The first song I ever heard by The White Buffalo (actual name Jake Smith) was "Carnage," a grim tale of a town overrun that ends in death. Shut up, just shut up. You had me at "grim tale."
Yes, I'm a sucker for a morbid yarn, and the White Buffalo delivers these in spades, but that's not all he's got going for him. The Los Angeles musician writes songs harking back to some of the best western folk balladeers of old. He sounds like Eddie Vedder — if Eddie Vedder lived in a cabin in the mountains, wore home-skinned animal pelts and ate beans out of a can — and looks sort of like Sasquatch's second cousin.
Smith released "Hogtied Revisited" in 2009, a somewhat-reissue of his 2005 debut LP "Hogtied Like a Rodeo" that went largely unnoticed upon its release and is largely unavailable these days. He sets the scene properly with album opener "The Woods," a slightly orchestral ode to escaping civilization sung in a gruff baritone. He offers beautiful ballads of heartbreak ("Today's Tomorrow") and murder ("The Madman"), a sweet country drinking anthem ("The Bar and the Beer") and exercises his cattle calls ("Hogtied Like a Rodeo").
The man's a master crafter of varietal folk tropes, with a definite romance for the dark and dismal. His 2006 "White Buffalo EP" teased this tendency with "The Matador," singing "They call him the matador/ He settles all the scores/ He kills in plain sight/ with a blade and a smile." He also sings unconventionally in "10 ’til 2" about falling in love with a hooker.
No word out on when the White Buffalo's next full-length is due, but rest-assured you'll want to keep your ear to the ground for it.