The White Buffalo - Love and the Death of Damnation

Review by Shannon Shumaker

It would be unfair to simply write off The White Buffalo’s new album, Love and the Death of Damnation as simply another country or folk album. While many of the elements of this album do ring true with those genres, many songs, especially the opening track, “Dark Days” and the following track, “Chico,” are so much more than that. Love and the Death of Damnation is complex, catchy, emotional and most of all, fun to listen to.

Starting off strong with the high energy opening track, “Dark Days,” The White Buffalo’s sound immediately reminds me of DeYarmond Edison, the former project of Bon Iver frontman, Justin Vernon. Right away, there is no struggle from The White Buffalo to create both a catchy and complex track. While “Dark Days” is super upbeat and memorable, it isn’t poppy and simplistic. There is a lot going on with the instrumental parts in the song, and as the album continues to chug forward, it becomes apparent that the strong songwriting found in “Dark Days” continues throughout the rest of Love and the Death of Damnation.

Flowing easily into the slower track, “Chico,” The White Buffalo waste no time in showcasing their versatility. The tempo and key changes, as well as the mariachi sounding elements in the track really make it stand out from the pack. The horn parts add another level to the song, and by the time it fades out, you’re left on the edge of your seat, waiting eagerly to see what The White Buffalo give you with their next track. And “Go The Distance” doesn’t disappoint. While frontman, Jake Smith delivers on the first two tracks, his voice really shines on this third track. Smith’s vocal range is really showcased in “Go The Distance,” his deep and rich baritone carrying the song with blunt (and sometimes a little comical) lyrics. “Go The Distance” is also the first time on Love and the Death of Damnation where we really get to hear that strong country side of The White Buffalo, and it absolutely shines. Then, lullaby sounding, “Radio With No Sound” comes in and shakes things up yet again. And again, Smith’s vocals are absolutely remarkable on this track.

As Love and the Death of Damnation continues, there are a few songs that unfortunately sound fairly similar, and seem to fall short of the high marks that The White Buffalo hits in the first few tracks. “Home Is In Your Arms,” while lyrically strong, seems to fall a little flat. However, the high point of the album also comes in the middle, with emotional and soulful ballad, “I Got You.” “I Got You” is beautiful and heartfelt, stripped down and simpler compared to much of the album. But where “I Got You” is lacking is complex instrumentals, it makes up for by miles in the soulful vocals and lyrics are Smith croons, “I got you in my veins, in my blood.” On top of already strong lyricism and vocals, the song only gets better when the female vocal part comes in, adding another level of emotion and harmonizing flawlessly with Smith. “I Got You” is a jaw-droppingly beautiful and honest track.

“Modern Times” follows “I Got You,” and while the transition is slightly rough, The White Buffalo quickly make up for it by picking up the pace and delivering yet another high energy, catchy track littered with amazing instrumentals, especially in the guitar work. “Last Call To Heaven” and “Where Is Your Savior” tone things down again, but then “Rocky” comes in and picks up the pace once more before the album comes to a huge, soulful end with “Come On Love Come On In.”

There are a few ups and downs on Love and the Death of Damnation, but as a whole, this album is incredibly well written, versatile and soulful. There’s a beautiful balance between the vocals and the instrumentals, creating a very easy to listen to album. While Jake Smith’s vocals absolutely shine on tracks such as “Come On Love Come On In,” “I Got You” and “Go The Distance,” the instrumental parts are complex enough that they are never easy to ignore. Love and the Death of Damnation is a total game changer when it comes to folk and country, and The White Buffalo have absolutely delivered with this release.

Rating: 4.5/5

Listen to "I Got You" or "Go The Distance"

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