The global pandemic has been an obstacle for some and a challenging inspiration for others. In the case of Norman master guitarist Terry “Buffalo” Ware, it’s the latter.
Late last year he released an eleven-track album of new instrumental music titled “Isolation Reverberation.” The title, cover art and several of the song titles are nods to COVID-19’s impact on the artist and his listeners.
Although the music was produced with plenty of social distancing, it was also a professional collaboration among musician friends. The cover shows Ware’s entire head enclosed by what appears to be military-grade protective gear for his mouth, nose and eyes. The last half-dozen songs are named “Quarantine Dream” numbers one through six.
“After COVID hit I started spending even more time in my studio than I usually do,” Ware said. “I started writing instrumental songs and they just started coming. The idea for titling so many ‘Quarantine Dream’ came because it seemed like I’d been dreaming a lot.”
Except for one song called “Firecracker Hill” written a few years back, the album is all new compositions. Ware had time on his hands and he put it to good use.
“I did all the guitar tracks and then had Michael McCarty do all the drums tracks remotely from where he lives in Okemah,” Ware said.
He enlisted a few other high-caliber session musicians, including Oklahoma bassist Roy Dickinson. Jack White’s band member Dominic Davis added bass on one track and Jim Hoke played pedal steel and tenor saxophone. Both are based in Nashville.
“I feel pretty lucky to have known some of these guys for as long as fifty years,” Ware said. “Hoke is the best musician I’ve ever known and is a multi-instrumentalist. He was in the horn section on Paul McCartney’s last album, he’s that high quality of player.”
Ware is happy with the way his recording turned out and gives high praise for capturing his sound to The Mouse Trap Recording Studio.
“I’ve always used Carl Amburn, who has done the mixing and mastering on all the solo stuff I’ve ever done,” he said. “Carl is a master of that. That’s why it sounds so good and he is just the best around here.”
“Isolation Reverberation” is good. It has a cinematic soundtrack vibe that’s often gentle and reflective. There’s a refinement in the music making it a genuinely pleasurable listen.
Ware’s music is informed by being a product of Oklahoma, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that by listening to these tracks.
“Growing up here I’ve heard a lot of different styles of music,” he said. “Some of the first music that really got me were The Ventures’ albums, Duane Eddy and B.B. King songs. Jimmy Webb was a big influence on me, too. I grew up in Woodward and he had lived in Laverne and Elk City. I was always real proud of that.”
Going back to a Woodward record shop purchase in 1966 at age 16, Ware recalls falling in love with Frank Zappa’s “Freak Out” platter the minute his stereo’s needle met vinyl. The teenager was also inspired by Zappa’s heroes that he was unfamiliar with, such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown.
“Every time a Zappa album came out I would get one,” he said.
Dan Forte, editor-at-large for Vintage Guitar Magazine, inspired a song on “Isolation Reverberation” titled “Teisco’s Tango.”
“Dan has interviewed every guitar player in the world you can think of,” Ware said. “He’s a guitar player, has made instrumental albums himself and is really tuned into that world.”
Forte, under the alias Teisco Del Rey, made an album called “Music for Lovers,” which includes a tune called “Twango.” Ware riffed off that in his “Teisco’s Tango” homage. It has a sweetly evocative sax solo by the aforementioned Jim Hoke.
“Dan Forte really likes it,” he said.
Ware was modest about how his music has changed in the 21st century. Indeed, his opinions are accurate as reflected by the sound of this latest album.
“Hopefully it’s a little more refined now,” he said. “I think there’s a definite style to the instrumental music I write. I’d like to think my melodies have gotten better over time.”