Chemistry and howling audience at folk club show

December 3, 2015

I think it is safe to say that the Salt Spring Folk Club has probably provided the island community with some of the best musical acts anywhere over the years. It was founded by Bill Henderson of Chiliwack fame and Valdy of folk legend status.

I have heard tell that the sound wizard responsible for the outstanding acoustics at O2, the famous music auditorium in London, England, can also be credited with the great sound vibes at Fulford Hall where the Salt Spring Folk Club concerts have be held over the years. (On Salt Spring Island, it is good to take anything with a — well — grain of salt, mind you. Stories tend to expand into larger than life tales that could be true but, on the other hand, might not be.)

I reveiwed many of the Salt Spring Folk Club offerings and always tried to challenge myself into saying something particularly interesting and unique about the acts.

Here is one of my pieces:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

March 10, 2010

Chemistry and howling audience at folk club show: Equal billing for two acts experiment a hit

by Tanya Lester

The two acts performing at the Salt Spring Folf Club last Monday were like book ends celebrating the splendid range of the folk music genre.

Bruce Brackney, accompanied by Rick Van Krugel, has two generations on the Headwater band members, who balanced the club’s first-ever double bill.

On the surface, the two groups have a lot in common. Both skillfully play a variety of stringed instruments, sing, tell stories and have songs about trains in their repertoire. That is where the similarities end, as there was so much more involved in how each act enthralled those packed into Fulford Hall.

Brackney is a charismatic octogenarian who “kicked around the American West” playing the same venues as Utah Phillips and other greats, as well as performing on the Prairie Home Companion radio program and with groups like Rose Tattoo before moving to Canada in 1983.

He described one of his contemporary’s music as being “hokum as a genre,” which “has a lot to do with bombast and yadda yadda.” This perfectly sums up Brackney’s own story telling — that seems to venture over the line into the talltale variety– and musical offerings. Songs like Ragged but Right with lines like “my clothes are made from zebra skins right out of the zoo” are mostly nonsensical.

Brackney, with Van Krugel as side-kick, coaxed the audience into howling like dogs and even got Raffi, of Baby Beluga fame, up to yodel in accompaniment with their ditties.

Still, their performance was not all fun and games. Like the old-timers who mentored them, many of their stories and songs were politicalfrom a working-class activist point of view. One song chronicaled the orphans who were put on trains and sent out to the western United States with the possibility of being adopted when they arrived. Brackney was among them.

Another song, in which the audience was instructed to join in with the “it’s bullshit” chorus included the lines “make a little money, make a little war, but do it in the name of the Lord.”

These songs reminded me why folk music is important. It helps people to take a break from painful aspects of their lives and inspires them to bring about positive change.

Headwater opened with a song showcasing the perfect voice of band member Jonas Shandel. Right from the start, it was clear the four musicians really complemented each others’ obvious strengths on their stringed instruments of choice.

These 20-30-something musicians are all outstanding, but if I had to select one for first place, Tim Tweedale on his steel guitar would get my nod.

To be fair, Shandel and Matt Bryant wrote most of the band’s songs and, along with Patrick Metzger on upright bass, have the gift of enjoyable banter down to a bit of a fine art. This band has chemistry.

Their folk, roots and blues music fits with the depth of their song lyrics, often spiked with references to love and the tension of intimate relationships.

Their lyrics, and the high-powered music that goes with them, reflect the lives of young men who biting off a large chunk of life. In fact, Vienna, Austria is the last place they played before wowing everyone at Fulford Hall.

With Shandel and Bryant having survived a rock band before putting together this folk group, their background bled through in a t least one piece with the four intensely belting out to rock the place.

Anyone who has not experienced Headwater, who played in Centennial Park during the Saturday market last summer and at Moby’s Pun, needs to make the effort to see them live. Second to or in addition to that buy their CDs: My Old Friend and Lay You Down.

The verdict on the folk club board’s decision to try a double bill? It worked very well….


Tanya Lester is the author of four books including Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader, is a psychic reader specializing in tea leaf, tarot, psychic channelling and mediumship and housesits. To get a reading or arrange a housesit with her, go to her website at


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