Buffalo Nichols – Hear new single from forthcoming new album ‘The Fatalist’

Milwaukee, WI-based Buffalo Nichols today released his new original single ‘Love Is All’ previewing his anticipated album ‘The Fatalist’ due out 15th September via Fat Possum. Anchored by a mesmerizing blues arpeggio that floats over a minimal, driving rhythm, the evocative modern protest song proudly declares ‘Love Is All.’ “In our society the bar is set very low for what is deemed acceptable behavior for men,” says Nichols. “It is socially acceptable to be cruel and place financial gain over human kindness so I believe loving and treating someone with respect, fairness and kindness is one of the most powerful things one can do. Choosing spiritual love over material love. There is also a theme of the unfamiliarity of pure and real love as many of us grow up having never experienced or witnessed it.” 

‘Love Is All’ follows the album’s lead single ‘You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond‘, a cover of Blind Willie Johnson. Currently on a summer-long tour across the U.S., Nichols will perform at London’s Rough Trade East on 28th August (TICKETS).

On his self-produced second album, Nichols does things with the blues that might catch you off guard. There’s 808 programming, chopped-up samples, washes of synth. There’s a consideration of the fullness of the sonic stage and the atmospherics of blues music that can only come with a long engagement with electronic music. But this is no gimmicky hybrid or attempt to turn the blues into 21st-century music by simply dressing it with skittering hi-hats. Nichols’ vision for the blues is of a form of music that’s intimately tied to everyday life in 2023, something that’s reflected not only in the choice of instrumentation, but in the complexities of the songwriting and the grey areas his lyrics explore. This is music that comes straight from the present, and as such, it’s a reminder that the same shit that drove the first blues singers to pick up a guitar is still present behind the throbs of deep bass hits today.

Of course, Nichols’ songwriting has always been firmly rooted in the present. He proved he could succeed on the music industry’s own blues terms on his self-titled 2021 debut, whose songs, Bandcamp Daily said, “seem to flow from some great repository of emotion and insight.” ‘The Fatalist’ finds him digging deeper in search of answers to ever-more-complicated questions around responsibility and self-definition, his plainspoken lyrics both cutting and refreshing in their sincerity and refusal to accept pat solutions. Still, Nichols rarely sounds like a blues singer. Like Leonard Cohen, he dominates these songs with his voice. His low, guttural baritone is high in the mix, and he sounds coiled, clenched tight.

The slow drip of his songwriting lends ‘The Fatalist’ an incredible amount of drama, which the production, at times dark and dewy and claustrophobic, at times zippy with light, further emphasises. That personal touch is evident in how considerately these songs have been framed. “In a lot of ways I was improvising,” he says, and he leaned on his years of experience as a DIY musician -and the songs themselves -to guide him. “Drum machines are a 50-year-old technology. If the blues hadn’t been hijacked and trapped in amber, I think they naturally would’ve been incorporated.” The drum programming throughout feels like a natural rhythmic vehicle for these songs. “When you pick up a guitar, the first thing you’re gonna play is the blues,” he says. “And when you pick up an 808, you’re gonna start doing trap beats.

The stakes throughout this album are largely personal, rather than social; Nichols is singing about his life in the first person and about his desire to forge his own individuality in a world and a music industry that make it nearly impossible to do so. Ringing through ‘The Fatalist Blues, and ‘The Fatalist,’ is a simple question: Do I have any say in how things are going to go? It’s the question behind so much of the physical and psychic pain in the blues, and in a frustrating age that preaches self-empowerment and shames the disenfranchised, it’s a stridently modern question, too. By playing his music the way he wants to play it, by refusing to give up his creative control or accept anyone else’s definition of the blues or indeed his own life, Nichols has tried to forge an answer. Does he have any say in how things are going to go? Let’s find out.


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