Blues guitarist and singer Carl ‘Buffalo’ Nichols was born in Houston, Texas, but was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That geographic dichotomy — Houston’s expansive warmth and Milwaukee’s steely cold — make their way into his music, which captures tender moments told from a hardened remove. Given how well his gravelly voice pairs with the metallic twang of his instrument, it’s clear to see why Nichols became the first solo blues artist that Mississippi-based label Fat Possum Records has signed in 20 years.

Growing up in Milwaukee, Nichols found his place behind the guitar. In poring over records from other artists, he would sometimes listen to a song as many as 200 times to understand the chord or riff and play it. That foundation gave him a language with which to create his own stories, though it first took leaving the U.S. to figure out what he wanted to say. Nichols traveled across West Africa and Europe, discovering how tradition could be updated for contemporary listeners. That’s his mission in releasing Buffalo Nichols. “Part of my intent, making myself more comfortable with this release, is putting more Black stories into the genres of folk and blues”, he said. “Listening to this record, I want more Black people to hear themselves in this music that is truly theirs”. (Courtesy of Holler)