The White Buffalo
Year of the Dark Horse
Snakefarm Records

Heavy Alt. Country Concept Album that Bleeds Timeless and Personal Americana

This has an odd story behind this review; as I saw the initial reviews go out on the day of release, only to wonder why I hadn’t been sent a copy, but downloaded two tracks to play on my radio show anyway.
Then a few days later the PR (one of the good guys!) got in touch asking if I was intending reviewing it. I replied that I’d not received it!
Profuse apologies on both sides later (as I’m having major e-mail problems with Outlook) and a download was received in minutes.
It’s been a bit of a ‘heavy’ listen; as the artist himself says about it;
My forthcoming album is a sonic and lyrical journey of one lunar year in one man’s life” .
“Four seasons in 12 songs… Loosely based on my twisted truths and adventures.”
I’ve now played it on and off for a week or so; in between other releases and it’s now grown on me as has the concept.
It’s up to you how you play this album; be it the ‘conceptual/cerebral version’ or as I’ve enjoyed it best; a series of very good, thoughtful and personal songs that will unravel the more you hear them.
The story starts with the intense Not Today, with Jake Smith aka The White Buffalo ‘wishing the earth a Happy New Year’ and wondering what it has in store for him. Personally I really like the theatrical production; and especially the gruff and impassioned vocals that draw you in as if his words will protect you from the metaphorical storm.
The fuzzy fade out bleeds straight into the chilling Winter Act 2 …. can you see what he’s doing here?
The song itself is quite dark; but all the more intriguing because of that. Smith drawls his way through in a style I recognise; but can’t put my finger on.
I may upset Smith; but while I like the narrative he employs; it’s not absolutely necessary to wallow in the deep delights of Love Will Never Come/Spring’s Song and C’mon Come Up Come Out, which like a few sound like the sort of things Leonard Cohen wrote in his latter years had he took an Americana path; and the musicality throughout is truly exceptional by the very way.
THE YEAR OF THE DARK HORSE is certainly not ‘easy listening’ and I think it best heard in a room on your own; not least because Am I Still a Child and Love Song #3 are both tear inducing to the max.
52 Card Pickup …. is …. well…. different; and certainly one of those songs that will suddenly ‘catch your attention’ and make you go WOW! (Eventually … it certainly did me.) Following on from that with it’s spine chilling piano and electric keyboard interplay, album closer Life Goes On and Heart Attack are both quite Alt. Rock in approach and give some light (relatively) to the shade that most other songs cast.
For my Favourite Song it’s been an easy choice; although the anti-love song Donna and the Waitsian She Don’t Know I Lie both certainly have their merits; Kingdom For a Fool is the most commercial song here and the story/lyrics; again Waitsian in concept show what a powerful thinker and writer Jake Smith is and sitting shoulder to shoulder with the very best around these days.

Released November 11th 2022


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