If you watched Sons Of Anarchy – specifically, the heartbreaking finale – you’ll have had a taste of The White Buffalo (or Jake Smith to his mum). It was his sad, beautiful ode Come Join The Murder that soundtracked those closing moments, and eventually scooped him an Emmy nomination. Either way, we highly recommend Smith’s gorgeous new album of darkly countrified Americana.
For all its bleakness Love And The Death Of Damnation is still a sweet-sounding record. Smith might sing of drink, drugs and strained relationships, but it’s all wrapped in loose acoustic guitar, warm electric lines and Smith’s country-blues growl. Like a hairier Nick Cave, or Tom Waits minus a few cigarettes.
It’s a record of beguiling juxtapositions and heartfelt (though not at all ‘showy’) emotion. Worldly tales, drunken regrets and lovesick laments emerge from the sweetest of up-tempo rootsiness. Lines like “Come on mama, take off these chains” sound both pretty and tragic, and the jangling, boot-stomping likes of Modern Times and Rocky convey bitter frustration as they get your toes tapping.
He’s no predictable lost soul, either – lyrically this is articulate, straight-to-the-heart stuff. “Got it all figured out by the age of 13,” he sings in Radio With No Sound. “I’ve got you, making me insane and boil my blood,” he croons mournfully in I Got You (just when you thought things were about to get cheerier…), before taking a soulful turn in gritty yet teary ballad Come On Love, Come On In – peaking with a beautifully deranged banshee cry from Smith.
Tread carefully when listening if you’re already feeling low. You might just need some AC/DC or a really big jar of Nutella. Or both. But for rich, satisfying catharsis and a sense of ultimate redemption, you could do a lot worse than this.