Before complaining about The White Buffalo not deserving a spot in Moshlounge, go to a show. The live act rattles the nerves with so much intensity both high and low, it commands everyone in the joint to move. I have only found this level of crowd participation with a few other major music acts, period. Every other act passed pit, the crowd stands completely still like mannequins placed for appearances.
This new album Shadows, Greys, and Evil Ways is yet again pure gold and there is not enough space to uncover all of the brilliance.
The album starts with the emotional ballad “Shall We Go On”, about discovering the power of love, sure to water the eyes of lovers in enjoyment,
“He brushed against her dastardly, son of a catastrophe, he shot the lights right out of her eyes…She never even dreamed of love, now it’s rushing in like a flood…and in a heart it reads Jolene + Joe, Oh now the whole world will know, no matter how near or far, they’re never apart”
The introduction to the story is told in such real and revealing words, I’m sure many people haven’t heard. A patient delivery coupled with the boom of Jake Smith’s all encompassing voice (which is also soothing, I will add) and we’re off on a well thought out narrative of Jolene and Joe’s lives.
A few tracks into the story, the newly formed family is having money troubles. As frustration sets in and Joe is cornered into joining the military to provide for his family, it festers into resentment as “…maybe then they’ll realize, that I was worth my salt, ‘When I’m Gone’.” “Joey White” is the depiction of the main characters living nightmare in the armed forces, resulting in a gunshot wound and traumatized mind for life.
“…Well he got two years in the sand, and it will surely change his plans for life…there from the low and through the sky, earth erupts and bullets fly, oh a scream and battle cry, bodies burning brothers die, poor joey white…in a flash, blood soaks his shirt, drops to his knees, now his face down in the dirt…”
Joe’s first “30 Days Back” becomes something much darker than anything he experienced overseas. The dramatic and resonating violin allows the words to seep further into conscious thought and truly feel the real sadness and issues plaguing the mind of your fellow neighbors,
“…Still looking for answers, and I ain’t got none, got a heart in a head, too heavy to heal, put a pistol in my mouth, just to feel something real…”
Cryptic whistling with a dauntingly slow singing intro and this story definitely just took a turn down the dark path. Our character begins asking Jesus to fix his mind drenched with violence and we now have confirmed the suspicions, that our beloved Joe has become a criminal. With the previous downward spiral of Joe’s thoughts and his new ominous warning, “Don’t go downtown”, the once loving father in him is locked away as he proceeds to rob the place,
“Get your God damn hands up! Don’t you look at me! No one’s dying here alone! Well I came to get it on! Let’s get it on!…This time is different, not like the time before. Well I crossed my heart, that I won’t kill no more.”
“The Whistler” is capped off with the two final regret filled sentences, as if they were the silent cries from the imprisoned loving father. This song was even chosen to play on the popular television show Sons of Anarchy, along with “Set My Body Free”(when Joe attempts the impossible task, burying his past).
Writers will then rejoice in “This Year”, it is the essence of “the call to adventure”, in everyone’s life, complete with unparalleled style of imagery depicting the four seasons and surrounding events as if it was your own memory. The only difference? Our main character refuses continually to answer the call, creating a dark cloud over an otherwise colorful and upbeat song.
“Well the autumn blows in off the summer wind. Leaves down off of the trees, never see them again. Like embers they flowed into the street, gold and the red and the dance repeat. Well let’s close all the curtains, let’s stay inside. No flower, no fruit, and the lawns all die. Well how could it all fall apart so fast? And when everything is dying, how can I feel alive?…Maybe I’ve been lost, maybe I’ll get found, this year”
This song really creates an animated painting in your head, with over four minutes of lyrics pumped full of flowing descriptive details.
The White Buffalo then rolls out a hopeful song about everlasting love, called “Joe and Jolene”. The quick acoustic strumming guitar taps directly into your spine, taking control, forcing you to move like a doctor using a percussion hammer to test reflexes. Throughout the duration of the song, the intensity raises and raises as Joe’s drinking turns into the character’s anxieties over separation,
“Oh and she hopes and she prays, that he’ll pull it through. Oh how her feelings ebb and flow, just like the rivers do, for Joey. Joey don’t you see, I still got your name tattooed. It’s faded and grey, but it’s still staring at you. In a love so true, for me and you.”
Until 1:36, when The White Buffalo uses his skill to perfect time the temporary killing of momentum, this time for a sincere acknowledgement of eternal love from our seemingly hopeless yet lovable Joey,
“Jolene. You’re all I ever had. It’s understood you’re the only thing good, in my world filled with bad. Jolene. Without you I’m all alone, you’re my love, you’re my wife, with you in my life, well I’m always at home.”
At this point, most are thinking, great, a happy ending for love. Maybe there is hope for us all in this world, but then there are three tracks of twisting possibilities.
“Don’t You Want It” adds a new dimension musically with the incorporation of electric guitar, tambourine, and organ, the listener feels the melancholy driving this rhythm. The story has turned into one of many real lives of couples together, but not in love together. In this track, Joe confronts his love Jolene,
“Woman, treat me like you want it. Not like you have to, dicking me around. Woman, without you there is no me, I’ll always be your one, you’re my everything…The only thing real is love, in this crooked world. Here comes the morning sun, it puts it’s arms around everyone. Oh look at the love you bring, take away everything. Oh can you feel it? Like the first of spring, make us all new again. Don’t you want it? Like I want it?”
After a well-timed violin, Shadows, Greys, and Evil Ways churns out an unexpected conclusion to the story of Joe and Jolene with “Pray To You Now”.
Sorry, but it is too good of an ending to spoil.