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VANDAVEER is the song-singing, record-making, globetrotting project penned and put forth by folk-pop tunesmith Mark Charles Heidinger. Borned in cloudy Ohio, raised inKentucky, and currently camped out in the nation's capital, Vandaveer offers up melodicAmericanathat is both haunting and easy, forlorn and welcoming, with stories as universal as the songs they inhabit. Vandaveer shapeshifts from stage to studio and back with a host of revolving characters, most prominent among them Rose Guerin, offering up the loveliest harmonies heard this side of Eden.
The macabre has long held uneasy sway over the human condition. From ghost stories to creation myths, from CSI to Shakespeare, from cable news voyeurism to Edgar Allan Poe, subjects of death, murder and all things ghastly have fascinated and frightened for centuries. Songs are no exception. From Old World roots to more recent incarnations in America, the murder ballad has traversed, shapeshifted and persevered. Despite our collective desire to be good and virtuous, people do very bad things. And then we sing about them.
Death, murder and ghosts have long been underlying threads coursing through Vandaveer's original music, but instead of weaving their own shadowy tales into their latest studio effort, Oh, Willie, Please..., the DC-by-way-of-Kentucky alt-folk collective have tapped into the wellspring of traditional folk's darker side.
Oh, Willie, Please... finds the group operating in a more collaborative spirit. In addition to the core duo of Mark Charles Heidinger and Rose Guerin, the talents of J. Tom Hnatow (These United States, The Mynabirds) and Phillips Saylor (Stripmall Ballads, The Shiftless Rounders) helped expand the project into a formidable ensemble, armed with steel string, resonator and pedal steel guitars, banjos and pianos, voices galore, and a common belief in the quality and relevance of the word 'folk.'
Inspired by their recent participation in The 78 Project, the group gathered in a majestic old home on a picturesque horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky in the spring of 2012 and set to work re-imagining a collection of age-old murder ballads and songs of self ruin plucked almost entirely from the public domain. With longtime producer Duane Lundy once again at the helm, Vandaveer moved swiftly through the selected catalog, recording most of the tracks live in the manor's great room. The result is a spacious, honest album that balances reverence and respect for the source material with a healthy coat of contemporary color.