Music in television shows has come a long way from the days of Mike Post scoring seemingly every TV show in the 80s. Songs are specially curated to fit and enhance peak moments on the programs – a personal favorite is Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone,” which went as far as casting Ryan Bingham, guitar and all, in a recurring role. The White Buffalo has become well-known for his work in television (including an Emmy nomination for “Come Join the Murder” from Sons of Anarchy). His latest album, On The Widow’s Walk, while not tied in to a television project, still carries his trademark theatricality and use of vibrant imagery.
You’ll probably recognize The White Buffalo (née Jake Smith) as that voice that rattles the bottom end of your home 5.1. Working for the first time with producer Shooter Jennings, Smith brings a collection of dark songs matched to that deep vocal timbre. “Problem Solution” leads off and sets the tone with a mid-tempo rock-country hybrid full of self-doubt – “Tell me what’s wrong with my songs…When the words and the chords just come out wrong.” “The Drifter” is an old-school country weeper where Smith further questions his place in the world – “I’m smoke, I’m a moment/Will they even remember my name?” But in “No History,” a rocker that resembles “Tunnel of Love”-era Springsteen, Smith urges us not to drown ourselves in deeds already done: “You can’t hold the hands of time/There’s only here and now and nothing more.”
While we’re on the topic of drowning, water, and its potential to destroy, is a frequent element across On The Widow’s Walk. The name itself refers to a feature on the roof of a house which, historically, allowed a wife to scan the sea, hoping to see her husband return. In the title cut, which begins with a soft piano line before building to a stirring ballad, the potential widow is searching and “floating like a fizzled-out satellite/With no aim to her feet.” “The River of Love and Loss,” set against acoustic guitar and a wonderfully scratchy fiddle line, has the singer wishing to join his would be-lover – “So I return to the river/Fill my pockets up with stone/I’m gonna rest under there underwater/With her bones.”
If that personal self-apocalypse isn’t enough for you, Smith gets downright biblical in “The Rapture,” with a voice that goes from a melodic growl to an outright howl (The White Buffalo is slated to play the Under the Big Sky festival in July, and, if that event does take place, I’m looking forward to hearing that howl bounce off the Montana mountains). Even amongst all of the grim subject matter, though, there is a little hope to be found On The Widow’s Walk. Going back to the beginning of the album, “Problem Solution” does have a bit of a suggestion: “Who is really ever to say/What’s right, what’s wrong/So let’s just get through the day.” In these pandemical times, it may be the best bit of advice you’re going to get.
All songs on On the Widow’s Walk were written by Smith (co-write on “Come On Shorty” with Rick Brantley). Additional musicians include Matt Lynott (drums and percussion), Christopher Hoffee (electric guitar and bass), Ted Russell Kamp (bass), Shooter Jennings (piano and keys), and John Schreffler, Jr. (guitars).
Go here to order On The Widow’s Walk: https://thewhitebuffalo.lnk.to/OnTheWidowsWalk
Check out tour dates, including Under the Big Sky, here: https://thewhitebuffalo.com/tour/