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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE
Band Folk Rock


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"For Folks' Sake"

Alright, hands up; who amongst us drizzle soaked, mass marketed, 9-5 Brits have the image of country music firmly imbedded in chequered shirts, straw hay bails, and cowboy hats on everybody? I thought as much, and I too once followed this belief which was brought about by mocked images of seventies country musicians interspersed on TV programmes poking fun at the image, rather than talk about the music. But no more, I’ve fought for my education, and now let me help you destroy the image of a Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks, by introducing to you Headwater.

With their second album Lay You Down, the Canadians echo a melancholic Midwestern Americana with beautifully downbeat plucked guitar strings and distant vocals, as on album highlight ‘Pleasure And The Rhyme’ and the equally down trodden ‘Under The Rocks And Stones’. It’s the same beauty that’s reminiscent of Dolorean’s ‘Violence In The Snowy Fields’, as the vocal duties of Jonas Shandel and Matt Bryant echo a certain heart ache only experience and life can force upon you.

But for those who long for head-bobbing, knee-bending, thumbs-in-braces, fast-paced numbers, Headwater regularly break out the slide guitar and twang their banjo to create bittersweet thigh slapping moments of unadulterated country hysteria with the likes of ‘Brown Stone Road’ and ‘Picture Show’ bizarrely sounding like Lemonheads, if they wore cowboy hats everywhere.

While there is an audience for their racier numbers, to hear the beauty of a plucked banjo or a slowly strung guitar menacingly accompanying a youthful, yet experienced vocal, makes you realise where Headwater’s strength and progression will lay in the future. It may not be good for their mental states, but, for the good of music, the band should all grow beards, focus on all the hurt, pain, and despair the world can offer, and sing their broken hearts out. People may call it depressing, people may call it painful, but, after hearing the dusk-lit sadness on Lay You Down, the majority will call it a necessary beauty… and not a cowboy hat in sight.

Words: Peter Clark
- www.forfolkssake.com

""Lay You Down is a tremendous record...9/10""

What is it with Canada and roots-rock these days? The general consensus is that we're in a global recession, yet this writer can barely move for head-turning, country-influenced sounds flooding from the great northern continent just at the moment.

It seems British Columbia's HEADWATER are one of Canada's very best. This Vancouver quartet are based around the nucleus of singing/ song-writing duo Jonas Shandel (vocals, guitar, banjo) and Matt Bryant (vocals, mandolin, guitar) although their ultra-talented cohorts Patrick Metzger (upright bass) and Tim Tweedale (steel guitars) bring plenty to the table and when producer Marc L'Esperance gets behind the drums and Tyson Naylor makes like a young Garth Hudson on piano and organ we have one hell of a swingin' party getting starting.

Although Headwater look pretty youthful in their press shots, they've clearly worked this up the old-fashioned way, honing their craft everywhere from busking sessions on Vancouver's, er, mean streets through to festivals and theatre shows galore. Their diary is rarely empty and it's obvious why that's the case when you hear the embarrassment of riches making up their second album 'Lay You Down'.

It's one of those all-too rare records that truly does not put a foot wrong. Headwater excel at a variety of roots-related styles, proffering dead-on harmonies and superb musicianship which is riven with intuition throughout. They're more than capable of ramping up the drama, recalling the likes of Calexico of The Triffids on songs like the heavy and deceptively old-timey 'Death Of Me' and the stirring and atmospheric 'Only A Matter of Time' but they're equally adept at gentle, ballad-style excursions like 'Come & See Me' where guest Leah Abramson acts as a dignified vocal foil and the band's restrained playing is a joy for the ear to behold.

Headwater know their stuff where more traditional styles are concerned too. 'Brown Stone Road' delves very impressively into bluegrass with Tim Tweedale's Clarence White-style picking especially notable. The one cover, Fred Eaglesmith's 'Freight Train' is a rollicking country-rock outing with great skittering drums from L'Esperance, mean mandolin from Bryant and memorable lyrical imagery such as “I wish I hadn't got a heart, you'd need a shovelful of coal just to get me started.”

Ultimately, though, it's the quality of Shandel and Bryant's songs that ensures this band really stands out. Sure, they push all the right roots-related buttons, but it's evocative outings like 'The Drifter”s poised and descriptive update of the wandering Hobo's life and the sadness and resignation of the wonderful, closing 'Follow You Around' that will win them a place in the discerning roots aficionado's heart.

'Lay You Down' is a tremendous record. It respects old-time folk styles, injects them with a youthful and modern vitality and intuitively knows what sounds absolutely right. Its' creators may not – as yet – have the credibility cache of some of their American neighbours, but they are more than good enough to take on the best of 'em. All things considered, I doubt this will the last you'll hear of this lot. - www.whisperinandhollerin.com

"Maverick Magazine reviews Lay You Down"

"Headwater on their second record turn out a sound that is rooted in an old-time string band aesthetic while informed and typified by modern roots rock sensibilities. They're a hard-working group, busking in the streets prior to nightclub gigs, and this comittment to their craft manifests in some tight and very fine playing as well as a sense of cloesness and rapport between the players.

