What stands out about the new Vandaveer album is not so much the material — murder ballads and songs of self-ruin — as it is the way that it has been presented. Mark Heidinger is able to fit a story line into a song’s meter so that the setup hangs on the air and waits for a resolution. The punch line comes after a beat or two, and then it clobbers a listener over the head. This sort of thing can’t be easy, I say to Heidinger when he phones from Lexington, Kentucky, his home turf. No, he says. It isn’t. “I like to phrase things so there’s a payoff. I like playing with words and landing things on the one of the next measure, and not necessarily on the four of the previous measure.” In this way, Heidinger’s songs become three-minute revelations. He calls this new music of his murder-folk. Great, I say, just what we needed — another genre. “I loved Scrabble as a kid,” he almost apologizes.
Lest we forget, Vandaveer’s latest, Oh, Willie, Please, is about gruesomeness: stabbing one’s lover or drowning her in the river or both. Stranglings and suffocatings. Hangings and shootings. All of the songs on this record are covers of old and obscure material culled from the darkest of record bins. “No one has an entirely original idea anymore.” Last spring, Heidinger and the band found a 200-year-old farmhouse they thought was suitable to the deathly songs, and they fitted it out with recording gear and banjos and acoustic guitars. But he’s not ready to call his music “folk,” on the simple principle that “roots and acoustic are not necessarily folk music.” The road show? A mix of Oh, Willie, Please music joined with songs from Vandaveer’s catalog. “You’ve got to be artful with the murder ballads,” he says. “It can get real gray real fast.”
- Thursday, October 10, 2013, 8 p.m.
3615 El Cajon Boulevard,
$10 - $12
Joe Pug also performs.
Vandaveer: Soda Bar, Thursday, October 10, 8:30 p.m. 619-255-7224. $10 in advance/$12 at the door