Sunday, March 22, 2020

Bluegrass Music – Amundsons and Vaadelands, Saskatchewan Talent

The tiny farming and ranching community of Park Valley, up against the west side of Prince Albert National Park, is a few km from the closest town, Debden (330 people) and an hour to Prince Albert. Park Valley may be small, but it has produced some fine people and some fine musical talent.

The Amundson Family (, goes back four generations since they immigrated from Norway. I’ve known the grandfather, Irwin since I was a teenager and son Darryl since he was a teenager. Now Darryl and his kids are performing bluegrass and old-time gospel music. Darryl plays 5-string banjo, guitar, mandolin, and bass. His daughter, Sonora is 17 and plays fiddle, mandolin, and bass for the band. She also plays the piano. Son Ira is 15 and plays banjo and guitar for the band. Nate is 11 and plays mandolin and bass for the band. Anna is 8 and learning fiddle.  They have 2 albums available on CD and most digital formats such as iTunes, Spotify, CDBaby, etc. Their newest project will be out in the next two weeks.

Here are the Amundson Family and Jake and Ira performing at Telemiracle

Darryl (5-string banjo) and a friend, Gord Vaadeland (guitar), started playing together in high school and then added Darryl’s dad (mandolin) and a friend, Ken Olsen (guitar), and The Baler Strings were born. They were mainly bluegrass gospel, and all shared in the lead vocals and harmony. The group recorded a couple of tapes and performed throughout the 1990s including some fairly well-known festivals, including the Blueberry Bluegrass Festival near Edmonton in 1996. Bill Monroe was one of the feature guests and it was his last major event before he died. Darryl had met Bill Monroe in Nashville a few years prior and the band jammed with him one evening. The band broke up when Darryl and Gord grew up and moved on with their lives.

Now Darryl’s son, Ira (15) and Gord’s son, Jake (16) have formed a bluegrass duo called, simply enough Jake and Ira Music ( Ira gets his talent from two generations of Amundsons. Jake gets his musical talent from both parents. Gord’s current band is more of a cowpunk kind of thing (blend of rockabilly, outlaw country, and rock) called One Bridge Town (named after PA). He plays guitar and does the singing and songwriting. Jake's mom, Sheila also plays guitar and sings, and currently plays in a Celtic band called Back of the Bus.

Jake and Ira are highly proficient on both guitar and 5-string banjo and as old fashioned bluegrass as they can get. They wear “Stanley Brothers” suits (black suits, white shirts, and red bow ties), sing the old songs and often record their videos in black and white. They recorded their first album “Dueling Banjos” on reel to reel (available on CD) and if they get enough orders will make a vinyl LP record. (From the looks of it, they even tackled their own webpage

The boys practice in a local church basement, putting 10 to 20 minute videos on YouTube. They have played at several bluegrass festivals and will be playing (along with the Amundson Family) at the Northern Lights Bluegrass Festival and the Blueberry Bluegrass Festival this year, Good Lord and coronavirus willing, been interviewed on CTV and CBC TV, performed at Telemiracle a couple of times and in many local halls across northern Saskatchewan.

This is an early video of Jake and Ira before Jake got his Faron Young hairdo.

Last fall Ira won a scholarship to the Bill Monroe Mandolin Camp (  so Jake signed up too and the dads went along for the ride. All the essential bluegrass instruments are taught at every level by well-known professionals along with bluegrass harmony singing. The last day, several of the students performed with Ricky Skaggs at the Stationhouse. This video clip is of several youngsters (three girls and Jake and Ira) jamming in the evening. Well worth listening to. There are more Jake and Ira videos on their Facebook page than on YouTube.

Jake Vaadeland put together a second bluegrass band called "Jake and the Sturgeon River Boys", as he is freer to travel than Ira, and wants to play more than Ira is able to. Jake does his schooling online, has his driver's license and a car, etc. Ira is a year younger, still goes to public school and also has the family band. So, Jake started the second band to fill those gaps. This frees Jake up to take a few more shows, learn from new and more veteran players and keep getting more experience.


  1. Wow, such talented kids! I enjoyed this. :-)

  2. Diane, I am glad you did. The two boys should go far in the music world if they get some breaks.


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