A dynamic acoustic band bringing old notes to original songwriting and new notes to old. Close harmonies backed by mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and bass. Wanigan’s name is taken from the annual log drive that used to take place each year down the North Fork of the Clearwater River. The wanigan served as both sleeping quarters and cook shack for the men who worked on the river, risking their lives to free the logs every spring.
Wanigan has become known for its wealth of story songs inspired by our ancestors, the areas they encountered, and the obstacles they overcame. The band’s repertoire is always growing and features many original works in addition to bluegrass, Gospel, and folk classics. “We like to describe our sound as ‘bluegrass, etc.’ due to other stylistic influences that come peeking through every once in awhile (Folk, Celtic, Appalachian, Blues, etc.),” says Jason.
In 2008, Wanigan released Brand New Day, a ten-song debut album featuring a number of original story songs about encountering change. Better in a Different Way, for example, was inspired by Warren’s grandmother and all who endure hard times with grace. The album also features some classic bluegrass and old-time numbers, including Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Arizona Waltz, and Hamilton Country Breakdown.
Wanigan’s second album released in 2013, Firefly, was a landmark project featuring story songs about a number of individuals who set out to chase their dreams. The title track further cemented the band’s eclectic sound with its elements of zydeco, in celebration of dreams of the southeastern United States; and the progressive bluegrass sounds of The Fiddle’s Playin’ You and The Ridgerunner. Tight three- and four-part harmonies are featured on many of the tracks, including Who Lived Here, Jackson Sundown, and Love at the Five and Dime. The band’s signature sound was further clarified and grown through the remarkable gifts of guitarist, mandolinist, and songwriter Mike Haberman, whose vocals, fills and solos bring a professionalism and clarity to every song on the album. Among other tracks on the album, Mike wrote One of the Few (The Wanigan Song), an homage to the men who worked, lived and died on the Clearwater River.
Wanigan has ranged from a four- to a six-piece or more band over the years. The band was started by lead singer and guitarist Warren Akin and mandolin player Tim Gundy in 2006, soon joined by banjoist Dale Vallandigham, bassist Denis Hackwith, and violinist Jason Hackwith in 2007.
In 2015, guitarist and mandolinist Mike Haberman moved to accept a new position in northwestern Washington; and in 2016, our beloved longtime banjo player and vocalist Dale Vallandigham retired from the band.
Banjo, guitar and mandolin player Adam Leavitt (formerly of the band Higher Ground), hopped on board in 2017. His brilliant playing and singing is only the tip of the iceberg of enormous talent. Adam’s skills with arrangement, theory, and musicianship have proven a vital asset.
In 2018, fiddle player Jason Hackwith moved away chasing teaching jobs in the North Cascades and the Oregon coast, and the band performed off and on as Wanigan Express when Jason wasn’t available for gigs. Like many bands, Wanigan took a hiatus during the Covid crisis. In 2022, Jason moved back to the Lewis-Clark Valley and the band began rehearsing together again. Armed with a brand new repertoire and new arrangements of beloved classics, the band has a breath of new life.
“I’m so excited, I just can’t tell you,” says Jason. “All of us have been traumatized to one degree or another over the past three years. We’re working all of that out through amazing new music and a renewed committment to each other. Hard times have only made us stronger and I just can’t wait to see what comes next.”
For all Wanigan’s albums, concert schedule, store, and all the latest information on the band, be sure to bookmark Wanigan.net.
MANDOLIN AND VOCALS. In addition to being a killer mandolin player, Tim is about the humblest guy you’ll ever meet. He just rocks, but you’d never hear it from him! Tim is an amazing musician, husband and father, and a superb track and cross country coach. He is often found running around Clarkston, WA.
BASS, MANDOLIN and VOCALS. Born in a musical family, Denis has been playing bluegrass, folk, and other roots music his entire life. He’s an incredibly solid bass fiddle player who adds the foundation to all of our music. We also like to bring him forward to show off his mandolin style. Denis is retired and playing as much music as he can in the lovely town of Lewiston, ID.
VIOLIN, GUITAR, MANDOLIN, VOCALS, ETC. Jason, Denis’ son, also grew up playing roots music, but branched into all kinds of musical styles throughout his life (everything from opera to alt rock) and has been writing funky, bluesy-folk/acoustic rock music since high school. When he isn’t playing bluegrass, he is writing and teaching music in the little town of Darrington, WA.
Once a Wanigan artist, always a Wanigan artist. All of our members emeritus are always welcome at our gigs, and you never know who might show up!
BANJO AND VOCALS
Dale’s technique is just superb, providing just the right rolls, fills and solos that color our sound so well. He’s also a killer vocalist (with barbershop quartet experience), a songwriter, and an outstanding yodeler. Dale retired from the band in 2016.
GUITAR, MANDOLIN, AND VOCALS
An excellent guitarist, mandolin player, and songwriter, Mike is a veteran musician with a family full of outstanding musicians. Mike moved to the Bellingham, WA area in 2015.