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Getting to the musical roots

Vancouver-based folk country group, Headwater, to headline eighth annual Brackendale Bluegrass Festival



What: Brackendale Bluegrass Festival

When: Friday, April 30, 8 p.m. to Saturday, May 1

Where: Brackendale Art Gallery

Cost: $20 each day + $10 for Saturday's jam session; $35 two-day tickets

Going into its eighth year, the annual Brackendale Bluegrass Festival seems to be gathering steam, bringing new groups from outside the community into its fold to feature during the two-day event.

The festival features an assortment of bands that fit under the loose umbrella of bluegrass, a genre with deep roots, an amalgam of country, ragtime and jazz that features fiddle, five-string banjo, acoustic guitar, mandolin, upright bass and resonator guitar, coupled to create toe-tapping, twangy rhythms and melodic harmonies.

And this year, the first day of the festival is headlined by Headwater, a West Coast acoustic roots group featuring Jonas Shandel on guitar, banjo and vocals, Matt Bryant on mandolin and vocals, Tim Tweedale on steel guitar and Patrick Metzger on upright bass.

On Monday afternoon, the group was in the midst of shooting a music video for their "manly, folk-version" of Katy Perry's hit, I Kissed A Girl, which also features Shandel's $25 1981 K-Car. Sound intriguing? You should be able to check it out on YouTube in about three weeks.

Shandel and Bryant have been making music together for almost 10 years, though for the first few they were members of an electric group.

"Basically, I was playing drums and Matt was playing electric guitar and we had a bass player and a singer, and we just couldn't find a reliable singer and we were kind of playing music that audiences weren't really attracted to, because it was kind of wanky, progressive rock," Shandel said with a laugh.

They found they needed to make a stronger vocal connection with listeners, so they decided to unplug, go acoustic and take over the songwriting and vocals themselves.

"Finally, we fired our band and decided to just start writing our own songs and singing them."

The decision naturally led them to transition to an entirely new sound of country-infused folk.

"It came kind of naturally, and we worked at it pretty hard. I think because of the kind of music we were listening to - we were listening to really good songwriters, good lyricists and stuff - we just sort of took a lot from them and kind of followed the path," Shandel reflected.

These days, they find themselves listening to indie artists like Jose Gonzalez and TV On The Radio and the same classic rock artists like Peter Gabriel and Tom Petty that got them started.