Right and wrong. Good and evil. Murder. Shame. Redemption. Love and hate, tattooed on the fingers, the left hand wrestling with the right.
The songs of The White Buffalo conjure themes that are reminiscent of the 1977 Charles Bronson film called “The White Buffalo,” in which a crazed team of Wild Bill Hickok and Crazy Horse search for the beast that torment their dreams and, in Crazy Horse’s case, killed his daughter.
The White Buffalo is singer-songwriter Jake Smith, whose songs explore the darkness on the edge of town, populated by men and women with a disconnect between their dreams and actions.
Born in Oregon but raised in Huntington Beach, Calif., the baritone’s 2013 album encapsulates what his devout fans have always hoped for: “Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways” is an old-fashioned concept album in an age when singles reign. It tells the story of Joey White, a combat veteran scarred by the chaos of war, looking for an escape. It is harrowing, but slivers of salvation peek through the black sky.
Smith, headlining The State Room on Friday, Dec. 13, answered questions posed to him by The Tribune about a certain show that features his songs prominently, Joey White, and the holidays.
Many of your songs have appeared on “Sons of Anarchy.” How can you explain that? Are you a viewer?
I am a fan of the show. I have to catch up on a few episodes at the present. I’ve been lucky enough to have eight songs total. I attribute the many uses due to common themes. There’s a lot of conflict in both mediums.
It appears that the Salt Lake show will be the last one before mid-January. What will you be thinking about and doing between mid-December and mid-January?
SLC is the last show on this western swing. My life slows down a bit after that. I’m most looking forward to spending time and the holidays with my wife and kids.
Where did the story of Joey White come from, and what does the story illustrate how you feel about songwriting and life in general?
The story of Joseph White on “Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways” is a work of fiction. I really don’t know where songs or art in general come from. I’ve always looked at songs as mini-movies and have always wanted to create a longer story. There are some dark moments, and big questions within the narrative, but it’s basically a love story. The idea that the power of love and the strength of his wife, Jolene, is all that matters, and the only thing that can make him whole again.
What do band members Tom Andrews and Matt Lynott bring to your music?
The band brings energy and dynamics. Both their musicianship and presence is a huge part of what the live show is. We’ve been playing together for over 10 years now.
Do you sense a menace in your voice, or understand why some people feel that you have that edge to your voice?
It’s strange to me to talk about singing. I really let the emotion and feel of the song dictate where my voice goes. If it’s a love song it may be more tender or passionate. Murder songs tend to be menacing.
Do you have any particular memorable experiences in Utah?
The spirit and enthusiasm of the crowds are pretty special in SLC. We always look forward to playing there.
The White Buffalo
When • Tonight at 9
Where • The State Room, 638 S. State St., Salt Lake City
Tickets • Sold out