LONG HAUL - Effron White
The Arkansas based singer-songwriter Effron White has just recently self-released Long Haul, his fourth album of country and folk-leaning Americana through his own independent imprint, Sticker Freak Records. The prolific fifty-eight year old is in possession of a thick, raspy and gravelly baritone voice that has a rich, world-weariness reminiscent of Tom Waits and Bob Dylan but with an unmatched emotional weight that provides the perfect vehicle for his organic folk music. The album was produced and mixed by Texas multi-instrumentalist John Inmon, winner himself of the Texas Music Awards Producer of the Year award for 2012, who helped White flesh out his songs with the appropriate accruements.
The album opens with “Long Haul”, the title track and standout first single that chronicles the rough life of a lonely truck driver with a real and raw lyrical honesty. The song was also named the first place winner in the Americana/folk category of the Billboard Song Contest in 2011. The gruff way he draws out the word “long” in the chorus: “It’s been a long haul”, will have you raising your drink in the air and singing right along in no time. The lively “Time Hardened Truth” follows with a dash of swinging rockabilly swagger in the shuffling rhythm as it plays out like the dusty soundtrack to an old spaghetti western. It even comes complete with churning guitars and thick vintage organ swells, setting a mood that perfectly complements White’s growling vocals. The beautiful and heartfelt ballad “Big Blue Tears” features a slower pace with cyclical Spanish-style guitars and a bluesy, heart-aching vocal performance.
The next song, “Desirae” keeps with the slower pace, featuring an inventive arrangement that includes a loping, country-loving rhythm and melodic guitar runs along with an extended guitar solo. The Bluegrass-inspired “Built By Men” is highlighted by guest musician Phil Lancaster’s flickering banjo figures and White’s Waits-like swampy and barking vocals that have a humorous lyrical bent. Sounding like the atmospheric, Daniel Lanois-produced late-period Bob Dylan, Effron adds his harmonica skills to the mix on “Truce” which is bolstered by Inmon’s glimmering pedal steel and the insistent acoustic guitar strumming that provides for the introspective mood and rhythm of the standout song. Later, White is assisted by Susan Shore who provides her contrastingly honeyed vocal harmonies to “Three Chords Of Love” which sounds like it is being beamed from an Appalachian back porch jam circa 1930. Effron adopts a talking blues vocal for the upbeat “Charlie Roth Is Coming”, which yet again showcases his exceptional gift for storytelling. Lyrically, “No Fairy Tale” is dark, raw and a little self-depreciating but musically, is contrasted by twinkling guitar tones and some brighter melodies. Also included on the album is White’s loving take on the classic country standard, “Lost Highway” that was originally written and recorded by blind country music artist Leon Payne and has also famously been covered by Hank Williams and Willie Nelson among others. And he holds his own among his esteemed peers, even adding an additional verse of his own to give the song his own unique trademark. The eleven track album closes out with the Southern Gospel-soaked “Show Me The Light Again”, in which White displays his Christian faith with a message of hope, which is set to close knit three part vocal harmonies from vocalists, Susan Shore and Emily Kaitz providing the beautiful female counterparts.
With his interesting lyrical storytelling and the memorable Americana-laced melodies and stellar songwriting, Effron White sure makes it easy to settle in for the long haul with his new album, Long Haul.
Artist: Effron White
Album: Long Haul
Reviewed by: Justin Kreitzer
3 1/2 Stars