Monday, October 16, 2017

Music Review: Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights by The White Buffalo

On October 6, 2017 I thought I heard a voice counting from the heavens. It was a raspy baritone saying, “1 2 1 2 3,” followed by the most angelic honky tonk music I’ve ever heard. It was actually a song called Hide and Seek by White Buffalo. I'm totally over exaggerating but that’s seriously almost exactly how the centerfold of this review, Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, begins. You’ve probably heard White Buffalo before if you watched Sons of Anarchy or Californication. I never have time to watch tv so this was an all new discovery for me. Someone had recommended their music to me once before but it wasn’t my cup of tea at the time. Listening to this new album made me wonder how I could’ve been so closed minded.

As I said earlier, it starts out with a wonderful barroom symphony that could get any square out on the dance floor. The song is lead by some top shelf boogie woogie piano with some stellar guitar work providing a nice undercurrent. This band is super tight because they never get in each other’s way. From the barroom we get an uptempo story called Avalon. It’s an open ended narrative about a kid named Billy struggling with sobriety. My personal suggestion is not to listen to this one while you’re driving like I was because I was going 70 in a 55! I dare you not to get the chorus to this one stuck in your head. The storytelling continues with Robbery, another cool story that has the typical imagery of a couple robbers cloaked in darkness while attempting to take the money and run. The Brian Setzer style guitar solo in the middle of the song adds a nice touch. This one is a real finger snapper. I really enjoyed how this album flows.

Four songs in we get our first ballad, The Observatory. I don’t want to give anything away with this one. You should really camp out on this song in particular though because, in my opinion, the true testament to a great songwriter is how well they can write a ballad. Make sure to give an attentive ear to the lyrics. I thought this song in particular really spoke to what a true artist Jake Smith is because he did a great job strategically placing this ballad on the album where he did. The harmonica in Nightstalker Blues took me right back to when I was 18 years old riding around Greenville, South Carolina in my Ford Bronco II listening to Social Distortion’s self titled album on my cassette player. I love it when a song has the ability to throw me into a nostalgic fit. This song has a really cool ending to listen for too.

The western tinged track Border Town/Bury Me In Baja adds a nice touch of variety to the album but doesn’t disrupt the flow at all. If I had to describe Jake Smith as a songwriter to someone who’s never heard White Buffalo I would say listening to one of his albums is like reading a compilation of an author’s short stories. He’s such a great storyteller and somehow has perfected the craft of making sure the music sits nicely underneath each particular tale. The Heart and Soul of the Night is another nice feel-good rocker that’s very upbeat. The thing that makes this album so great is you can easily listen to it from start to finish and never get bored. I try really hard not to say what my favorite songs are when I’m reviewing an album so that readers can listen with no preconceived notions which I could be held accountable for but I’m going to break my rule and say this song held up to the rest of the album for me.


I Am The Moon closes out the album on a somber note. I found it to be an intriguing closer because of how mellow it is. You have to be very crafty to close out your record with a slow song and this one proves what a seasoned songwriter Jake Smith is. As I conclude this review I have to digress back to my original epiphany about White Buffalo. Listening to this album made me wonder how I could’ve been so closed minded when someone tried to introduce me to their music a couple years ago. Don’t deprive yourself the same way I did! Go listen to it on Spotify, download it on iTunes, or take it a step further and buy the album at one of White Buffalo’s shows. Tell Jake Smith Story and Grit sent you! He’ll probably ask who the hell Story and Grit is but it would still be funny. Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights guys! Stop reading and go listen…..

Bio Matthew Westmoreland (or Matty, as his friends call him) was born in South Carolina, grew up in Georgia, and rambled everywhere in between. Currently located in Mendocino, California with his wife and two sons, he spends his days writing songs and his evenings listening to & reviewing albums for Story & Grit before gigs. Look for his debut album in late 2017 and keep up with him in the meantime at facebook.com/westmorelandsounds
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