Category Archives: Country

The Most Underrated Rock ‘n Roll Artist in the Past 5 Years – The White Buffalo

[It’s been a while since one of my pals has guest blogged on this here ol’ site, but when Frank reached out to me recently with something he wrote asking me to check it out, I just had to share it.  Great read by a great dude. – Brian]

As we gingerly step into 2018, our world has become consumed by politics.  Our news are politics, our “Funny-Shows” are politics, our comedians are politics, and with all of this, our world has become a house divided.  Before all this though, there was an even greater divide happening in a much more important arena, the music arena.

Over the past five years, rock ‘n roll has been the passenger on a downward trend, taking it further and further from the main-stream, and closer to obscurity. Some would debate that the greatest reason for this is the general malaise and declining quality of the rock ‘n roll form, while others place their bets behind the “Only Big Enough for One of Us” philosophy regarding the rap vs. rock debate.  Despite all the bluster and hot air one thing is quite factual, that as of last year, it is documented that hip hop has taken over the head of the pack in the music world.

With this seismic change in the musical landscape, artists that should have been on the fast track to super-stardom and all that entails have been pushed down into what was characteristically deemed the “independent” group.  Artists that should get the elusive radio play and playing to thousands of people at a time are lucky to get on college radio and play the back rooms of the established venues.  Those that should be in the limelight, have transitioned into unknown or the tombstone title of “niche”.

One artist that doesn’t belong in any of these secondary groups, one artists who stands on musical talent rather than glitz and bling, the most underrated artist in recent memory is The White Buffalo.

The White Buffalo, aka Jake Smith, can undoubtedly be placed at the top of the list of underrated artists in the shrinking rock genre of today’s musical society.  With vocals that range from haunting, as heard in “The Whistler” and “Come Join the Murder”, and travel up the spectrum to romantic, spotlighted in “Love Song #1”  and “Come On Love Come On In”, all the way to a tone that could be called soulful and introspective, divinely illustrated in “Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done”, or upbeat, like “Avalon”.

Smith’s music cannot be classified and gently placed into a nice tight fitting box.  It can go from straight rock ‘n roll to a little bit of twang, from bordering country to in your face melodic yelling.  And maybe there’s the rub – because with the push he’s gotten, it doesn’t make sense that he’s being pushed down into the lands of obscurity.

Case in point, ask the average, run of the mill, rock ‘n roll fan, what is the most popular show that they have watched in the last 10 years, that they still watch on Netflix, the show that had one of the best soundtracks ever, that they owned the t-shirts, the hoodies, the hats, and the merch, that they watched or recorded or DVRed EVERY TIME IT WAS ON TELEVISION, and most of them will say the same thing: Sons of Anarchy.  And this juggernaut of a show, Sons of Anarchy, was the first introduction for the White Buffalo to the masses.

Smith’s music accompanied some of the most disturbing, some of the most poignant, some of the most influential, and some of the most powerful scenes of the entire show.  When Clay gets his back tattoo blacked out in shame, enter “The Whistler”, or when Tara, Jax’s wife realizes her negative transformation and pulls a gun on Jax and then leaves him, scored by “Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done”, or arguably the most powerful moment of the show, when Jax rides his bike to certain doom in the series finale, there was only one song that could properly usher this show out and push the main character off of this mortal coil properly, and it was “Come Join the Murder” by the White Buffalo.

Smith had a spotlight shone on him from one of the most heavily watched shows of the decade, his music led in scenes that there was no going back from, and his music was the prototype for the entire soundtrack, and yet for some reason he is not shining his Grammys or counting his movie credits.  And there is no reason for that.  Other than the fact that he has been criminally underrated by the powers that be in the music industry, and this fact is in fact, a crime.

Since his contributions to SOA, he has not rested on his laurels, nor has he let the show define him.  He has put together three stellar albums: Shadows, Greys, and Evil WaysLove and the Death of Damnation, and most recently Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, which illustrates his stunning mix of the rock ‘n roll, deep, deep blues, and outlaw country.

Smith continues to prove that he is actually the preeminent musical story-teller in music today.  The White Buffalo’s music gives listeners a constant reminder that although one might look brash and gruff on the outside, the inside can be a cauldron of emotions and feelings and thoughts and ideas.  Every album is a different trip to a different place, exploring different roads to get to the destination.

The masses are missing some of the greatest rock ‘n roll that has ever been produced, and what is ever more disappointing than that fact, is that they don’t even know it.  The White Buffalo entrusts personal stories to the listener, that many people could relate to and enjoy.  The White Buffalo is the everyman, with a badass growl, a tender soul.  He’s someone you’d have a beer with anytime and the most underrated rock ‘n roll musician in recent history.

Seek him out, watch him, listen to him, go to his concerts – just do yourself a favor and enjoy his work.

