Jake Smith, the singer-songwriter and mastermind behind L.A.-based trio The White Buffalo, sings in a rich, oatmeal baritone. And White Buffalo’s 2014 release, Shadows, Greys & Evil Ways — a loose concept record based around the characters Joe and Jolene — is a fitting backdrop for Smith, who looks like a Viking from Texas.
From the new record, “Shall We Go On” is quiet, introspective country music for desert landscapes. In “30 Days Back” Smith sings ominously, “Put a pistol in my mouth just to feel something real.” Tunes like “When I’m Gone” and “Joey White” update the Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard outlaw country routine, while murder ballad “The Whistler” begins with the lonely whistle of an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western soundtrack. It’s no wonder that seven of White’s songs have been featured in motorcycle outlaw show Sons of Anarchy.
Take a good gander at Smith: His long blonde hair and formidable beard recall Gregg Allman. And listening to The White Buffalo — the soulful singing, the intricate gospel-blues acoustic guitar work — you’re again reminded of Allman’s work. But while Allman typifies Southern rock, The White Buffalo belongs in the tradition of L.A.’s Laurel Canyon songwriters: urban cowboys, 21st-century desperados, a kind of sunbaked desperation for solitude in a crowded, modern world.
The White Buffalo returns to Eugene 8 pm Saturday, Nov. 15, at Cozmic; $14 adv., $17 door. All ages. — William Kennedy