Centuries ago Native Americans told stories of the mysterious and elusive white buffalo. It was said to be sacred and on the rare occasion (1 in 10 million buffalo or bison are white) one was seen it was thought to be a sign from the gods. It was deemed untouchable and thought to be an ancestor come back to guide the tribe to its proper place in the favor of said gods. Today the white buffalo is thought to be merely an albino, a rare albatross in a sea of brown bison. That’s where Jake Smith comes in.
Jake Smith is a rising alt-country singer better known by his nom de plume The White Buffalo. It’s a fitting name, really, because of what he represents is a return to the traditional country roots that modern country has strayed from. He represents a chance to return to the glory days of yore when Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson ruled the roost. The baritone in his voice is like listening to a bass test on a stereo as it reverberates through every muscle in your body and rattles your senses.
What country music doesn’t get is that this is the past and future of the genre. The White Buffalo is what real music aficionados have been clamoring for. The en vogue pop-country aspects of what’s coming out of Nashville are as true to country as Nickelback is to rock, just ask the Black Keys. There is no wink wink, nod nod to the Christian right in his music or sanctimonious bullshit about how Amurica (spelled like it’s pronounced) is the greatest country and if you don’t like it you can go to hell.
Smith is real and authentic. The California native is cut more from the Bakersfield, Gram Parsons, Buck Owens-type of country than the Hank Williams style that emanates out of Appalachia or Nashville. He’s as rare as the real white buffalo and perhaps he too can lead us out of the doldrums of poor pop country shit into a day where artists that speak candidly and intelligently about their thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams. He recently released out The Lost and Found EP of five songs in December as a preview of what’s to come on his 13-song Once Upon A Time In The West that will be released on February 28.
There will be some overlap of a couple songs, but they are so good that it doesn’t feel forced. If you’re a fan of the FX program Sons of Anarchy, there’s a good chance you’ve heard White Buffalo’s cover of “House of the Rising Sun.” You’ll also be surprised to learn that while country or alt-country is the backbone of his style there’s a folksiness even zydeco element at times. All of it works because that raw, scratchy salt of the earth element in his voice doesn’t belittle the emotion that comes from songs like “Wish it was True.”
He sings lyrics that speak to the very core of who we are as human beings, as people who struggle to get out the right words to say how we truly feel:
I did what you asked me to.
It was wrong, and you knew.
Country, now I’m just a stranger to you.
A number, a name; it’s true.
Throw me away when you’re through.
Home of the brave and the free; the red, white, and blue.
I wish it was true.
You see the name is more than just clever marketing. It is more than just merely a moniker to satisfy record execs who don’t want to throw an artist named Jake Smith to the proverbial wolves. This is the start of a musical revolution where we as listening public are able to discern the shit that courses through the veins of the unintelligible masses from the beauty that such perfect lyrics can lift us up and rise like the white buffalo of Native American lore.