D.T. Buffkin’s New LP is Alive with Timeless Themes, San Anto Feels

click to enlarge D.T. Buffkin’s New LP is Alive with Timeless Themes, San Anto Feels
courtesy photo

When I first heard local singer-songwriter D.T. Buffkin perform, sometime before the 2013 release of his first album Tattooed Rose, I was intrigued and slightly annoyed by his Tom Waits-meets-Louis Armstrong singing style. But, more importantly, I was struck by the nonchalantly penetrating character of his songs and his dead-serious devotion to his craft.

Over the years, Buffkin’s singing style has evolved and his knack for songwriting has only gotten sharper. On his genre-jumping, sprawling, and ultimately superb new album Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Buffkin’s tender growl is often reigned in, sweetened and in some cases outright replaced by an easygoing twang—and the songs are devastating in a manner that makes me long for oblivion (in a good way).

When I caught up with Buffkin last week, he admitted that for a while he had been on a huge “Satchmo/Tom Waits kick” and that he “started listening to a lot of Merle Haggard and realized that the rough, bawdy barroom imagery [he] was so fascinated with was a bit of a put-on.” As his influences and inspirations, or “musical father figures” as Buffkin calls them, have shifted, so too has Buffkin’s sound (from his voice to the musical style of his songs).

“Haggard opened the door to the idea of the song telling the story, not just the identity of the vocalist, real or imagined,” Buffkin mused.

Generally speaking, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is more diverse than Tattooed Rose, in all its old-timey, pre-rock, piano bar glory, would have ever even wanted to be – and it’s a damn sight more San Antone, too. Not only does the album feature goddamn Augie Meyers (no introduction needed for anyone who gives a shit), but it includes nods to some of SA’s favorite places, people, and genres.

“Rollin’ Too Hard” is puro West Side Soul, with the refined growl serving Buffkin especially well. “Houston St.” (the track that features Meyers on accordion) is a sweet and silky Texas moonlight groove. “Doin’ Life” is a beautifully melancholy, gently jazzy, piano-driven affair, and “Does She Drink?,” “Play Another Sad Song,” and “Today Was a Liquor Store” (far and away the album’s crowning moment) are all honky-tonk-ready country tunes. There’s so much to keep you listening to this album, no matter what mood or SA neighborhood you happen to be in.

“My approach to songwriting involves obsessing over and ingesting as much of a particular artist or group as I can and then trying to write something that can stand up next to their work,” he offered. “I think most people call that inspiration. It, of course, comes out differently, but like most songwriters, you can hear the influences.”

And that’s the situation here: you can hear Buffkin’s influences, but much less so than before. He has taken his considerable talents and his influences and forged his own sound(s) from that raw material. In other words, a question once posed by then-Current music editor Enrique Lopetegui about Buffkin’s sound, “Where’s D.T. Buffkin?,” now has its definitive answer: he’s right fuckin’ here.

Buffkin, who describes the whole album as being about “sin and salvation” through the lens of “Saturday night juke joint tunes and Sunday morning hymns, or [his] version of them,” took his time with this album, allowing a variety of inspirations to guide him and finding the ideal sonic vehicles through which to deliver his ideas.

The album is out on May 5 on Shotgun House Records, and the bill for the release show, which also marks the release of Garrett T. Capps’ (also really fucking good) In the Shadows (Again), reads like a then-and-now who’s-who in San Anto-styled sounds (see below for full, bonkers lineup). Buffkin reports that his band will back Meyers for his set and Meyers will return the favor and play with Buffkin and company for theirs.

All in all, it promises to be a night of unique symbiosis in song, of generations and musical traditions fusing, and of forging brand-new common ground. But, even if you’re not sentimental about that type of shit, it’s the kind of party that you just shouldn’t miss.

Cinco de Mayo Tex-Mex Fiesta
w/ Garrett T. Capps, D.T. Buffkin, Augie Meyers, Flaco Jiménez, Santiago Jiménez Jr., El Campo, Los #3 Dinners, Topo Chica, The Shut Ups, and
Pochos Chidos, Free, 4pm-11pm, Paper Tiger, 2410 N. St. Mary’s St., papertigersatx.com.

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