[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 Ways, Love 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.