Best known as the driving force behind Headwater, the Vancouver-based acoustic roots band, Jonas Shandel has produced a seven-track mini album all of his own, and a very fine effort he has made of it too. Each track is a lovely haunting ballad full of Shandel’s excellent voice. Although perhaps on a full album it would be good to add a little variety, on this mini one it all works fine. For fans of Headwater, this is a very different, far more melodic production with Shandel obviously wanting to show that he can produce his own sound.
Shandel wrote six of the tracks, with the final track on the album being a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Mercy Street” – not surprisingly Shandel names Gabriel as a major influence. Of the other Headwater band members, Tim Tweedale plays steel guitar throughout whilst Matt Bryant contributed his mandolin playing to “Burial Ground”. There is no standout track on the album, possibly because they do all sound vaguely the same, but also because each track is as good as the next.
If the album has a weakness, it is perhaps that it is over-produced, with too much reliance on backing instrumentation rather than allowing Shandel’s excellent voice to take its rightful place. It is interesting to note that the album was produced by Matthew Rogers who also provides much of the backup music. All in all, though, it’s a relatively small complaint and perhaps as he grows in confidence and gets used to the solo concept Shandel will be more willing to take chances.
For those wishing to see Shandel, he will be touring the UK in October with Headwater.