There is some excellent technical ability on display but Lay You Down is never reduced to a cold aesthetic excercise, rather it knows when to hold back and when to give its all. There are frenetic stomping runs through bluegrass territory, and sleepy shuffling ballads held afloat by gently lapping waves of pedal steel. Transitions between these different vibes and approaches sound completely organic and natural, owing to both the largely acoustic instrumentation and the comfortable familliar manner in which its played. The songs have been well practiced, but never to the point of being played by rote. They sound lived in rather than carefully mastered, all the effort that has gone into them sounds effortless. This all lends the record a personal dimension, a warmth that acts as counterpoint to the often melancholy songs. Think Great Lake Swimmers with a greater sense of momentum.

Headwater have turned out a very exciting record, exciting in the impressive musical ability evident thoughout, but more exciting in the way it never flaunted but rather lent to a bigger picture, a more personal and expansive statement - something of real worth." - http://www.maverick-country.com/

""The amazing match of two musical soulmates...""

These partners in musical crime have stolen my ears! As a reward for their return I offer one glowing review. Matt Bryant and Jonas Shandel’s voices are so similar you’d swear they’re brothers, or, if not, cosmically linked (in a cosmos of laidback roots music.) Turns out they’ve been friends since childhood.

The duo switches up guitar, banjo and mandolin, and have a rhythm section that rolls along at walking pace. Vancouver based, it seems they yearn to escape urbanity, just look at song titles like Lonely Trail, Out to the Country, and Nowhere Town.

From start to finish, this eight song debut has a mysterious, soothing feel; never invasive, never boasting. Gordon Lightfoot, Jack Johnson, and CSN come to mind, but Headwater’s defining feature is the amazing match of two musical soulmates. My Old Friend seems a very fitting title. Back to song one for another listen!”
- Penguin Eggs Magazine

"Georgia Straight - Lay You Down Review"

Headwater mashes up folk
By John Lucas


Lay You Down (Nowhere Town)

Okay, I admit it: the main reason I decided to review Headwater's album is because the cover has a really cool drawing on it, an X-ray–type image of a moose by Kate Zisman. Or maybe it's an elk—I'm not really up on my ungulates.

Anyhow, it wasn't a mistake to pick this disc up. Headwater is a folk act of prodigious talents, sometimes hewing close to old-timey string-band tropes (as on “Brown Stone Road”), occasionally veering into country (“Freight Train”), and even wandering into roots-rock territory (the Hammond B3–fortified “Death of Me”). It's obvious that whatever genre they choose, these guys can play the hell out of it, which means they'd probably do just as well at Bonnaroo as they would at the Mission Folk Music Festival. Catch them now, before the Deadheads find out about them.
- Georgia Straight Feb 2009

""...Quite simply it oozes class. 8/10""

Excellent roots album from old school chums.

Canadian band Headwater’s songs revolve around the singing partnership of old school friends, Matt Bryant and Jonas Shandel. ‘Lay You Down’ is their second album and quite simply it oozes class. Headwater know that the art to roots song-writing is to ensure that none of the songs outstay their welcome, while packing a mean melodic punch. The opening three tracks of the album (‘Death Of Me’, ‘Picture Show’ and ‘Brown Stone Road’) are as good an opening salvo as I have heard for quite some time. The pace slackens for the haunting ‘Under the Rocks and Stones’ before the band pick the tempo up with an excellent cover of Fred Eaglesmith’s, ‘Freight Train’

The band is fleshed out by Patrick Metzger, Tim Tweedale, Tyson Naylor and Marc Esperance, all of whom utilise traditional instrumentation sparingly to give these beautiful songs space to work their magic. It is no exaggeration to claim that ‘Lay You Down’ is one of the best albums these ears have heard over the past twelve months, and that any fan of sensitively played, beautifully sung roots music should seek these boys out as a matter of urgency.

Date review added: Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Reviewer: Dan Wilkinson

- www.americana-uk.com

"Irish World reviews Lay You Down"

ots, folk and country quartet Headwater hail from Vancouver BC, and they’re one of the busiest bands on Canada’s West Coast – with good reason.Their music, with its driving rhythms, adventurous mandolin and steel solos and gorgeous three-part harmonies, is hard to resist.

The incredible creative partnership of Jonas Shandle (guitar, banjo, vocals) and Matt Bryant (mandolin, vocals) began back in high school, when the pair would listen to the likes of Neil Young, John Hiatt and Peter Gabriel and dream of the future.

Since then they’ve been fleshed out by recruits Patrick Metzger on upright bass and steel guitarist Tim Tweedale, and the result is a sound that incorporates both cutting edge music and performance with traditional elements of country, bluegrass, old time and folk.

The group’s debut offering, My Old Friend, bought them a whole load of fans, but their new album Lay You Down should bring even more converts knocking. The fruit of work in the studio with producer Marc L’Esperance (Ray Condo, Linda McRae), it delves in and out of lush soundscapes and introduces a delicious element of rock sensibility to the old-timey string band genre.

Sounding tight as a drum, these guys have realised that much of the power of music arises from the ability to appreciate the silence in between the sound, and to pull beauty from the simplest of chords and sparsest of arrangements (and that in itself only works well if your instruments are played exquisitely, which they are here.

