Jed Watts’ Buffalo is a record of minimalist country tunes that could have soundtracked the summers of any Southerner’s childhood. They spill in simple chords from someone who’s been there himself—hanging out by the lake and wandering around barefoot in the grass. Of the eight tracks, five were co-written with Aaron Raitiere. And who better? Raitiere has proven, with multiple recordings with various influences in the past year, his affinity for the humble, stripped-down and borderline lewd folk tune. Together, Watts and Raitiere create a hot-weather ode to the South through bare but arresting melodies and simple lyricism.
The thin, wiry plucking of the opener “1981” is filled with a bass drum’s pound, oohing and aahing and animalistic vocal noisemaking, and is not at all indicative of the rest of the album. It’s an unexpected shock to hear a mandolin’s trill in the following track, “Crazy Glue.” Watts sings, “Like crazy glue/I’m stuck on you/I like your curves and your attitude/it’s a chemical bond/that I can’t explain/it makes perfect sense to me and you/but it’s crazy just the same” with a folky-sweet sensibility that sounds like a love song written for the Milo & Otis soundtrack.
Raitiere puts his two cents in again in the distinctly ’80s beat of “She’s on Fire” and the heated, drawling “Big Orange Sky,” which unwinds ominously amid the thwack of a snare and slow acoustic guitar. In “Four Wheels on the Ground,” Watts says, “It’s a good time to be alive,” which appears to be the underlying message throughout. He pities the city kids, wanders beneath big orange skies and can’t promise roses but can give his girl all the wildflowers she wants. Buffalo isn’t ambitious, but it revels in the outdoors and sweet nothingness, and most Southerners can get on board with that.