Country Music People May 2019 - Page 23

F or most of us, our idea of a ‘Southern Gentleman’ is most likely shaped by Colonel Sanders or Gone With The Wind. However, Alabama native Dee White’s debut introduces him as just that, and with a Dan Auerbach production that tips its hat to the classic sounds while looking to the future, it does so in fine style. Pictures of small town life in the lakeside community of the wonderfully named Slapout, Alabama and a life spent on or around the water are captured perfectly on White’s album Southern Gentleman. With its classy down-hominess and already an end-of-year list contender, Southern Gentleman features swooping arrangements and quality songs steeped in tradition for full flavour but with a dash of the unexpected brought into the mix. The history that the musicians bring to the table is frequently evident across the record. Among those assembled by Auerbach (pronounced “hour-back” confirms White) are Bobby Wood (keyboardist for Elvis Presley and Garth Brooks), Bubba Chrisman (drummer on Dusty Springfield’s Son Of A Preacher Man), and Billy Sanford (the man behind Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman guitar riff) and along with songs that live up to the promise of White’s, “We were just trying to write standards,” statement, Southern Gentleman delivers on all fronts. Dee White’s debut is impressive by any standards, but for a 21-year-old, even more so. “This is about my fifth year singing and writing songs. I started when I was 16 and I just turned 21,” says White matter-of-factly. It hasn’t hurt having the legendary music mogul Harold Shedd (signed and produced Alabama, produced Reba’s first gold record, former head of Mercury Records) as a mentor. Even though Shedd has been an octogenarian for a number of years, he spotted something special in the then teenager. “Harold is the reason that I do music I think,” says White in his likeable Alabama drawl. “That I had the confidence to pursue it was because of Harold. If I’d not have had that relationship I probably never would have taken the plunge. It’s different being outside of Nashville. Even somewhere as close as Alabama, it’s just… The whole idea of coming up and doing music for a living, which is an every day thing in Nashville, ‘cause everyone seems like they’re here to do that, it’s kind of risky… It’s like the Big Rock Candy Mountains [a hobo’s image of paradise portrayed in the folk song], that’s how I like to put it.” Dan Auerbach has also provided mentorship for the young water-loving singer. Travelling to Nashville more and more frequently White would co-write with the producer but Auerbach also put the word out to songwriters in town with an appreciation of the classics. These writers would then be rotated on writing sessions giving each song an individuality. Punctuated by lyrics about “going down to the water hole” and White’s own song Ol’ Muddy River along with the odd reference to skinny dipping, Southern Gentleman is full of Southern imagery of time spent on and around the lakes and rivers of White’s home area. A competitive fisherman who spent any free time during his high school years out on the water, White agrees that it’s very much his life, laughing, “Hah! Maybe not the skinny dipping, but absolutely. I grew up on a lake and in the summertimes I was down on the Gulf Coast, and all I did was fish. If I wasn’t so busy with music that would probably still be all I did. But I still try to go when I can.” MAY 2019 - cmp 23