At the start of “Children of War” the request is made to “let’s forget about/ let’s forget about the 60s/ because there’s more/ going down right now.” Well, this hard-rocking trio out of Cincinnati certainly makes that proposition awfully tough to accomplish because their music sounds like they grew up only able to pick up a classic rock station on the radio. The influence of the genre’s many artists upon them is pervasive throughout their debut album, simulating a mixtape put together by that guy on your dorm floor with the four-foot bong and the painted designs on his ceiling only seen with the aid of a black light. Buffalo Killers are three-fifths of defunct band Thee Shams. The trio are the brothers Gabbard, Andrew on lead guitar and Zachary on bass, joined by Joseph Sebaali on drums.
“San Martine Des Morelle” & “SS Nowhere” sound like records The Beatles made after they smoked pot with Dylan. Psychedelic but with a harder bluesy sound like Cream. The rhythm section keeps a steady beat on “San Martine” while Andrew’s guitar wah-wahs throughout, almost creating a backing vocal. “SS Nowhere” combines the rough edge of Lennon with the harmonies of McCartney. A solid bass line makes itself known and the guitar sings out and tears it up when given room.
“Heavens Are You” is a slow, smoldering Led Zeppelin blues. The guitar solo on the bridge brings to mind Jimmy Page from “Since I’ve Been Loving You” or “Tea For One.” But there’s no time to rest as “The Path Before Me” rocks hard again, bringing to mind classic Stones. The lyrics are spat out defiantly in a rough voice. A slide kicks in on the guitar, delivering Southern rock flavor and the tune really takes off.
“River Water” opens with a Pete Townsend tone in the guitar but as the track groves along early Doobie Brothers filter through the rough rock exterior. Andrew’s guitar brings to mind licks from Derek & the Dominoes. “Children of War” sounds like Neil Young has Old Black and Crazy Horse plugged in. The lyrics, such as “Want to live/ want to have children/ don’t have to worry about war” and their delivery as they try to hit higher notes also evoke Young.
Buffalo Killers are sure to be enjoyed by some classic rock fans, yet others might be too distracted by all the homages, like watching a Tarantino film and thinking, “Oh, I know what that’s from.” While a fun parlor game to be sure, Buffalo Killers don’t yet deliver a classic hit of their own. However, they have good potential. While not completely sold, they leave me curious to hear these songs live and to see what comes next.