Standing somewhere in the rubble of country music, atop a pile of classic rock, breathing in the poetic air of American folk is a totem of Americana that has been reached by the likes of Bob Seger and Tom Petty and a select few other individuals. At the base of that monument stands a formidable man wearing a faded Sons of Anarchy shirt, blue jeans, and boots contemplating when, not if, he will join the vein of significant names before him.
This bearded presence is none other than Jake Smith, or The White Buffalo. With each release he inches closer and closer to the revered likes of Americana greats. However, this isn’t a game of aggregate, but a sense of humanity that many strive for and few achieve. The White Buffalo’s seventh studio album, On The Widow’s Walk (Snakefarm Records), drives past what we all know to be true, through the barriers of expectation, and to the foundation of what separates The White Buffalo from most.
On The Widow’s Walk embodies the strolling presence of The White Buffalo that weaves in and out of the shadows of boarded up honkytonks, mindful of oil stains in the ground from where rows of motorcycles once lined the curb. True to form, gritty desert rock echoes against acoustic tracks which are balanced by heartfelt piano pieces. If you’re able to pick yourself up get past listening to the opening “Problem Solution” on repeat you’ll reminisce in a sense of songwriting that makes the punctuated lyrism feel very much like he’s singing to you about you. It is that lyrical prowess of Petty matched with the power gritty presence of Veder all wrung through a side-street Nashville whisky bar that makes Smith’s awareness of Americana in On The Widow’s Walk thrive in the transition tracks like “Come on Shorty,” the piano-laden “Cursive,” and riotous anthem of “Faster Than Fire.” In the third act of On The Widow’s Walk we’re given the title track and “The Rapture.” These tracks, just slightly more than the rest, elevate the latest from The White Buffalo into an American fan’s must-have.
Like an amble down a sidewalk through an old part of town, the temperature cool, but in the warmth of the sun, the reflection-like mood of Widow’s Walk proves two points. First, Smith is a profoundly captivating songwriter that might not understand just how important his music is to the world at this moment. If he does, he’s not showing it. Second, you can seek to embody the definition of rugged man but you can still feel; and that’s ok. On The Widow’s Walk is another beautiful mix in an already evocative career of The White Buffalo. He can make the softest feel in tune and the hardest comfortable in their sincerest of thoughts. The White Buffalo encapsulates a journeyman’s songwriting that is too hard to come by and this record helps fill that gap. Now, go On The Widow’s Walk with The White Buffalo and understand why.