Beneath the sensitive musicianship, of course, lie some stonking good songs, which swing between hoe-down happy and snow blizzard bleak, with the ability to tease your emotions across the whole spectrum when you don’t even know they’re doing it.

With numbers addressing the universal themes of love, loss, death and love, Lay You Down is a beautiful piece of work, which shines a light on the considerable song-writing skills of Shandel and Bryant. Listen out for the Hammond B3 powered Death Of Me, the country-tinged Freight Train and the old-time sound on

Brown Stone Road

I’d never heard of this crew before and, I’ll be honest, wasn’t brimming with excitement when I put it in my stereo – but this album turned out to be one of the finest that’s landed on my desk this year, and I feel damn lucky I didn’t miss out on it. Lay You Down is a sophisticated master-class in the art of Americana roots. Take my advice, and seek this gorgeous album out at your nearest opportunity…

Lay Me Down (Nowhere Town Recs) is out May 18th.
- The Irish World www.theirishworld.com

""A seriously good album""

Hailing from Canada, you get the feeling that Headwater were one of those bands put together to get invited to parties and more importantly laid. I hope that aspect of the band worked out as well as their recording because this is a seriously good album. A sound that drifts across blues, bluegrass, folk, country and americana, featuring some sublime three part harmony and string work. Sex, drugs and transport are amongst the themes covered, sometimes in the same song. Canada has a habit of producing bands with this quality at their core. Introduce yourself to it, it's the polite thing to do. - Fatea Magazine

"Lonesome Highway - Lay You Down Review"

...Headwater are accomplished players and the collective voices are strong, the songs equally have the ability to lodge themselves in the collective consciousness in an undemanding way. These are not a set of songs that scream for your attention, rather they beckon you in and that is as it should be. Lay You Down is an album for and of these times and better than many more high profile releases covering similar ground. - Lonesome Highway - #6 - July '09?

"The Province - Lay You Down Review"

HEADWATER: Lay You Down (Nowhere Town Records)

Dark, ominous slide guitar opens the first track, "Death of Me," and this pulsing anti-love song sets a tone for the next 10 tracks on this local band's fine second CD. Not that the whole disc is bleak. Far from it. "Brown Stone Road" is an upbeat stomp and "Pleasure and the Rhyme" is almost Celtic in its air. What the opening tune does is set the bar really high in terms of playing, songs and the impeccable harmonies which are this quintet's strength. For such young men, this group sounds exceptionally seasoned. Exactly the way hard work and talent should come together.

Grade: A

-- Stuart Derdeyn - The Province Newspaper


My Old Friend - 2006

Lay You Down - 2008



Hearing Headwater is like listening to the West Coast of Canada in song. Freewheeling, fierce, sentimental and sexy, the Vancouver, B.C., quartet has earned its reputation as one of the finest acoustic roots groups around the old-fashioned way.

They work their asses off.

Since forming in 2001, the group has logged in thousands of kilometres criss-crossing Western Canada and playing to anyone and everyone willing to give it some love. With hooks, driving rhythms, adventurous steel guitar and mandolin solos, and beautiful three-part vocal harmonies all featured in tight, concise under four-minute songs, they found fans fast. Or they roped them in at first, street busking before gigs rather than hanging out waiting for crowds to come to them.

This is a band of musicians who do what they do because nothing else would be right. No rock star wannabees aloud.

Jonas Shandel (guitar, banjo, vocals) and Matt Bryant (mandolin, vocals) started writing songs together in grade school in North Vancouver. They had an electric power trio where Shandel drummed and Bryant did six-string duty and all that really came out of that experience was frustration over volume and never finding a vocalist that fit.

"We couldn't find a reliable singer, so we said screw this, we'll do it," says Shandel.

Unplugging and getting their strum on proved the best thing the two young musicians ever did. Turns out that both were exceptionally gifted singers whose songwriting really differed yet held true to the pair’s collective love of Peter Gabriel, Neil Young and John Hiatt. When instict said it was the right time, they conscripted steel guitarist Tim Tweedale and Patrick Metzger on upright bass to record 2006’s My Old Friend. The debut garnered stellar reviews and gave the guys a document to leave for fans hungry for more. Two of these early tunes that still get folks singing along in concert, the loping “Lonely Trail” and full-on boogie down “Out To The Country.” The hired guns enjoyed gigging so much they never left.
"We hired a band to play behind us on the first album and we formed a group," adds Bryant.

After hundreds of dates road-testing tunes to find only the best, it was to time to record album two. Enter producer and frequent guest drummer Marc L'Esperance, (Po'Girl, Ray Condo, Linda McRae) to craft the lush soundscapes of 2008’s Lay You Down.

Tackling themes of death, loss, and of course, love, this CD solidifies Headwater as one of Canada's strongest young folk and country acts.

"We're happy with both CDs, but the new one raises the bar in every way," says Shandel. "Particularly in the vocals, which we're pretty obsessive about."

"It’s 11 examples of what we can do, well, and we hope it's cool for people," says Bryant.