “Vol. II.” The follow-up to Beck’s 2019 debut with this Tex-Mex project further pushes the former Sons of Fathers and Blue Healer frontman into the territory where traditional country and Latin music commingle. Joined by standout accordionist David Herrera plus guitarist John Saucedo, keyboardist Peter Huysman and drummer Dees Stribling, Beck serves up a tuneful, danceable mix of originals and covers, including the late Billy Joe Shaver’s “Live Forever.” Playing Nov. 19 at Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos. Here’s the video for the track “For Somebody’s Sake”:
Out this week
Jenn Hartmann Luck, “Raise Your Voices (Songs Celebrating the Kids Who Are Changing the World).” After releasing several of these tracks as singles to benefit causes such as cerebral palsy awareness and Hurricane Ida relief, the local singer-songwriter delivers her 11-song album featuring music “inspired by ... amazing children who are making an impact on the world,” per press materials announcing the record. Release show Nov. 14 at the Thinkery. Here’s the single “Through My Eyes,” featuring fellow local musician SaulPaul:
NOV. 19: Willie Nelson Family, self-titled (Legacy)
NOV. 19: Patricia Vonne, “My Favorite Holiday,” release show Nov. 27 at One-2-One Bar
NOV. 19: Wade Bowen, “Where Phones Don’t Work” EP
DEC. 2: Rick Furst, “The Riddle”
DEC. 3: Jason Boland & the Stragglers, “The Light Saw Me” (Thirty Tigers)
DEC. 3: Nori, self-titled, release show Dec. 10 at Central Market North
DEC. 3: Walter Daniels & the Del Valle Trustees, “Have a Coffee Break With”
JAN. 14: Jamestown Revival, “Young Man” (Thirty Tigers)
JAN. 21: Whitmore Sisters, “Ghost Stories” (Red House)
JAN. 21: Bruce Hughes, “Late Night Polaroids”
FEB. 11: Spoon, “Lucifer on the Sofa” (Matador)
MAY: Lyle Lovett, title TBA