by Christine Thomas
It's a typical Thursday night crowd at Arsaga's on Crossover, with the baristas opening little white boxes of Chinese food to accompany their study session. Effron White is buying me an Americano and himself a Cappuccino.
"Better make it decaf," he says.
A white-haired friend comes in to pick up a bag of coffee.
"How're you doin' there, Effron? Still playing music?"
"Yeah. Well, as a matter of fact, I'm having a CD release party in a couple weeks, Sunday, Nov. 14, right here."
White pulls out a card from his inner coat pocket and hands it to his friend.
"Well, just the other day, I put your CD in. We had some people over. We were eating some Cajun food, and I thought, this is a good time for that Effron White CD."
White smiles and accepts the compliment graciously.
White's CD release party on Sunday will be his second album and is called Yankee Dime. White wrote all of the songs and shares writing credits on some of the songs with Phil Lancaster, Eric Schabacker and Jeff Walter.
Effron White could be considered a late-bloomer. The award winning songwriter said he started playing guitar when he was about 10 years old, but didn't really get serious until about 14 years ago.
"I was about 36, so I got kind of a late start really, as far as getting serious about it," White said. "I had other things going on back then. I was an art major. I wanted to be an artist, a painter."
Since becoming "serious," White has amassed an impressive collection of songwriting awards, including the much sought after New Folk award for emerging songwriters at the Kerrville Folk Festival, which White captured earlier this year. Being a New Folk winner puts White in a select crowd of other musicians who have won the honor, among them Lyle Lovett.
White moved to Fayetteville in 1972 from West Memphis, but he says Fayetteville is now home. He and his wife Anne are raising a daughter, Katy who is a freshman at the University of Arkansas and a son, Matt, who attends Fayetteville High School and who took some one of the photos for Yankee Dime liner notes .
Like many musicians and songwriters, White has a day job. He has been working as a picture framer at the Duck Club Gallery in Fayetteville since 1977 as Robin Garrett
Effron White, he explained is a stage name.
"I was a teenager and I was trying to come up with a name for a band and a lot of bands had names kinda like people's back then-Jethro Tull, Uriah Heapâ€¦ I was trying to think of a name and Effron came in my head. I think it probably came from the actor, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. who played Stuart Bailey in 77 Sunset Strip, it was a real popular show then, but I didn't know how to say it or spell it correctlyâ€¦ and then the 'White'â€¦ I said what goes with Effron? White. That just came out of the blue. You might be wondering: Why? Why did I use a stage name at all? I don't know, I guess it was justâ€¦fun. Just part of the fantasy, the right fantasy."
White draws his influence from both nationally known and local musicians.
"I've always listened to Bob Dylan," White said. "For a while I was really into Tom Waits. Probably my biggest hero is Guy Clark. He is my songwriting hero."
Among local musicians who inspire White is Emily Kaitz, who produced his first CD and Geoff Oelsner.
"He [Oelsner] just released his first CD and it's justâ€¦ it's perfect. It's real folk. I've been real impressed with his CD and his live performances lately." He also mentioned former Fayetteville resident Lucinda Williams.
"I like her a whole lot. I cover a couple of her songs sometimes. She has influenced me some. I sing I Lost It. Another one I like is Still I Long for Your Kiss.
White usually squeezes in some time before he goes to his day job to write his own songs.
"Early morning is the best time for ideas to start coming-after I've had about five cups of coffee. I have to have my coffee. Then the ideas start flowing, usually when .â€¦ it's almost time for me to go to work, really. I'm in the shower, then it's time for me to go to work and dad-gummit, I have to wait 'til I get back home to finish the song. It's been a problem sometimes but I do the best I can. Just to try to catch up with that idea the next morning.
"In my springtime song, I actually had the doors wide open, and it was springtime. I started playing these chords on the guitar-just feeling the music. I was suddenly getting this feeling of spring. I just started writing words. It was on a Monday, my day off. Mondays are good for me. I can finish songs on Mondays."
White said the new album's title cut, Yankee Dime, is based on people he knows. "That one is probably the most personal song on there, and it's touchy to start saying too much about it."
He said that the song that came easiest on the new album was "Hanging in the Hall of Fame." "There is this place in Nashville called the Hall of Fame Lounge. I had played in this place in Songwriters' Rounds. That day I really didn't have much to do; I was in the hotel roomâ€¦ It all just came to me really quick. I had a song in a couple of hours. It's one that's pretty much based on fact, even the bar-tendress, the lady "Maggie," she came from New York just like the song says. She 'came because she loved the music'
White explained the Songwriters' Rounds.
