Last fall, award winning songwriter Effron White introduced a monthly songwriters in the round series called “Songs In The ’Ville” to host local and touring songwriters. On June 24, White is bringing in two Nashville players, two-time Grammy winner Carl Jackson and Jerry Salley.
Jackson won his first Grammy in 1992, for his duet album with John Starling, titled “Spring Training.” In 2003 Jackson produced the Grammy winning CD “Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers,” a tribute to Ira and Charlie Louvin.
He also recorded one of the songs on the CD, which features artists like James Taylor, Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris.
In 1990, he earned the International Bluegrass Music Association’s “Song of the Year” for “Little Mountain Church House,” which was recorded by Ricky Skaggs and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. His songs have been performed or recorded by Glen Campbell, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and others.
Salley, a top-shelf songwriter, has had 300 songs recorded including “I’m Gonna Take That Mountain” (Reba McEntire), “Breaking New Ground” (Wild Rose), “I Fell in the Water” (John Anderson), “How Do You Sleep at Night” (Wade Hayes) and ten Top 20 gospel songs.
In 2003, he was voted the SESAC Country Music Songwriter of the Year.
Joining Jackson, Salley and White for the Fayetteville show will be “Red Dirt Diva” Monica Taylor of Perkins, Okla.
Taylor loves the songs of Oklahoma’s “Red Dirt” music scene and is a talented songwriter.
“There will most certainly be some great dynamic interaction between the artists presented in this round,” White said.
“This could be one of Fayetteville’s most significant musical events of the year.”
A History of Songwriters In the Round
By Effron White
Nashville supposedly saw the first Songwriters “In the Round” in 1985 at the now famous Bluebird Café. The Bluebird had been presenting “Writers Nights” on a small stage since it opened its doors in 1982.
These nights were attracting established and up-and-coming songwriters, and when artist Kathy Mattea got a record deal after only playing the Bluebird regularly for a few months, the venue became THE place to perform
one’s original material.
One night, the story goes, two established hit songwriters, Don
Schlitz and Fred Knobloch, were out drinking when they came up with a
new twist on the writers night format. They thought, “Let’s put four
chairs in the middle of the room, facing each other, turn the lights
around, and see what happens.”
The first “In the Round” show was on March 29, 1985 with Schlitz, Knobloch, Tom Schuyler, and Paul Overstreet. The format, in which the artists spent the evening taking turns playing and telling stories, surrounded by an appreciative, listening audience, was a great success and it became the Bluebird’s official way of presenting songs and songwriters to music lovers.
After visiting Nashville a few times and performing at various “Writers Nights”, including two Bluebird “In the Rounds,” I decided to present a Bluebird-like
showcase in Fayetteville. I actually used elements of the Bluebird format, and a similar “In the Round” that I’d played in Murfreesboro, Tenn. called “Music in the ‘Boro.”
The first “Songs in the ‘Ville – Songwriters In the Round” was held last August at the UARK Ballroom (formerly the UARK Bowl), on Dickson
Street. The first guest writers were Jim Patton and Sherry Brokus from Austin, Kelly Mullhollan and Donna Stjerna, from Fayetteville and Patrick Williams from Afton, Oklahoma. The first show was a great success and paved the way for subsequent shows, usually presented on the third Thursday of each month.
There have now been nine shows featuring acclaimed songwriters from all over the region, from Austin to Tulsa, to Nashville and in between.
I usually include at least one “local yokel” in a round as well. Doing this allows for some genuine connections between talents from afar and some our finest local talents. The traveling guests might go home and spread the word about our happening music scene, invoking amongst their peers, a greater curiosity about Northwest Arkansas’s rich musical spirit and the “Songs in the ‘Ville” series.
“Songs in the ‘Ville has hosted, among others, Brice Long, a multi-hit country
songwriter from Nashville; Kerrville New Folk Winner, Claudia Nygaard, also from Nashville; Steve Brooks, from Austin, currently nominated for the Texas Music Award’s Songwriter of the Year; and Lynn Adler of Winnsboro, Tex., winner of the B.W. Stephenson Song Competition. Oklahoma writers have been well-represented, with Don White, noted for his contributions to the “Tulsa Sound”; and “Red Dirt” writers, Greg Jacobs, Bill Erickson, Carter Sampson and Jubal
Lee Young. Some of the local talents have been Emily Kaitz, Tiffany Christopher, Marshall Mitchell, Candy Lee, Mike Bewley, Pearl Brick, and Fort Smith’s Brandon White.
One thing that’s different about “Songs in the ‘Ville” from a
Bluebird Café round, is the presence of a regular host, which is me.
At each show, I sit in with the group of three or four other writers, emceeing, and taking my turn performing, and engaging the group in interesting conversation. Each member of the round takes his turn playing a song and, perhaps, enlightening the audience about various aspects of his or her songwriting or career.
The audience gains some knowledge and insight into the working life of the writers, allowing them to develop an affinity with the artists during the course of the show. Listeners have the opportunity to purchase CDs by the artists to take home and enjoy.
Many first-time listeners at “Songs in the ‘Ville” leave with the feeling that they have never experienced anything quite as unique as this musical format. Once they’ve spent an evening with these tremendous writers and their songs, they find it hard not to return again and again.
All this takes place in the very comfortable surroundings of the UARK
Ballroom. A full bar is open during the show. No food is served.