It's no surprise that a half dozen of The White Buffalo's tunes have been used on the F/X biker crime series "Sons of Anarchy." Oregon-based song slinger Jake Smith creates folk rock as brawny and Harley-ready as his moniker implies, but there is more than just muscle to his songs. Smith is a genuine songwriter and storyteller, plainly evident on the concept album Shadows, Greys And Evil Ways, a hard-luck love story of two American kids living on the other side of the tracks from Mellencamp's Jack and Diane.
Smith's voice bears a striking resemblance to that of Eddie Vedder's. That may a deal-breaker for some listeners, but if not, there's plenty of original ideas to be appreciated here. Tracks trade off between somber ballads and righteous rockers, full of political fuming and earnest love. The conceptual narrative is never thick enough to keep songs from standing by themselves, like the headstrong "When I'm Gone" or the tortured "Set My Body Free." "The Whistler" is a stand-out track if only for the split second that Smith bellows "I came to get it on!" with a ferocity rarely matched in folk music.
The White Buffalo plays the Top Hat Thu., April 10, at 9 PM with Chuck Ragan and Jonny Two Bags. $18/$15 advance.