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The White Buffalo

Shadows, Greys & Evil Ways

(Unison Music Group; US: 10 Sep 2013; UK: 2 Sep 2013)

A low-key masterpiece

The White Buffalo is thenom de plume of Jake Smith, who has built a career out of writing spare, elegiac songs and performing them with a minimum of fuss but a good deal of feeling. Shadows, Greys & Evil Ways is quiet little masterpiece, a 14-song cycle detailing the ups and downs of a young couple named Joe and Jolene. Over the course of the album, the couple gets tattoos of each others’ names, Joe goes to war and comes back a different man, the couple commits and things fall apart. More important than the events of their lives is the White Buffalo’s presentation of them, which is by turns mournful, bitter, celebratory and shellshocked. The sounds here are firmly in the folkie/Americana wheelhouse, but this work is too singular to fit comfortably into those demarcations or any others. Whether it’s the jaunty fingerpicking of “Joey White”, the defiant rasp of “When I’m Gone” or the quiet desperation of “Set My Body Free”, this is an album that always seems to find the perfect note. Is it a barrel of laughs? Nope. Is it worth listening to? Definitely.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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The White Buffalo - Joey White
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