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Review: The White Buffalo’s rumble fills songs with emotion

April 21, 2020 GMT
CORRECTS LABEL - This cover image released by Spinefarm Records shows "On The Widow's Walk" by The White Buffalo. (Spinefarm Records via AP)
CORRECTS LABEL - This cover image released by Spinefarm Records shows "On The Widow's Walk" by The White Buffalo. (Spinefarm Records via AP)

The White Buffalo, “On the Widow’s Walk” (Snakefarm/Spinefarm Records)

The White Buffalo is Jake Smith’s stage and recording name, one of the most accurate monikers in the business, seemingly preordained.

His rumbling voice carries emotion and authority, his songs are tales of loss, loneliness and desires, and his music digs deep into the earth.

On his new album, “On the Widow’s Walk,” producer Shooter Jennings adds piano and keyboards to help stretch the corners of the big Americana quilt but the focus stays on Smith’s storytelling.

Opener “Problem Solution” is one of the aforementioned stretching exercises, a lengthy track with guitars driving head-on into the fray — “Tell me what’s wrong with my brain/Does it like to be stuck in the drain.” Halfway through it turns into a Ben Folds/Ringo Starr collaboration before fading with a slightly psychedelic ending. Weird and wonderful.

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“The Drifter” is so bummed out he’s not even sure who to blame, while the ties that bind have been loosened on “No History,” which has the simply irresistible rhythm of a Bob Seger rocker. On both, Smith’s quavering voice shows a kinship with Eddie Vedder’s.

“Cursive” is one of the best of the bunch, Jenning’s keyboards underpinning the drama of a poignant song that tackles our increasing dependence on technology and which the pandemic has made too close for comfort: “And if we stop touching each other/Please tell me what will we be/We’ll be just like the drones/Together yet alone in captivity.”

Tragedy is caused by nature in “River of Love and Loss” but its mood is like a murder ballad’s. It seems of a pair with “The Rapture,” whose menacing tale will freeze smiles at any campfire singalong.

“I Don’t Know A Thing About Love” closes the album with a credible exhibition of vulnerability.

Listening to The White Buffalo’s songs on the road will make you take the long way home so you can enjoy them a little while more.

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