Review Mississippi Chris Sharp 8/24/21
CD: Retro Man
Artist: Jake Vaadeland CD
I had the pleasure to make the acquaintance of Jake Vaadeland (pronounced VOD-luhn) at the 2019 Monroe Mandolin Camp in Monteagle, Tennessee. He had the ’50s country look, from the clothes he wore, the string tie, the Lester Flatt thumb pick guitar strum, to the pomaded pompadour hair-cut. He cut a foppish figure and seemed to have stepped right off of a Greyhound Scenic Cruiser double-decker bus, fresh from the fertile plains of Saskatchewan, bound for Music City with a pocket full of songs, a guitar, and the dog-eared stub of a one-way ticket. Jake had just enough attitude to let you know that he wasn’t kidding, not that there was any disrespect or brashness; instead, he seemed to have a healthy dose of bravado and svelte, and a double dose of knowing who he was and where he wanted to go while working out for himself how to get there. These are all admirable traits. Whether Jake’s persona is a put-on invention for show business, or the real him, he wears it well and makes it credible. I admire that.
When I heard that Jake had an EP CD, Retro Man, which has six original songs, I knew I had to have it. I expected a lot, and I was rewarded with more than expected, which is what I long for in any music.
The six songs are:
- House and Pool
- Every Night I Have a Dream
- I’m in a Rush
- Be a Farmer or a Preacher
- Father’s Son
- Retro Man
Original music is far less safe than performing covers of songs everyone knows and loves. In any venue, while the band may have some objections to playing any one of a dozen well-worn but much-loved covers, “Rocky Top,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Wagon Wheel,” “Free Bird,” et. al., an animated crowd is liable to erupt in applause at the sound of the first chord of any of these songs. Original music, music the crowd has never heard before, is much riskier. The crowd has nothing to compare it to, and they have to listen. Sometimes listening requires effort. Effort may not be what the crowd has in mind.
Jake risked a lot with Retro Man, but risk carries with it the promise of the great reward that can never be achieved playing it safe. Congratulations, Jake. Rewards are inbound with their own one-way ticket.
How does one describe this music? It definitely falls in the rock-a-billy category, old (50’s) country, and Jake’s strong steeping in Bluegrass finds itself just below the surface. One could call this Americana, but in this case, Canadiana might be more appropriate. I hear Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, echoes of Earl Scruggs in Jake’s guitar playing, Johnny Horton, and, of course, Tommy Hunter; but the look is all Faron Young. At the Mandolin Camp, I dubbed him “Young Faron.” He liked that.
My favorites are “Retro Man,” “Father’s Son,” “Every Night I Have a Dream,” and the haunting “Be a Farmer or a Preacher,” which gave me goosebumps. Jake gives us a vision of growing up in rural Saskatchewan with “Father’s Son,” which no doubt makes his father, Gord, even prouder of him. The acorn, they say, falls not far from the tree. “Every Night I Have a Dream” would have been a perfect duet for Phil and Don, or Ira and Charlie.
“Retro Man” sums up Jake. It is his theme song, telling us a lot about himself, far more than I can relate with my words. He’s a Retro Man with a Retro Plan.
Justin Bloudoff’s steel guitar on “Be a Farmer or a Preacher” is riveting. The rest of the band lays the music in there, unadorned and uncomplicated, to compliment Jake’s songs and singing. Percussionist Ian Dickson manages to give us some great drums without beating on them: Salute!
Jake also has another CD called The Cabin in the Valley, recorded with his friend and music partner, Ira Amundson, whom I also met at the Mandolin Camp. That CD is straight ahead Bluegrass, and I am proud to have an autographed copy.
Retro Man is available on Spotify and through all major music outlets. You can find Jake and his band, The Sturgeon River Boys, on Facebook, where previews of his music can be heard, or at his website, jakevaadeland.com.
There is a lot of talent here, major talent. The future is bright for Jake Vaadeland, who just graduated from high school and turned eighteen this past spring. I wish all eighteen-year-olds could know their own mind. Jake sure does.
And he’s willing to risk it being himself.
Mississippi Chris Sharp