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Effie father-son duo turn simple life into country sound

Jason Waldron and his son, Blake, are products of a northern, nearly off-the-grid, lifestyle.

Jason and Blake Waldron holding guitars
Jason, left, and Blake Waldron, of Effie, Minn.
Contributed / Wililyn Peralta Dowell
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ITASCA COUNTY — In Effie, Minnesota, a rural community with a population of a bit over 100, on the northern peak of state Highway 38, a 43-year-old father and his 17-year-old son are making a name for themselves as they travel from one small town to another, performing sets of classic county genre as The Jason Waldron Band.

Effie, named after the daughter of its first postmaster, gained national attention in 2020 when the infamous Effie North Star Stampede Rodeo continued its annual event despite statewide COVID-19 restrictions. It was a curious conflict in an area where broadband doesn’t exist and satellite cellphone coverage is spotty at best. A tasty meal at the downtown Effie Cafe may have had one overhearing topics of government overreach while enjoying the homecooked special of the day.

Attendees of the North Star Stampede were asked to monitor for symptoms and limit social interactions.

Jason Waldron and his son, Blake, are products of this northern, nearly off-the-grid, lifestyle. Jason’s father, Gary, manages the Waldron family farm, which was honored with a Century Farm award for being a working farm of over 100 years, with more than 50 acres. His mother, Margie, a craftswoman and fiber artist, has been recognized for her traditional wool spinning coming right from the family’s sheep flock. Mother Nature was the backdrop of Jason’s youth, where he was taught that work ethic was physical labor and country grit.

In his teen years, Jason took it upon himself to tow his grandfather’s old wooden grainery out to the middle of a field, where he promptly installed a new floor and branded it home. Heated with a barrel stove, the 16-by-10-foot building, with side walls only 4 feet high, had no windows. Jason created a 1.5-acre garden and had two milking cows, striking independence and the start of a simple life.

Jason enjoyed singing, was active in Bigfork High School with music and time on the drums. He never learned to read music, but took to it by ear and by feel. He learned to play the guitar when he was 27 years old. A single father raising his family of three, ages 12-17, as a Jack (perhaps Jason) of all trades, he is skilled in everything pertaining to living rustically and ruggedly — logging, farming, hunting, syrup harvesting, woodwork, carpentry — all a part of his wheelhouse. His most recent task has been disassembling the wooden floors of the old Effie school, preserving part of his own childhood history.

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Jason and Blake Waldron 2 play guitar
Blake Waldron, left, and his father, Jason Waldron, of Effie, Minn., play classic country music.
Contributed / Pam Dowell

Northern area music veterans assisted Jason in forming a band several years ago. He has performed under a few different names with varying local talent, opening shows (Grand Jam 2019); providing performances by outdoor alternative means (Reif Performing Arts Center, Grand Rapids) during COVID-19 interruptions; volunteering time to play for worthy causes; and finally returning to venues, this time with his 17-year-old son and a new moniker, Jason & Blake.

Blake, a tall, thin, striking young man sporting mirrored shades and white cowboy hat, owns the electric guitar with prancing movements, fretting into a shred or a riff, Blake’s backdrop provides the color for this tightly knit father-son team. Blake shyly admits he isn’t the singer — that is his dad’s job — but one look from each of them to another, and the musical gift between a generation is clear. They play for the music: Every twinkle, smile or blush from the audience applause presents their genuine affection toward one another and their love for performing.

Jason, tall, thin and equally striking with perfect posture in his ropers and Western wear, strums the guitar with precision and harmony. The Jason Waldron Band enjoys playing cover songs by Tyler Childers, Hank Williams x3, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Johnny Rivers, to a bit of rock crossover with Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana and most recently, The Beatles. Jason’s low range has a pitch perfect comparison to Cash, the man in black. He pulls off the high notes of Paul McCartney’s ballad “Yesterday” soulfully to the ache of every relationship that has ever ended in heartbreak.

Jason and Blake are hoping to extend their performance travels around Minnesota. Jason, with multiple irons in the fire, remains detached from most contemporary social media (the lack of good internet service plays a role in this) such as Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. His off-grid low profile remains busy through steadfast word-of-mouth referrals. You can find audience-taped Jason Waldron Band brewhouse performances on YouTube. Jason maintains a personal Facebook page as well.

If ever on scenic drive up north, especially during rodeo weekend, a stop at The Neighborhood Tavern in Effie may find you listening to the great country sound of Jason and Blake Waldron, products of a simple life.

Pam Dowell is a freelance writer from Grand Rapids specializing in human interest stories.

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