-FS

 

RIP Jessi Zazu of Those Darlins

It’s with great sadness I share news of the passing of Jessi Zazu (aka Jessi Darlin) of Those Darlins.  The 28 year old lost her battle with cancer yesterday.

For those of you who have checked out this blog for many years, you’ll know I was a fan of Those Darlins from the start.  Having seen them not only in Cleveland multiple times but also at Bonnaroo, I got to interact with her more than once and she was always as nice as could be.

She never hid the fact that she had cancer and was very open about her fight with it.  This news came as a complete shock to me.

I’m lucky enough to say I saw her play in a band that she loved and was even able to capture some photos of her doing so.

RIP Jessi Darlin.

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Album Review: Ethan Daniel Davidson – Crows

I’ll openly admit that I had never heard of Ethan Daniel Davidson until Pete at Blue Arrow Records asked me to check out his latest release Crows.

I am so stoked he did.

All I was told about Davidson was that he was from Detroit and played folk music.  Furthermore, I had no idea that this Americana folk album bordered outlaw country.

Crows is Davidson’s latest full-length and has been released on Blue Arrow Records.  He has been playing music for years now and has released quite a few indie/folk albums previous to Crows.  I learned that he is married to Gretchen from Slumber Party and once moved out to Alaska to record.  He toured for years until he had a family and is known for offering up his music (downloads) for free.  He’s also the adopted son of the late Pistons owner, Bill Davidson.

Just by looking at the album cover of Crows, I instantly thought of Billy The Kid as the photo of Davidson looked rustic and almost criminal.  I was instantly intrigued before even hearing one song.

“My Crows” opened up the album with an almost warped sound to it.  Davidson’s singing was welcoming and just caught my attention.  Having expecting more of a folk style, I really dug this country style.  The collective singing midway about love just made it that much more inviting.

“My Own Bad” was one track I really enjoyed.  This song was more of a cowboy memoir full of twang that was fueled by evil tendencies.  This is a track I wish I could have listened to when I lived out in the desert, it would have complimented my evenings so well.

“And The Never Saw Him Coming” was more of a 40s country telltale tune that I easily got sucked into.  I adored the banjo with the slow drumming that carried me along for the ride.  Davidson slowly sung about a mysterious natural born killer ending right at the climax leaving for plenty of interpretation.

“I Might’ve Been Wrong” was an eerie gospel-like track about a punished man with a conscience.  Davidson did not hold back with his descriptive lyricism on this track.

“Close To The Gallows” kept on the with the demeanor and easily could be put in a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack – seriously, this track ruled.

“Love can go to hell” started off the twangy, tender song “Fade”.  This little jam was not necessarily a romantic story, but more of a strung out, timely appreciation.

As someone who has an appreciation for real country music and not that pop crap, I loved every moment of Crows.  It was a complete shocker of an album to hear and as I previously mentioned, I’m thrilled Pete told me to check it out.  This is going to be one of those albums I play for the rest of my life.  With that said, I think I should probably check out Davidson’s catalog, something tells me I am going to enjoy it as well.

This album is perfect if you like alt-country but are looking for something a little slower and more on the dark side.  Check it out for yourself:

EP Review: Garrett Dale – Two T’s EP

Forget the filler in this review.  Garrett Dale is the lead singer of Red City Radio and just released three songs as a solo project.

You’d never know that Dale even fronted a punk rock band if you listened to any of these tracks.

Three songs of brutal honesty have been slammed into folkish alt-country music on Two T’s EP and I will tell ya, it’s fantastic.  This gem of an EP was released by the good folk at Red Scare.

“2016 Was…Horseshit” is like Tom Waits meets Slobberbone.  What more can I say about this track other than it is blunt as hell.  Check the video below and add the song to your next porch drinking mix already.

Then there was “House Full Of Dogs”, a track that clearly was fueled by a drunken recollection of personal exchanges.  The saxophone in the middle of the song made it that much more incredible.  This track is like the bastard child of a miserable Brendan Kelly and Bruce Springsteen fling.

“Down The Rabbit Hole” was the last track on this EP.  For someone like myself who is obsessed with Lucero and John Moreland, this song just fit in perfectly.  Not that I ever did not respect Dale, but this song alone has me looking at him and his talent forever differently.

Given this small taste of tunes, I really hope Dale has more of this up his sleeves because I seriously think people are going be just as floored as I was when they hear it.  This is music not to sit on.

Album Review: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits

A few weeks back, I found a photo of myself from when I was working in shipping and receiving at some internet company.

I was about 21 years old at the time and looked ever so thrilled in the picture.  The photo showed me working hard while I rocked a backwards hat as well as a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes shirt, a shirt that I basically wore in the late 90s until it fell apart.  That was almost 20 years ago.

Where am I going with this you ask?

Well, clearly I was a fan back then, and I still am today.  Ever since I heard the Gimmes play “Country Roads” on a Fat Wreck comp, I fell in love.  There was just something so appealing about hearing a song my parents listened to in the 70s altered to my standards.

