Buffalo Rogers: Fairplay Hotel
Many of us long awaited the release of Buffalo Roger's album Fairplay Hotel, and with good reason.
It's bad ass.
I've known Buffalo a few years and have gotten the privilege and pleasure of seeing a countless number of his shows, both by himself and with his various arrangements like the Washitas. Buffalo is a character in many ways, his stature and fashion sense alone earns him quirky points, but his brain and his talents pool right up there too.
Buffalo isn't just an amazing artist, harnessing his creative energy and putting it to good use, but he's also book smart and highly intelligent in his own right. I love the interesting conversations I've had with him along the way, from how the Wizard of Oz story came to be, to him breaking down his take on the various books he's found along the way.
I also was lucky enough to have been at the Boohatch when this record was being recorded, which was another reason I had been looking forward to it for so long. I heard the magic being laid down in the studio, and I knew it was going to be a masterpiece, and I definitely wasn't disappointed.
Here are some pics of the studio time that I snapped while I was there, you can scroll through and check them all out.
Fairplay Hotel was produced by Mike Mcclure, Co-produced by Bryon White. Recorded at the Boohatch Studio in Ada, Ok. Mixed by Michael Trepagnier, Mastered by Kevin Lively, Artwork and Design by Sean Vali.
Bryon White – Acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, electric guitar and classical guitar.
Kevin “Haystack” Foster – Fiddle, Mandolin, Banjo, Electric guitar, and Mandocello.
Dillon Sampson – Bass guitar
Thomas Young – Drums
John Fullbright- Keys
Cody Angel – Pedal steel guitar
So it's no wonder every song on this album just nails it, I mean look at that list. There's just a plethora of talent in there.
The album did take a few years to be completed and released, but it was worth the wait.
“You know, life stuff and health stuff and money stuff, all the problems that make things go slow in the world slowed it down. But I hustled harder in the last 3 years than I ever have for anything else for this album,” said Buffalo.
Even though it took some blood, sweat and tears to make the release happen, Buffalo is pleased with the way it turned out.
“It's basically the Quails as my backing band, they were in the pocket and they know my songs because I'm a superfan or whatever,” said Buffalo with a chuckle “Seriously, the players on it were absolutely magical and they all came together and understood the point of it which was to represent these songs, I mean even down to Mac and Haystack and all those kids. Haystack IS the bluegrass band on six things, I've never sat in a studio and wanted to watch somebody do the parts like that.”
Don't let him fool you though, the backing players aren't the only reason that this album is so great. Buffalo has a great voice, and he uses it well throughout the whole thing. He's got a unique flair, in style, personality and songwriting. He's definitely not your cookie cutter variety musician, he mixes things up in whimsical and quirky ways that still stay true to those Oklahoma roots, which blend folk, bluegrass, country and even something a bit more that can't quite be branded.
“I wanted to make sure it sounded like stuff from around these parts, I wanted to make sure it had a real natural feeling, good songs and not formulated in every way,” said Buffalo about the album. “I don't have a songwriting process. There are a ton of songs that I have that take 10 minutes and are done and as good as the ones I work on for 5 or 6 years. I think the point of it is just writing a song so the process is kind of secondary to the song, to me it feels.”
Some of the songs on this album come with their own interesting stories. In Ceasar the Crow the character El Gato Negro was based on a cellmate of Bryon White's once upon a time, and Buffalo put him in the song and killed him.
“Only because he wrote a song about a shitty neighborhood I used to hang out at as a kid called Felony Flats. That song I wrote after reading some Carlos Castaneda stuff and some Corbin McCarthy stuff. I have a song on there that I wrote for a friend of mine. It's kinda like from a woman's perspective, called June Bugs, that I'm really proud of how it turned out,” said Buffalo.
Buffalo has a 5 year old son, Leroy and Seabirds has a cameo by his stuffed bunny billy, which I personally think is brilliant.
“Seabirds or Fairplay might be my favorite. Fairplay hotel is an old hotel we used to play in Fairplay Colorado, it was supposedly haunted. There's nothing in that song that isn't 100% real. Not a lot of facts changed there. I'm proud of the way the whole thing was recorded, and I think the songs are kind of congruent and work well with each other,” said Buffalo.
“I'm going to do another album hopefully soon. I want to make an album that's a lot more stripped down, I want to make something that's really acoustic-y because I feel like that's still where my roots are at,” he explained. “I guess if I had a songwriting process up until now it was that I wanted my album songs to be different than my live show. I'm making an album and not just performing my live show. So the next thing I make I want it to be a lot more acoustic driven and more like my live show. Because for the most part that's what my live shows have been and it's what I like to play. I have enough stuff that there's another 10 song album pretty primed and ready to go.”.
