Review: The White Buffalo – Love and Death of Damnation

Spoiler alert – The finale of hit TV show Sons Of Anarchy didn’t leave many questions unanswered or any “what ifs” and it was a finale in the true meaning of the word – final. Supplying the mournful, melancholic soundtrack to Jax Teller’s last few moments was Jake Smith, AKA The White Buffalo, who also earned himself an Emmy nomination for the track in question ‘Come Join The Murder’, a song perfect for the gut wrenching scenes unfolding on the small screen.

Smith’s deep baritone voice is soaked in world weary passion and his tales sometimes offer little hope. Instead dwelling on the darker aspects of life. Even one of the love songs on the album ‘I Got You’ is bleaker than shit with Smith trading lines with Audra Mae, he sings…

“It ain’t about your bitching or your devils tongue, I just wish that I was still the one”

Before Mae comes back with..

“It ain’t about the dishes or your pile of junk, I’m just sick of you being drunk”

A distraught and beautiful tale of two people realising that the heart does indeed want what the heart wants, no matter how destructive.

But backtrack a little bit there folks, Smith’s first album in Europe for Earache Records opens up with ‘Dark Days’, an acoustic guitar driven shit-kicking stomper of a track that sets the tone for the remainder of the album – attitude in abundance.In some ways similar to Frank Turner but with the main difference being that I could probably take a punch from Turner.

Smith has a rich vein of character driven songs that burrow deep into the listeners psyche and remain there for some time. ‘Go The Distance’ is another modern day love song played against a backdrop of rolling acoustic guitars and foot tapping harmonica whilst ‘Chico’ has some bitching Mariachi trumpets thrown into the mix. ‘Radio With No Sound’ is another bleak,desolate moment seemingly dealing with a teenager’s isolation and thoughts of his future or lack of. Smith’s rich voice helps the story rise above being maudlin. Even when the album slows right down (‘Last Call To Heaven’,’Where Is Your Saviour’ and ‘Darkside Of Town’) the quality of the songs snare you and drag you in.

Latest video ‘Modern Times’ is a full band, high energy romp that the saying “dance like no-one is watching” was basically invented for. ‘Rocky’ is similar in style and it’s easy to imagine the band tearing it up on stage as Smith batters his acoustic guitar into submission. ‘Come on Love, Come on In’ has a great soulful vibe to it with an almost Eddie Vedder like vocal performance from Smith.A punchy song that gets better with each listen.

Smith’s songs connect with people on many different levels and depending on the mood, might make uncomfortable listening for some. This is a modern day masterpiece, easily one of my favourite albums of the year so far and one that I bet my left nut on will feature highly in end of year polls in ten months time. Earache strike gold again.

‘Love And The Death Of Damnation’ is released 12th February as an exclusive UK/Euro bonus edition with three extra tracks,more info HERE

Review Dave Stott


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