For those of you who live under a rock, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes consist of Joey Cape, Chris Shiflett, Dave Raun, some guy who calls himself Fat Mike, and good ol’ Spike Slawson.  They have been taking overplayed and classic tunes and covering them the only way they know how to.  The result is catchy, likable, and just downright fun.  i should probably add that they have been doing this since 1995.

Over the years, they have tackled adult contemporary, Motown, show tunes, country, and even Japanese pop songs just to name off a few genres.  I guess you could say they are not the gimmicky type.  Hell, they have 7 studio albums under their belts released on Fat Wreck Chords.  Clearly they are pretty damn important in the punk cover band scene.

To showcase their accomplishments (and squeeze you out of your hard earned cheddar), they are about to drop a greatest hits album on April 7th full of renditions of songs cleverly titled Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits.

Featuring 17 memorable covers, the Gimmes threw together the best of the best for all to hear in one collective listen.  I am sure it was tough for the Gimmes to pick the right songs for this “greatestest” hits album, but I think they did a pretty good job.

Starting with Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, the album spans the Gimme’s eclectic taste in covers.  It was great to hear “Straight Up” and “Jolene” and of course “I Believe I Can Fly”.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stoked to hear “Desperado” as well as “End of the Road”.  I adore the Gimme’s take on these two originally over-played-as-hell songs.

As an added bonus, a few non-album tracks that I have not heard in a long time appeared.  “City of New Orleans” off of Willie, a Fat Mail Order limited edition EP, was an excellent surprise to hear.  The Del Shannon classic “Hats Off to Larry”, originally on the Live Fat, Die Young: Fat Music Vol. V, was the other.

The one track missing that I felt should have been on this greatest hits was the Gimme’s version of “Rocket Man” by Sir Elton John.  Luckily, I have Have A Ball in my collection and can listen to it whenever I please, but for those out there that are just discovering this punk rock cover band, that is one song I know they would enjoy.

To be honest, I was really hoping for the band to have a new album full of covers, but I will take this “greatestest” hits release over nothing.  I hope one day they decide to cover 90s hip hop songs in the key of punk rock, I seriously think that would be amazing and I know they could pull it off.

What I’m trying to say is simple:  Long live the Gimmes.  They are the best cover band of my time.

In support of this release, Me First are touring and have been since February.  I can not even tell you the last time I have seen these guys tour, so make sure you go see them live.  It is going to be an all out blast.  Give them your money.  All of it.  Being in a cover band can’t pay that much, can it?

Tour Dates:

04/11/17 Pittsburgh, PA at The Rex *
04/12/17 Cleveland, OH at House of Blues *
04/13/17 Chicago, IL at Concord *
04/14/17 Detroit, MI at Majestic *
04/15/17 Toronto, ON Canada at Phoenix Theatre *
04/16/17 Montreal, QC Canada at Club Soda *
04/19/17 Boston, MA at Royale *
04/20/17 Philadelphia, PA at Union Transfer *
04/21/17 Baltimore, MD at Baltimore Soundstage *
04/22/17 Asbury Park, NJ at Stone Pony *
04/23/17 New York City, NY at Webster Hall *
05/02/17 Portland, OR at Wonder Ballroom ^
05/03/17 Vancouver, BC Canada at Commodore ^
05/04/17 Seattle, WA at Showbox ^
05/05/17 Boise, ID at The Olympic ^
05/06/17 Salt Lake City, UT at The Depot ^
05/07/17 Denver, CO at Summit Music Hall ^
05/10/17 Scottsdale, AZ at Pub Rock ^
05/11/17 San Diego, CA at House of Blues ^
05/12/17 Santa Ana, CA at The Observatory ^
05/13/17 Los Angeles, CA at The Fonda ^
05/14/17 Berkeley, CA at The UC Theatre ^
05/27/17 Las Vegas, NV at Punk Rock Bowling
06/09/17 Interlaken, Switzerland at Greenfield Festival
06/11/17 Milano, Italy at Carroponte w/ Descendents *
06/14/17 Attnang-Puchheim, Austria at EQUALITY Festival
06/15/17 Nickelsdorf , Austria at Nova Rock Festival
06/16/17 Bischofsmais, Germany at Rock The Hill
06/17/17 Bischofsmais, Germany at Rock The Hill
06/23/17 Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany at Southside Festival
06/23/17 Scheessel, Germany at Hurricane Festival
06/24/17 Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany at Southside Festival
06/24/17 Scheessel, Germany at Hurricane Festival
06/25/17 Scheessel, Germany at Hurricane Festival
06/25/17 Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany at Southside Festival
07/01/17 Würzburg/Giebelstadt , Germany at Flugplatz Mission Ready Festival

* = w/ PEARS & MASKED INTRUDER
^ = w/ Together Pangea