Loneliness is invoked on three of four songs on the White Buffalo’s MySpace page: "Love Song 1" finds its narrator on an island for one, staring at the sun; "The Moon" visits the shadows and grays of solo days; and "10 ‘Til 2" revolves around hopes to screw a hooker in the morning. Yet the White Buffalo’s main man himself a.k.a. Jake Smith is far from some namby-pamby Elliott Smith or any number of whiny hand-me-a-tissue, I’m-not-long-for-this-tortured-life modern singer-songwriters. Though Smith admits some compositions are personal, most, he says on the phone from southern California, are "fantastic, darker, little evil journey songs that are just imagination things and aren’t inspired by anything at least, not to my knowledge."
Venture along the White Buffalo’s dark little journeys, for they’re good ones to take full of the character-building that comes from Greyhounding through the rolling West. You end up resigned yet hopeful, with no obligations other than dreams of your next stop. The real white buffalo is a rare creature, and the White Buffalo at times a solo project, at others a trio conjures a similar mythos: Smith’s bio trumpets his solid stature, heavy boozing, and ability, like that of bygone legends, to marry his lifestyle with his art. And though this sounds sort of cheesy, White Buffalo’s music is not. On the contrary, what I love about the White Buffalo is his evident sincerity. Smith’s voice plunges you into clear, deep pools: infinite, enveloping, fully resonant like Eddie Vedder at his best by far the easiest comparison but with hints of Cat Stevens’ whispery warble and Joe Cocker’s soulful rasp. The occasional twang is likely derived from Smith’s childhood musical diet of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Wielding an acoustic rock, alt-country folkiness that lacks pretension, Smith could’ve written the score accompanying the vast geographical and philosophical landscapes of Into the Wild (2007).
Though he now lives in Orange County, Smith’s music may ring a bell if you were lucky enough to catch one of his handful of shows during the few years he resided in San Francisco, where he "just raised hell and waited tables." Since then he’s toured the world, developed his guitar chops which remain simple and "just a way to get the message and the vocal across" and recorded a self-released, self-titled 2005 EP. "Let the suuunnn / Fill me up again," he croons on "Where Dirt and Water Collide." My response? Let this voiiiccce fill me up again and again and again. Between the sun and the White Buffalo, there’s no loneliness here, really.
THE WHITE BUFFALO
With the Blank Tapes and Agent Ribbons
July 17, 9 p.m., $10
Hotel Utah Saloon
500 Fourth St., SF