Shadows, Greys & Evil Ways

Shadows, Greys & Evil Ways

Moving on from 19th-century folk tales to 21st-century narratives, The White Buffalo (Jake Smith) achieves a new immediacy on his third album, Shadows, Greys & Evil Ways. It seems fitting that this California-based singer/songwriter has become better known thanks to his contributions to the F/X biker series Sons of Anarchy. Smith’s intimidating vocal rumble and penchant for violence-streaked lyrics suggest a steely eyed outlaw worthy of a Cormac McCarthy novel. But as Shadows shows, these aspects of The White Buffalo’s persona reveal just part of the story. Smith’s latest work bristles with political anger and spiritual angst captured in sparse, carefully drawn story lines. Songs like “Joey White” (an unflinching soldier’s tale), “Joe and Jolene” (the story of two desperate lovers), and “Redemption #2" (a backslider’s cry of despair) ennoble the suffering of their characters with vivid lyrics and stirring melodies. Smith’s affinity for tragic balladry can be heard in the rugged, doom-struck imagery of “Set My Body Free” and “The Whistler”; his softer, more playful side is captured in the barroom swing of “Don’t You Want It.”

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