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Poking Holes In the Darkness: Park Valley Bluegrass Prodigies Jake & Ira

By Scott Roos

Park Valley bluegrass prodigies Jake Vaadeland and Ira Amundson, better known as the sensational duo Jake & Ira have achieved something truly magical with their latest full length effort The Cabin In the Valley. The record, a combination of bluegrass standards and original compositions shows a preservationist care and attention to detail that belies the ages of Vaadeland and Amundson who are both still in their teens.

“Ira and I grew up in a very musical community. We were surrounded by Bluegrass music where we grew up. Even in church service Bluegrass instruments were played and still are. But the day I heard the sounds of Flatt & Scruggs, Earl Scruggs and his five string banjo and Lester Flatt’s unique guitar picking, I knew I wanted to make my living playing that beautiful music for other people,” said Vaadeland in a recent interview with NSMZ.

“My dad always played music and of course it crept into me when I was little. He would play the guitar and sometimes the banjo, and I always liked it. My grandpa also played and so did his fathers and so on. That’s where I learnt about the original Flatt and Scruggs, the Carter Family, and that kind of music. There is no replacement,” explained Amundson.

On The Cabin In the Valley, not only does their passion shine through but so does their astonishing virtuosity. Their playing is tasteful as well, with carefully crafted nods to the bygone years of bluegrass and their musical heroes. As an added tip of the cap to the “old ways” the entire record was recorded on analogue tape to give it a more organic, gritty sound.

“Recording onto analogue tape really brings back the full sound that you just don’t hear anymore. It’s sort of a sweet sound, it’s not so compressed and harsh. We wanted to record this way mostly because we want it to sound like those old records that made us want to play this music. But also, we want to sound unique and different than everybody else,” explained Vaadeland.

“It completely follows along with our system of doing things like they did at the start. No one else records quite like us either. It all makes us more unique and that’s how we like it. We don’t want to be a ‘generic bluegrass band’,” added Amundson.

At the end of the day, these young men continue to evolve their sound and overall style. This latest effort from the duo, with the addition of the capable Jaxon Lalonde on bass, proves that bluegrass continues to be a main source of cultural inspiration in their neck of the woods. They are still crafting and refining their stage presence and vocal aesthetic but, if The Cabin in the Woods is any indication, Jake & Ira have taken the initial steps on a very unique journey and the sky is indeed the limit for both of them. In these COVID times they have been lights poking holes in the darkness, reminding us all that even though we can’t necessarily have live music the way we would like, we can still enjoy all the truths and the beauty that music has to offer via the zeal, fervor and enthusiasm that Jake & Ira bring to the table.

*pics of Jake & Ira Courtesy of Deanna Roos and Contingent Colours photography

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