"These are real popular in Nashville. They have three or four songwriters at a time get up on the stage. The Blue Bird CafÃ© is really famous and they started one there called In the Roundsâ€¦.That's where it kinda started. Where songwriters sit facing each other with the audience sitting around them kind of more intimate setting. I've played the Blue Bird a couple times. In fact, in August, I played with a hit songwriter, Tony Lane. He's written for LeeAnn Womack and George Straight-he wrote one song for him I like in particular-Run.
"I've been driving around lately with a burned CD a guy in Indiana made me from the county in Indiana he's from. I don't' know any of their names, but there's some really good songs on it. They're from Brown County, Indiana.
"If I'm driving longer, sometimes I just drive in silence and just think and sometimes I come up with song ideas that way. Sometimes I turn on the radio, usually a country station. If I can't find a good college radio station playing some folk music, I'll settle for country. More because it's more geared toward the lyrics than the music the rock stations play-that's not true all the time, there's some good lyrics in rock, it's what I grew up on, listening to that."
In Hanging in the Hall of Fame, White sings that everyone's looking for glory. How does he define glory?
"Dreams. Dreams of glory. Every time I play I receive. I achieve some glory-almost everytime," he said and laughed. "When someone comes to me and says 'You touched my heart,' that's glory to me. That's when I've accomplished something great.
"The glory I was talking about in this other song is probably more in terms of what a lot of people in Nashville are going after which is fame and a lot of people spend all their time doing that so your time is what "all those dreams of glory will claim."
"I guess I spend a lot of time chasing glory myself. I try to keep things in perspective, knowing that it's not about the money or the fame but it's more about when people are moved by what you've said in the song or how you've said it. That's the greater glory."
Effron White will host a CD release party for his new CD Yankee Dime from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Arsaga's at 1852 N. Crossover Rd. in Fayetteville. Performing with White will be Keith Grimwood, Pat Villines, Bruce Parker and Emily Kaitz.
Â© 2004 Fayetteville Free Weekly
By Christine Thomas
Christine Thomas - Fayetteville Free Weekly, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Nov. 2004 (Nov 10, 2004)
With a Little Help From His Friends White Makes Beautiful Music
By Amy M. Cotham
LIVE! in NWA
The Morning News
Despite several awards for his songwriting and a solid fanbase, Effron White remains as humble and sincere as ever.
He's also a bit shy, which is why you'll only see Effron's trademark tennis shoes on the cover of "Yankee Dime," his newest release. On the 13 songs contained therein, however, White is confident, passionate and witty, clearly so deep in his element that his bashfulness fades away.
What's left are his charmingly scratchy voice, which sounds as if Tom Waits cleared his throat just a bit, and the even more charming songs he has penned since his 2000 release, "Day In the Sun."
"My craft has improved some, I think, and I hope my songs have more depth," he says of his second CD. (See what I mean about being humble?) "Sometimes I still wonder if the next song is ever going to come," White admits. Fortunately for him and for his fans, "it always seems to when I least expect it."
While songwriting and performing are White's calling, he says he doesn't really enjoy the studio process, one reason we've had to wait four years since his last release. This time around, he enlisted the help of Keith Grimwood, the shorter half of Trout Fishing in America.
"Keith brought a lot of ideas to the table," White says, and the bassist ended up playing on all of the songs on "Yankee Dime."
"I enjoyed playing the different musical styles of Effron's music," Grimwood says. "I really like the songs, and they're some of the best he's ever done." The title track, Grimwood describes, "just sparkles. 'Yankee Dime' is an instant classic."
Grimwood adds that White's distinct voice "is perfect for what he writes, which is homespun wisdom" and points to "That Wouldn't Be Me," on which White sings, "This old dog's content with his tricks."
"What other voice would you want singing something like that?" Grimwood asks.
After some successful sessions over at Winterwood Recording Studios in Eureka Springs in the initial stages of "Yankee Dime," it was Grimwood who hooked Effron up with Nashville musician and producer Fred Bogert, who has produced CDs for Trout and worked with other artists like Amy Grant and Delbert McClinton. Bogert says he was wowed by White and his music.
"He's very sincere, he's a great story teller, and he's got a lot of talent," Bogert describes. "I was impressed with his songwriting and his delivery as an artist. I'm very proud of the album."
Bogert adds what could possibly be the ultimate compliment from a music biz insider like himself: "I've worked on about 3,000 recordings over the years," he says, " and ('Yankee Dime') is one of the very few I actually listen to myself."
Bogert's mastery of the recording process drew the best from the studio players, Grimwood testifies and the CD proves. But the result is not overly produced, slick-sounding tracks that would have been a terrible mismatch for White's style. Instead, "Yankee Dime" gives a listener the feeling that the singer is sitting in a nearby corner, providing some earthy background music.
