Tag Archives: Outlaw

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.



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:

Henry Wagons Checks In…

It’s no secret, Broken Headphones loves Henry Wagons and his band Wagons (two consecutive posts might hint at that…).  The guy beyond hilarious and his band dishes out some of the best outlaw country/rock I’ve heard in a long time. 

I just hammered out a review of the latest Wagons release the other day for your reading pleasure and decided I might as well touch base with Henry through the magical forces of email.  Currently Henry and his band are touring North America in support of their new release titled Rumble, Shake and Tumble.  Here’s what he had to say:

Henry, what brings you back to the states?

My global brainwashing mission is in full effect! I eventually want to take over the world with one of those swirly patterns on a TV transmission. Playing music with my band is the first step.

Were you able to bring your band along this time?

I have brought 3 stinky dudes with me.

How has the tour been so far?

It’s been great. Pretty much Seattle and Canada so far. I’m still bracing myself for the rest. I want to try as many weird burgers as I can.

I understand you flew to Toronto Monday night in a small plane with old men. How did that go?

It was a little bumpy and a little grumpy (old men).

How’s the tour been this round? Did that stupid hurricane affect you at all?

The only hurricane style event we have faced was the powerful massage shower in our Toronto hotel room.

What can someone expect to see at a Wagons show?

A lot of pent up energy expressed from many hours in the van and in airport customs queues. All the bodily fluids that are retained within our bodies from a aeroplane pressurised cabin come out on stage in the form of blood sweat and tears.

Most importantly, are you rocking the headband?

You know it.

Wagons are actually playing the Beachland Tavern this Sunday! Tickets are only $8.  As I have mentioned previously in posts, Wagons are already big deal in Australia.  8 bucks…do it!

Wagons ‘Rumble, Shake and Tumble’ USA/Canada Tour
Sep 03 | Bumbershoot Festival – Seattle
Sep 04 | Railway Club – Vancouver
Sep 06 | Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto
Sep 07 | Zaphod Beeblebrox – Ottawa
Sep 08 | Rockwood Hall – NYC
Sep 09 | Union Hall – NYC
Sep 10 | World Café Live – Philadelphia
Sep 11 | Beachland Tavern – Cleveland
Sep 13 | Hide Out – Chicago
Sep 14 | The Basement – Nashville
Sep 15 | Hangar 9 – Carbondale
Sep 16 | Off Broadway – St Louis
Sep 17 | Hi-Tone – Memphis
Sep 19 | At the Earl – Atlanta
Sep 21 | Hotel Café – LA

Album Review: Wagons – Rumble, Shake and Tumble

Henry Wagons and I met by chance one day last September.  He was an opening act for Those Darlins that night and I remember the tall Aussie armed with a headband and acoustic guitar impressed me beyond belief.  His set filled up the tavern that night with outlaw folk/country jams making me an instant fan.  After his set I learned that Henry Wagons hailed from Melbourne, Australia, and actually left his band, Wagons, back home as it was too tough to fly everyone to the states.  Even though they were a pretty big deal back home, Henry Wagons took it upon himself to spread their music to the states.  I left that night with a copy of a Wagons CD titled Rise and Fall of Goodtown, a sweet towel and new love for an Australian band.

I tried my hardest to see Wagons play at SXSW in Austin, TX, this past spring, but thanks to a botched flight, I did not get there in time.  Rumor has it, Wagons turned a bunch of heads with a memorable set in which they played new material off a new album.  Needless to say, I was bummed out that I missed my chance to see Wagons and hear some of the upcoming tunes.

Luckily for me and many other fans, Wagons dropped their fourth all new release titled Rumble, Shake and Turn on Thirty Tigers toward the end of the summer.  The album is country, it’s rock, it’s even a little cabaret and sure as hell is full of outlaw tendencies.  When listening to Wagons, you get a sense you have heard the music before not just from your father’s collection, but also from your grandfathers collection you might have been exposed to at a young age.  The band takes generations of music and blends it perfectly into their own style guaranteed to turn some heads.

Opening track “Downlow” is very Tom Petty sounding from the get go with lyrics that almost could emulate Wagons’ very own wit and charm.  “I Blew It”, a quite addicting track to listen to, immediately followed full of outlaw country styles as well as some Elvis-sounding growling within.  The music video as seen below is pretty damn amazing as well.  “Moon Into The Sun” was about as country twang as any track on the album gets with a more sensitive Wagons declaring “my life has been a fucking mess without you.”.  Wagons’ singing on this track easily brought the listener back to the days of Twitty, Williams, Jennings, Haggard, and even a starving young Cash and seemingly did not sound like he was even trying to.

The ever catchy tribute to Willie Nelson,  properly titled “Willie Nelson”, deserved multiple plays on account of how fun it was to listen to.  Comparing Nelson to other greats, I loved how Henry Wagons shifted his accent  (“Willie Nel-sun!”) in a clear comical attempt to mess with the listener yet pay a homage to a country great.  “He likes some salt and pepper with his evening meal” is repeated over and over by Wagons about his favorite musician in the country music business and as much of a tribute the song was, it was just hilarious to listen to.  I would love to know what Nelson’s reaction was about this track.

“Love Is Burning” was an unexpected track on the album that was more rock and roll than anything.  “My Daydreams” was a thoughtful track spanning around romance that easily has the ability to swoon.  Wagons’ had no problem recalling the outlaw greats throughout the track as the band backs him up.  “Save Me” was a simple upbeat tune with easy sing-a-long qualities, more of that country twang and even a little blues thrown in.  “Follow The Leader” moved along with almost a train track rhythm only to jump rail and turn psychedelic for a moment.  i did not know what to think about this song.  It definitely strayed away from the rest.  “Marylou” ended the album and at the very end, Wagons closes out the album with a sigh making me wonder how personal that track really was to Wagons.

Rumble, Shake and Tumble was a great album from start to finish full of American genres with a modest Australian twist.  Wagons and company pull off yet another impressive release that more people need to check out.  Wagons has quite the fan base back home and I am pretty sure before long, we Americans will be picking up on their talent.

Wagons is actually back on a US tour in support of the new release and will be stopping at the Beachland Tavern in Cleveland this Sunday Sept. 11th.  Tickets are only $8 and if you fathom yourself a folk/country/rock fan, you would be doing yourself a favor seeing them live.  Not only is the music good live, but Wagons himself is a pretty candid guy.  Don’t be lame.  Get up there Sunday night.