Lead singer and songwriter Thom Hoskins says the title track from the Buffalo Saints’ debut EP, Walking the Dead, is about an experiment he undertook with a friend that involved staying up for two days without sleep just for the hell of it. Well, if Hoskins and the Saints keep recording songs like these, he’ll likely build up a career’s worth of soundtracks for sleepless nights, rides in the country, breakups, get-togethers and midnight runs to Taco Bell — music for all of us small-town romantics who like to have fun. And like to feel.
The production, by Larry Gann of Awestruck Studios, is impeccable, the work of a seasoned veteran guiding a talented newcomer. Each sound — whether from a pedal steel, a distorted harmonica or a reverb-laden Telecaster — is in its right place. But that’s not to detract from the sheer talent of Hoskins’ songwriting and performance. On the album’s centerpiece, “You Leave First,” Hoskins begins almost casually — announcing, You woke up on the wrong side of the bed — like a just-getting-started Jay Farrar or a more terrestrial Neil Young. But by the end, Hoskins, through a sweet combination of holler and harmony, has bared his soul, and it’s a remarkable thing to hear.
All the Saints perform magnificently — the Architects’ Mike Alexander on guitar, ex-Laredo drummer Ryan Johnson and Kelpie’s Nathan Harold — but Hoskins is the star of the show. The only amateurish mark on his performance is a tendency to reuse a particular vocal embellishment, a scalar riff that stretches the last word of the phrase and sounds exactly the same every time. But it’s not enough to bring down the listening experience. In fact, during the beautiful “Are You a Friend of Mine?” when Hoskins sings, I’m gonna waltz right inna your bedroom/I’m gonna stand at the foot of your bed/Kiss your forehead, my heart about melted.
The Buff Saints herald Walking the Dead with a show Friday at Davey’s.