White will unveil "Yankee Dime" during a CD release show Sunday at Arsaga's on Crossover in Fayetteville. Grimwood, Pat Villines and Bruce Parker will join the man of the hour in performing songs from the new CD. The Growling Gravy Revue, featuring White, Villines and Emily Kaitz, will also perform. Showtime is 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., and admission is free.
"Yankee Dime" may be purchased at Hastings Music and Sound Warehouse in Fayetteville and online at cdbaby.com.
Amy Cotham - The Morning News, Springdale, Arkansas, Nov. 2004 (Nov 11, 2004)
On The Road Somewhere With Effron White
Our Trip To The Kerrville Folk Festival
by Emily Kaitz, for â€œAll About Townâ€
It's 8:55 am, and Effron White and I sip coffee from our travel mugs in his car facing south on the shoulder of I-540 just north of the I-40 split. We have been pulled over by a police officer; Effron was going 66 in a 50 mph work zone. "Now I'll have to win the contest just to pay for my traffic ticket!" he growls. We are on our way down to the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas, roughly a 12 hour drive from Fayetteville, where Effron will compete in the prestigious "New Folk" songwriting competition. Six winners will be awarded $400 prizes, along with some recording equipment and a 20-minute performance slot.
But those possibilities are a long way off right now. We've just started our long drive on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Effron is one of 32 finalists, his 2 songs having been selected from a pool of 600 entries. He'll play them tomorrow before a panel of judges, with me accompanying him on electric bass. Sunday night the winners are announced, and Monday we drive all the way back, since Effron has to be at his day job Tuesday. A kamikaze trip for sure.
I've been to the Kerrville Folk Festival many times since 1981, the first year I went, when the festival had been in existence a mere 10 years. I went on to compete in New Folk twice myself, but never won. Later, however, I was hired a few times as a regular performer, the most recent occasion being last June. One of the reasons people love the Kerrville Folk Festival so much is that it's a great equalizer. Whether you're a bank president or an itinerant musician who lives out of his truck, within 24 hours of arriving there you'll be sunburned, covered with dust, and operating on less than 4 hours of sleep. After 36 hours you'll be hugging total strangers. Effron and I hope to be back on the road before we reach that point.
Effron sings a lot of songs about being on the road. Some he's written, like Six Friends in a Datsun, Wanderlust, Going Down Kerrville Way, and the signature song with which he ends most performances, On The Road Somewhere. He also covers traveling songs like Guy Clark's LA Freeway, Woody Guthrie's Rambling Round and Hard Traveling, and the ubiquitous Geoff Mack classic, I've Been Everywhere, which strings together the names of dozens of towns in its verses.
I've played bass off and on with Effron for about 5 years, and produced his debut CD, Day In The Sun. But this is the first time I've been on the road with him, unless you count driving to Tulsa once to play a wedding. Effron mostly performs in and around Fayetteville, since he has a family and a job, but in the time I've known him he's managed to get to Nashville to do some songwriter showcases and recording, to the Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma, and to North Carolina where he was a finalist in the Merlefest songwriting contest.
By 5 pm Saturday we're just south of Hamilton, Texas on Highway 281, with several hours still to go. To help pass the time, we've been listening to CDs - Merle Haggard, the Beatles, and now Alan Rhody, a Nashville singer-songwriter who recently performed in Fayetteville. But my favorite CD has been the newly mastered advance copy of Effron's soon-to-be-released second album, Yankee Dime, which he started recording in Eureka Springs with Eric Schabacker at Winterwood Studios, and finished up in Nashville with producer/engineer Fred Bogert. "Effron, this sounds as good as a famous person's album," I say. "Maybe someday soon you'll be able to quit your day job."
8 pm - We arrive at the festival, as I predicted, exactly 12 hours after we left, to the minute. Effron is amazed. "I'm a bass player," I brag, "my timing is impeccable." Amid a tent and trailer city of many acres and several thousand campers we easily locate Phil Lancaster and Alison Moore, who are saving Effron a campsite and me a spot in their tiny trailer, the Love Bug. I arrive to find a cozy little home with actual electricity waiting for me. What a deal.
When it becomes apparent that Effron doesn't need my help setting up camp, I start walking around and immediately run into 3 close friends from my 21 years of living in Austin. Purly Gates now divides her time between New Hampshire, Oregon, and Wimberley, Texas; Thomas Hart has moved back to Washington state to help his elderly father after his mom died; and Brian Cutean is currently based out of Eugene, Oregon. It's been at least 15 years since all 4 of us were together like this.
