Buffalo Nichols explores misery with luscious delivery

Buffalo Nichols leaning against a wall

Buffalo Nichols was born in Houston and raised in Milwaukee. He performed in church and multiple local bar bands, but it took leaving the United States to understand his true musical direction. In West Africa and Europe, Nichols saw how Black folkways could be modernised and appreciated in the present day. He wanted “more Black people to hear themselves in this music that is truly theirs.” Embracing the blues as a contemporary form resulted in his debut album, Buffalo Nichols.

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Album Review: Michael McDermott – What In The World

“I’m sure you know the story: record deal early, some modicum of success, and then the long slow descent and destruction. Jail, rehab, fortunate enough to be alive, man.”

Michael McDermott

McDermott explodes out of the gate with a title track that’s a modern-day retelling of We Didn’t Start The Fire: “it’s new world order/walls along the border/kids in cages/executive order/welfare for billionaires/people hungry everywhere…I think it’s time we take a good look in the mirror/what in the world is happening here?” It’d surely be something special to see him perform this jet-fuelled tongue twister live. There’s an acoustic demo version as a bonus track.

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Album Review: Ward Richmond – Highly Meditated

“I was walking down a crowded street one night and suddenly I realized I might like being alone/I might have read a few psychosemantic expert books/I once passed a science test a took/so I think I’ll be alright on my own.” Well, have I got a pandemic for you! Everything comes across like a tongue-in-cheek kids song celebrating introversion and self-reliance – although the f-bomb is fairly adult, of course!

Photo Credit: Will von Bolton
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Album Review: Ben Kunder – Searching For The Stranger

A whalesound song and a beat halts for an a capella interlude: “I was in Berlin on the anniversary of some forsaken tragedy/shadows of my past.” The instrumentation builds back up as he relates taking in the scene while taking in the advice of a loved one. Given the setting, “tear down the walls” is more than a metaphor as he embraces a new normal of coming to terms with the past and the persistence of memory.

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Album Review: Nicole Atkins – Italian Ice

Nicole Atkins recorded Italian Ice at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio with some of her “best musical friends,” including Britt Daniel, John Paul White and members of The Bad Seeds. Intrigued already?

AM Gold hits with an easy listening vibe and girl gang harmonies. The gloves are off: “don’t get stuck in the mirror cuz that shit’s rough.” Atkins rejects religious comfort in favour of the primacy of people and music.

Mind Eraser is bassy and whisper sung. It soon takes an interesting turn, for the chorus follows siren synths piling up to a melodic cacophony.

Domino strides in with discordant tones using a funk beat and a sultry vocal reminiscent of Juanita Stein. The falling domino motif adorns the album cover but a dominant metaphor in the song is passage of time.

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Album Review: Brendan Benson – Dear Life

A synth piece explodes into a ringing, repeated exclamation: “I Can If You Want Me To.” The pace picks up; he’s certain and ready.

The follow-up keeps the discordancy but loses the need for a relationship: “It’s only me/there’s no-one else.” A disco fill pushes the subject from wasted to ready. There’s time to question the moon landing and aging, but we always return to the mantra “it’s Good To Be Alive.”

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