“A visceral new force in the genre: Nichols bends the blues into new shapes, in the process examining African-American history and the issues and attitudes that still dog the communities he grew up in. A real find”Sunday Times, Breaking Act
Milwaukee-based Buffalo Nichols will release his highly-anticipated new album ‘The Fatalist’ on 15th September via Fat Possum. The follow-up to his critically-acclaimed 2021 self-titled debut, ‘The Fatalist’ sounds unlike any blues record you’re likely to hear in 2023. To accompany today’s announcement, Nichols has shared its lead single: a dusky take on Blind Willie Johnson’s original ‘You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond.’ Directed by Samer Ghani, the video captures songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist Carl Nichols singing of salvation and relief in his soundscape that teems with the joyous claustrophobia of classic gospel. Sampled triggers of Charley Patton’s version connect the earliest blues recordings to the present, both singers’ voices urgent in their message.
Nichols explains: “A traditional song made modern. Which aspects of ‘the Blues’ are essential? Is it a melody? A certain vocabulary? Delivery? Instrumentation? Is this still a blues song? And most importantly: who gets to decide? I tried to reimagine the blues with this song as if it were allowed to grow and progress uninterrupted, uncolonised and ungentrified.”
WATCH ‘YOU’RE GONNA NEED SOMEBODY ON YOUR BOND’ VIDEO HERE
STREAM ‘YOU’RE GONNA NEED SOMEBODY ON YOUR BOND’ HERE
Nichols, who is currently on a summer tour across the U.S, will perform at London’s Rough Trade East shop on 28th August. ‘The Fatalist’ is now available for pre-order HERE.
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.
Praise for Buffalo Nichols’ eponymous debut album:
“a sharp, succinct, inventive and insightful songwriter, one who can convey complex ideas with just a few words.”Uncut 9/10 Album of the Month
“Mesmerising… gritty, old-style blues with a laser-sharp modern focus”4/5 MOJO
“Impressive debut, an album steeped in tradition but with an urgent, contemporary edge”The Observer
“A true find”9/10 Classic Rock
“A short, but sharp debut”4/5 Daily Express
“Nichols will soon be blues royalty…Get to know this future legend” The Revue
“…one of the most promising debut records to come out in quite some time” – No Depression
“…stripped-down arrangement of fingerstyle and slide guitar, plus Nichols’ world-weary delivery of his existential blues.” Rolling Stone