Buffalo Nichols has a mission statement: “To redefine and decolonize blues music.”
This is an uphill battle for Nichols, a blues and folk artist whose music can also feel psychedelic. The record that was meant to be his debut wasn’t released by his label, Fat Possum Records, because it wasn’t “traditional” enough. Instead, in 2021 he released a self-titled album on the label, with a more acoustic sound.
“Particularly when it comes to blues music, in order to be successful within the confines of the industry, you have to portray a very white person’s version of a Black person,” Nichols says. “If you’re a Black blues artist you should be old, you should be docile and timid.”
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But that hasn’t stopped Nichols. He continued to play songs from the scrapped record for audiences, and in November he was able to release two songs from it, “Friends” and “Meet Me in the Bottom.”
“I had started to believe that the album didn’t get released because it wasn’t good enough, but I kept playing these songs and I always got such a powerful response from people,” Nichols says.
Now the artist is working on his next album and also heading on tour. There will be a stop on Feb. 5 at Cactus Club (2496 S. Wentworth Ave.), a local artist-run music venue where he loves to play. “I’m truly from Milwaukee,” Nichols says. “I came up in the music scene here, I played in all the venues, and it’s such an important part of me.”
Tickets and more information: buffalo-nichols.com.