The White Buffalo’s 2015 release, Love and the Death of Damnation, is a fantastic album and when it came out, I reckoned it would be a tough achievement to match. On his new record, Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, the artist more than meets that challenge, deftly mining that fertile musical territory where rock, country and blues meet. Jake Smith, the songwriter behind the White Buffalo moniker, crafts music that is a perfect vehicle for his heartfelt, resonant baritone voice. Smith has always been crafty with the emotive ballads, and there are strong ones here—“The Observatory” and “If I Lost My Eyes,” in particular.
It’s the grittier, uptempo songs that grab my ear the most. “Robbery” is a clever story about a bank hold-up, with a kind of jazzy swing, but it isn’t as good as two other boot stompers. “Madam’s Soft, Madam’s Sweet” is a greasy romp, and “Nightstalker Blues,” with its sweet harmonica solo, might be my favorite track on the entire record.
Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights is a quick listen, clocking in at 34 minutes. The final track, “I Am the Moon,” is another good ballad. If the White Buffalo keeps cranking out records like this, he’s bound to break big soon.
The White Buffalo plays the Top Hat Fri., Nov. 10, at 9 PM. $20/$18 advance at logjampresents.com.