For this Acoustic Guitar Session in Place, Buffalo Nichols performs “How To Love” on a Recording King Tricone. The track appears on Nichols’ self-titled album, which was favorably reviewed in our January/February issue, read our review below.
Born in Houston, Carl Nichols took a winding road to the blues, passing through a long series of Baptist church gigs, Milwaukee bars, European cafés, and West African tours before returning to the States, breaking up his folk duo, and landing solo in Austin. Now billing himself as Buffalo Nichols, he’s writing songs that channel the music he heard growing up into a weary, deeply lived vision that’s focused on “putting more Black stories” into acoustic blues.
At heart, he’s a storyteller, confessing the blues in tales of broken promises, gunshot wounds, traffic stops gone wrong, cross-eyed looks in the mirror, and late-night tours of Hell from people who swear they’re “gonna find out how bad things can get.” Real bad, that’s for sure, and despite all that suffering, there’s a sweetness in Nichols’ playing, which relies on open C# tuning, a brass slide on his ring finger, and a couple of rough-and-ready resonator guitars by Mule and Recording King.
After years as a journeyman, playing everything from country to death metal, Nichols distilled his influences into a restlessly contemporary, hard-hitting blues, calling on the ghosts of R.L. Burnside, Elmore James, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Bukka White, and a long line of blues-rock guitarists. On this startlingly good debut, Nichols stakes out a new name and a new style, finding a voice that perfectly fits the moment. And like the speaker in “These Things,” he’s ready to face the future head-on, knowing “I’m beaten and I’m broken/ but I’m coming back for more.”
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.