Buffalo Rose Explains Why “Momma Have Mercy” Had To Be Written

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The standalone act of making music is something people can do anytime, in whatever way they please. However, making music anyone can hear, buy, or watch takes some serious planning and diligent work. Despite this, sometimes life has a way of providing a reminder that as much as music can be a job, a business, and involve a bunch of work related logistics, there are moments when music just comes through with no plan or pre-determined purpose. It’s those times when music exists as a form of pure art and heartfelt communication.

Pittsburgh, PA folk band, Buffalo Rose, is one such group that’s been working hard to keep its music alive during quarantine. In the midst of all the upheaval, guitarist/songwriter Shane McLaughlin had his own experience with unexpected inspiration that ultimately led to a new song: “Momma Have Mercy.” The track has since ended up on the band’s upcoming EP, Borrowed & Blue: Live Around One Microphone, which is due for release on May 28, 2020 via Misra Records.

“I wrote [“Momma Have Mercy”] because I had to. It came pouring out of me. I had lost my mom in an incredibly traumatic battle with cancer just a few months before – she died on Christmas Day. In the months following, I had a really hard time connecting with the memory of her,” says McLaughlin.


“I wrote this song after experiencing a moment of transcendence where I finally felt her presence after several months,” he continues. “Spring had broken at last and I was sitting under these massive flowering trees on the University of Pittsburgh campus. The sun was shining through and in that moment, I felt a connection with her – one of beauty and grace – far removed from the pain and despondence I had been feeling. I immediately returned home to my apartment, feeling like there was something welling up within me that I had to set free,” he says.

The emotionally therapeutic manner in which McLaughlin describes how the creative ideas behind “Momma Have Mercy” struck him really come through in the music itself. A stark performance barely augmented in any way by artificial means, save for the slightest bit of reverb, puts the innocence and sincerity of the song’s memorializing intentions on full, admirable display.

“I wrestled with my electric guitar for a little while until I realized that it was the acoustic that was calling me. I sat down and wrote the whole song right then, start to finish. It was my way of processing my relationship with my grief and the loss of my mother, creating a prayer of love and mercy, and a reminder that there is no “right” way to move through mourning.”

The acoustic arrangement of guitar, upright bass, and acoustic mandolin, combined with the carefree and un-fussed approach of performing around a single microphone, add to the mentality of letting this song speak for itself as it did or McLaughlin. The tone is light, delicate, poised, and calming – qualities all fitting for how the song helped to bring a sense of peace and emotional relief to McLaughlin for the first time in a long time, after experiencing such a profound familial loss.

“That the emotional release we experience when we share what is within us, strengthens us, brings us closer to the core of who we are,” McLaughlin says. “When we give our thoughts and emotions a chance to breathe, through song, through conversation, we are more at peace with ourselves and the world around us. I struggle with sharing what is within me sometimes, and this song help[ed] me reconnect with its power,” he says.

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