In the spirit of all the great balladeers from Marty Robbins to Johnny Cash, The White Buffalo (AKA Jake Smith) has made an Americana album that is poetic and pure. Once Upon A time In The West offers a modern twist on gunslinger ballads - singing of heartbreak, politics and every facet of humanity in the heartfelt and honest way that only country music can do. Originally released in 2012, the album has been made available in Europe for the first time as a deluxe edition featuring tracks from the Lost and Found EP and the vinyl version offers an alternative track listing for the serious collector.
Ballad Of A Deadman opens the beautifully crafted album with a brutal and moving song about the futility of war. The Everyman element makes the track painfully relevant. The anger from Smith's baritone vocals, that are part Bruce Springsteen part Buffy Saint Marie, build to a devastating crescendo by the end of the song. It's powerful stuff. Similar works like Travelling Soldier by The Dixie Chicks and Buffy Saint Marie's Soldier Blue, speak of the tragedy of war to similar effect, making Ballad Of A Deadman a modern American classic.
The Pilot, the first new addition is a brilliant contrast to the album's opener. It's a gutsy slice of Americana with all the traditional musical accoutrements. The solo acoustic tracks such as the romantic Sleepy Little Town are brilliantly juxtaposed against the dynamic energy of the full band works like the ballsy How The West Was Won and the outlaw melancholy of Hold The Line. A cover of the Jimmy Webb song Highwayman is a perfect addition to the album, both stylistically and thematically. Originally used in the Sons Of Anarchy TV series the insertion of the track here is a welcome surprise.
For a guy who didn't pick up his first guitar till he was 19 and spent his youth engrossed in punk, The White Buffalo has embraced an American tradition and can happily put his name alongside some of the great American songwriters of the modern age.
Groupie Rating: 5/5