Once Upon a Time
in the West

[Unison Music Group]

Given his ramshackle narratives and sober sentiments, Jake Smith (a.k.a. the White Buffalo) seems to fit comfortably into the alt-country lineage of Uncle Tupelo and its offspring, Wilco and Son Volt. But if the album title suggests an Ennio Morricone film score, it’s also true that the dark characters Smith imagines are not unlike Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name—fueled by gritty defiance and a squinty-eyed perspective. The strongest songs are the rowdy and rollicking “How the West Was Worn,” “The Bowery,” “Wish It Was True” and “Hold the Line,” in which Smith strums, stomps and spews his restless ruminations. Whether reimagining his youthful escapades in “BB Guns and Dirt Bikes” or etching images of war via “Ballad of a Dead Man” and “The Pilot,” he takes his cues from everyday encounters and then elevates them to heroic proportions. –LZ

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