Fairplay Hotel officially releases on Friday May 24th and it will be available on all the streaming platforms. You can also get a physical copy as well as T-shirts at the shows. The CD release show will be Friday night at The Blue Door.
You can keep tabs on Buffalo and his shows by visiting his social media pages.
And now for my review of the album.
The album has 11 songs on it.
Possum up a Tree: This tune definitely has got that bluegrass feel, spunky with a great beat. It's almost a love song, in ways. The finger picking and fiddle are on point, as are the rest of the instrumentals, layered and blended together well, with some great solos. Buffalo's vocals are smooth and almost so natural it sounds as if he doesn't even have to try, he's just doing his thing as naturally as breathing.
Phantom of the Opry: This song opens right into a whimsical story about a shifty eyed albino at the Opry hall. Both the lyrics and the music are just fun. It's a slowed down song, it takes it's time setting the scene and going through the details and drama of the story. The soulful keys adds a great flavor to the mix. It's a little quirky. But in the best way possible.
Faust Backwards: This song starts off strong with a variety of instruments that just adds such color to the whole thing. Buffalo has such great control of his vocals, he's got a way of weaving it up and down and around to match the mood and story. This is also a story telling song, which Buffalo is so skilled at, layered with vivid imagery. The keys and accordion really round it all out, bringing some nostalgic magic to the vibe, like you could have walked into an old saloon in the wild west and heard these cats playing it for the crowd.
Ceasar the Crow: This ditty has a bit of a darker vibe in it, a bit of an eerie and haunted feel. It's a murder song, so the instrumentals match the lyrics perfectly. The vocals are smooth and light, a mix between honeyed singing and simply languorously weaving a story. It makes you tap your toes right along with it. The mandolin is exquisite, as are the haunting sounds of the keys.
Row for the Shore: This tune opens in a light and cheerful way, the pedal steel powering in with the rest of the instruments, drawing out a bit of a country vibe, which is almost hidden in the bluegrass. It's again a great story telling tune, woven together with a bit of a love song. The vocals weave in and out, slowed down and sped up, lightly singing and boldly exclaiming, it's a good way to show off Buffalo's versatility.
Fairplay Hotel: This song is straight up more country than the previous ones have been so far. It's got a definite twang in it that makes you want to get out on the dance floor with a partner and two step along It's got a good pace, and has a great mix of instrumentals. The song weaves a tune of a lovers spat, as Buffalo sings some great lyrical truths about the human condition in that situation. The fiddle is just beautiful, Haystack has got some mean skills. Of course the keys throughout this entire album hit it right on the spot. It's hard to sit still during this one, it makes you just want to move along with it all.
June Bugs in May: This tune might be my favorite on the album, although it's a tough pick between this one and the next two. It's got a lazy pace, a little slowed down, but only a touch. The lyrics are fun, another love song, but not too heavy handed, with descriptions painted by the hand of a wordsmith. The fiddle is just so silky and smooth, the keys blend into the background, the pedal steel adds just enough of that quirkiness to pull it all together.
Cool off: This is also tied for my favorite, it's a waltz which gives it an entirely different feel than the rest. It's a song asking his lover to cool off and come back to bed, which just makes me smile. The lyrics are great, a little playful and lighthearted, if they don't work to cool off a heated argument, I'm not sure there is any hope for you. It's a beautiful tune, all the players on this album are clearly masters at what they do, they pull it off so seamlessly.
Merle Haggard T-shirt: This tune starts with an almost a marching cavalry type drum beat and some feather light finger picking that just balances out the deep percussion. This one is also tied for my favorite. It's a sweet song, lovely and languid, painting a picture of a beauty in her Merle Haggard t-shirt and faded blue jeans. The accordion again adds something almost magical to the mix. The song wraps up soft and sweet.
Seabirds: This is the tune that features Buffalo's son's stuffed bunny billy, which is just endearing in many ways. It reminds me of a fairy tale like story, like an adventure taking off in wonderland or oz, something magical and amazing. Which it is about an adventure traveling at sea. All of the layered instruments just makes it have a depth and flavor that really weaves through each of these songs, making it such a cohesive mix. The mandolin and the fiddle are both just stunning, but that's not to say that the rest of it isn't.
Idaho Stars: This song sends us off, a good toe tapping tune, which has some truths in it about Buffalo's brother losing his thumb in the rodeo. Like many of the songs on here, it's kinda sorta about a girl, this one hung the Idaho stars. It's got a nice vibe to end the album. That beautiful fiddle makes it's way through, with all the rest of the gang.
All in all it's a masterpiece of an album, filled with gifted musical talents and brilliant lyrics. It's polished, artistic, playful, consistent and all around an album worth getting your hands on.