Milwaukee singer-songwriter Buffalo Nichols returns to Basic Folk today to talk about his new album, The Fatalist, out this September from Fat Possum Records. We picked up where Nichols’ debut album left off, traveling the world hot on the heels of the blues. Following a profound tradition can be just as frustrating as it is romantic. In his years on the road promoting his self-titled debut album, Carl aka Buffalo has witnessed how the blues can be a home base for listeners’ nostalgic, back-in-the-good-old days, artistically stagnant, patriarchal tendencies. He wants none of it. The Fatalist is an offering to the gods of change, of self-awareness, of integrity.
One of the major achievements of this collection of eight songs is the seemingly effortless sonic collage that comes second nature to hip hop but is less discussed in roots and Americana. From a Charley Patton sample to “Ali Farka” Touré-influenced fingerpicking to tasty 808s to contemporary songwriting that wrestles with what it means to be a good man in 2023, The Fatalist tells a story about the present, while keeping the past close and eschewing sentimentality. This sense of being in conversation with storytellers of the past is a pillar of what I would call the Black Art Tradition, and it is part of what makes Buffalo Nichols one of the most exciting artists in blues music right now.
Photo Credit: Samer Ghani