Tag 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:

Darius Koski Solo Debut To Drop April 7th

Hey Swingin’ Utters fans,  Darius Koski is about to debut his solo album.  Before you start throwing down assumptions that the guy is going acoustic just to to make a quick buck, please see what he had to say about the whole solo route:

“I’ve been wanting to have an outlet for it for so long—for longer than I’ve been with the Swingin’ Utters, basically. And I just hadn’t done anything with it. I didn’t really know how I was going to release it, I hadn’t done much live, I have problems remembering lyrics… So I’ve been putting it off for so many years, but it’s finally coming together, and I’m thrilled about it. I’m totally going to go for it.”

Now that you’ve read that, how about you take a listen to one of this new songs:

You’re weren’t expecting that much twang were you?  I know I was not, but I will tell you this, I love it.

Dropping on April 7th, Sisu, is in a genre really of its own with a plethora (yes I said plethora) instrument playing including guitar, piano, banjo, accordion, violin, glockenspiel, vibraphone, melodica, ukulele, and percussion.  This is not just some solo album.  This is years of built up creativity by Koski finally being released property.

I know I am stoked to hear this.

Pre-orders are up at Fat Wreck as of today.  Hurry up and get you some.

Album Review: Restorations – Restorations

It just occurred to me this evening that I have not once talked about a band that I adore.  This is one of those bands I feel everyone should have heard about by now, and for all I know, you have.  I was introduced to them a few years back and pretty much have adored them since.  The band I speak so highly of (I know the anticipation is killing you) is none other than Philadelphia’s post-punk indie rock outfit Restorations.  Seriously, how in the hell did I NOT review these guys before?

Yes, I am a wee bit late on this one, but you know what?  Screw it.  So what if their self-titled debut album dropped in 2011 on Tiny Engines and was repressed on vinyl last summer because so many vinyl junkies ate it up?  I feel the need to share this amazing group in hopes that they score one more fan per my recommendation and I am pretty certain that will be happening.

The moment “Nonlocality” started with the laid back intro, I just knew I was in for something good.  The gritty, raw opener brought a certain country folk feel to my ears and then everything changed for the better when the singing started and the hypnotizing guitar solo floated in the background.  With just one song in, I was sitting there pointing to it as my favorite.  “West River” followed carrying that same intensity that impressed me from the get go.  The songs really reminded me what would happen if Goo Goo Dolls and Hot Water Music collaborated, yeah I know, weird.

“Canadian Club” had an Against Me! feel to it at the start but soon mellowed into a great jam.  I really loved vocalist Jon Loudon’s raspy singing style on this song but have the feeling that this track was intended to be heard live by all.  “Sideways House” leaned more towards a 90s alt-rock that was welcomed to my ears.  “Broken Vacuum”, I feel, showcased the band as musicians well.  Hearing the distorted bass at the beginning  joined with the drums and guitars just moments later sounded so good.  So many songs these days are written so quickly that you sometimes miss hearing a well put together track.  The same goes for the closing track “When You’re Older”.  It was not just an end song, it was a crowning achievement by the band and any listener will be able to hear that.

Restorations combines the right bunch of genres of music including rock, country, and punk making for one hell of a listen.  You say like Elliot Brood?  Listen to Restorations.  Lucero?  Listen to Restorations.  Gaslight Anthem?  Yeah, listen to them, I seriously doubt you will regret it and if you do, sorry.  I am surprised this album is not bigger than it already is and I can not wait to hear what they come out with next.  I am predicting something amazing.