All are musicians, of course. People who have never been to the Kerrville Folk Festival don't realize that the acts appearing on stage are only a small portion of the wonderful music that goes on day and night informally in the campgrounds. I visit with my friends, trade a song or two. My energy is fading fast after the long drive. I manage to make it to the main stage for part of Bill Morrisey's set, but then return to the campgrounds and am in bed by around 1:30 am, early by Kerrville standards. Not far from my trailer I hear Effron singing Yankee Dime, one of the songs he'll perform in New Folk tomorrow.
* * * * *
1 pm Sunday. I'm sitting in the shade of Camp Sweetness & Light. There are dozens of established camps here with names; people come each year and claim the same spots, bringing entire kitchens (Camp Cuisine), an upright piano (Camp Stupid), an inflatable Dracula doll (Camp Bite Me). Camp Sweetness & Light has a bubble machine. I've just played bass with Effron on his 2 songs, Nothing To Lose and Yankee Dime. Effron performed well, and made a bunch of new fans. The 3 judges, Slaid Cleaves, Ruthie Foster and Eric Schwartz seemed to respond positively, but there are some stellar contenders in the contest and Effron doesn't expect to make the winners' list. Still, just performing his two songs was fun, and great exposure. It's about 95 degrees now, and I'm grateful for the shade here at Sweetness & Light, and the bubbles lightly landing on my shoulders as I visit with more old friends.
At 5 pm Sunday, Effron and I are sitting under a canopy at our campsite talking to a guy named Jim Stephens, a musician who works at Wild Oats grocery in Nashville. Although I've met Jim on several occasions, I've never heard his music. He drags over a battery-powered Yamaha keyboard and plays two beautiful, delicately melodious songs with poetic lyrics that he wrote. Not the kind of music you'd expect to hear at a campsite in Kerrville, Texas, and absolutely wonderful. Anything can happen here.
8:55 pm. After Vince Bell's set on the main stage, festival director Dalis Allen announces the 6 New Folk winners - Cary Cooper, Idgy Vaughn, John William Davis, Claudia Nygaard, Julie Clark, and--Effron White! Holy Moly! Effron joins the others for photos on stage. My heart swells with pride.
11:30 pm. I am sitting in a song circle at Camp Cuisine, surrounded by many musician friends and scant inches away from two legendary singer-songwriters, Steve Gillette on my left and Jack Williams on my right. Jack is one of the most amazing guitar players I've ever heard. It doesn't get any better than this. Two hours and many songs later I lie in the Love Bug trying to fall asleep, still hearing great music outside my window.
Monday, Memorial Day, at 9:30 am. I've been awake 2 hours - it gets light, but more importantly, it gets hot early at Kerrville. I've had some coffee and am waiting for Effron to bring his car around so we can load up. "I won't have to pack up my tent," Effron told me, "I'll just leave it where it is since I'll be coming back next weekend." The 6 New Folk winners each play a 20-minute set next Sunday, and claim their prize money and further glory. It's been great, but I'm ready to head back to Arkansas. At Kerrville it's easy to feel like you've been there much longer than you actually have. There's so much crammed into a short time - wonderful people, great music, poetry and inspiration, fire ants and blisters and cold communal showers. Whether I return or not, I know Effron will put on a fine performance. I expect the out-of-town gigs to come pouring in, and he'll have more reason than ever to be on the road somewhere.
Emily Kaitz - All About Town, Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 2004 (Jun 8, 2004)
Gruff is Good for White
By MALCOLM MAYHEW
SPECIAL TO THE STAR-TELEGRAM
FORT WORTH -- Nanci Griffith wasn't the only multifarious folk singer playing downtown Friday night. Across the street from Bass Hall, where Griffith performed, Effron White spun his own yarns at McDavid Studio.
White is part of an Arkansas musical community that calls its music "Ozark skittle." The name is a play on skiffle, a blend of folk, jazz and blues that dates from the early 1900s. Skittle, to such practitioners as White, Eddie Glenn and the Ozone Players, is skiffle for the 21st century.
White proved why he's skittle's ringleader: With just one guitar, he proficiently ran through a variety of sounds and styles, from country to jazz to blues. Like Griffith, he's restless musically, and like her, he has a voice and vocal style so oddly unique that you'll either fall in love with it or be immediately disgusted.
His voice was sometimes smooth and melodic like early John Prine, but more often, on songs such as Yankee Dime and Town Within the Town, he brought to mind the Cookie Monster-like grunt of Tom Waits. That's the raw attraction of folk music, though; even those with the most seemingly unappealing voices often find a fan base. Ask Griffith.
Malcolm Mayhew - Fort Worth Star Telegram (Feb 10, 2007)