You don’t have to wait for the magic to take hold: Mathus’ sweet mandolin ushers in “In The Garden” while Jimbo doles out some philosophy and advice – rolled in flour and pan-fried to a golden brown by the Coalition, who fall in behind him midway through the first verse. Carlton’s accordion infuses the tune with a Delta vibe; Bishop and Rogers keep the beat simmering somewhere between the Scottish Highlands and a Tibetan mountaintop; Pierce pilots his Telecaster through some amazing twists and turns; and through it all, Mathus’ brave little mando carries the torch that lights the song’s soul. The White Buffalo is off and running.
The best way to get to the core of what this album is all about is to dive right into the middle of the beast: the amazingly eclectic-yet-perfectly-united trifecta of “White Buffalo”, “Hatchie Bottoms”, and “Fake Hex”. The title tune comes roaring out of the speakers with enough force to make you duck your head – all rolling and a’tumbling drums and ga-wooping bass and wailing guitars and flashes of wild-ass voodoo funk ::: JIMI! ::: but there’s not a Cuban heel nor bit of tie-dye in sight; this is flannel-shirted and raggedy-blue-jeaned get-down-to-it psychedelia – as real as the button missing on that there thermal t-shirt, my friend. No sooner has the wild-colored dust and vapors and cymbal sizzles from “White Buffalo” settled than a gently-strummed acoustic guitar wraps its loving arms around you and takes you to “Hatchie Bottoms”. “In 20 and 10 I went back home again to the funeral of my Uncle Bobby …” sings Jimbo – and by the time the rest of the band has fallen into step, you are headed home as well, feeling every ounce of sweet and mournful ache ::: HANK! ::: that Jimbo and the boys lay on you. There’s hardly enough time to wipe your eyes before “Fake Hex” takes off, gee-tars all snapping and biting and chasing their tails in total Some Girls -era Stones glory ::: KEITH! ::: and it’s a hell of a mess Jimbo’s singing about (“Ever since I knew ya, you ain’t brought me nuthin’ but heartache”) but when they go roaring off into the wham/crash/wail of the bridge at 1:37, you’re helpless to do a thing except dance, dance, dance.
And that’s when you realize that what these crazy/talented bastards have managed to pull off is capturing the spirit of some sort of ::: JIMI! ::: HANK! ::: KEITH! ::: HOLY ROCK ‘N’ ROLL TRINITY – not by doing killer impressions or relying on plastic studio-created ambience … no, no, no. What Mathus and the Coalition have done is slow-boiled rock ‘n’ roll right down to its syrupy goodness, and then played it with every ounce of their collective beings – in a big ol’ room with big ol’ mics and a big ol’ vibe.
Sun Studios had it. Big Pink had it. The Basement Tapes and Motel Shot had it. And White Buffalo has it – a function of Mathus’ Delta Recording Service in Como, MS (an old high-ceilinged grocery store converted to a studio – that still shares a building with the local post office); a function of producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel’s total grasp of who these players are and what they want to do; and a function of the players themselves knowing who they are and what they want to do.
Click HERE to read the rest of my review of White Buffalo on Jambands.com