Video: Vandaveer – “Pretty Polly”


To their credit, the DC-via-Kentucky folk act Vandaveer understand how dark this old, weird America can be. Their new album, Oh, Willie, Please…, is a collection of “traditional murder ballads and songs of self ruin” that succeeds because the prettiness of the music only heightens the ugliness of the actions. There’s a matter-of-factness that makes the slicings, stabbings, stranglings, suffocatings, drownings, hangings and shootings all the more grim. Heidinger doesn’t shy away from the horror of “The Banks of the Ohio” or “Down in the Willow Garden” nor does he wallow in their gruesomeness. Singing about stabbing his lover and drowning her in the river—on both songs even—he trusts the material to deliver its shock. – PASTE

Vandaveer revisit the ghastly tale of “Pretty Polly” with a haunting and gorgeously spare arrangement on their new album of murder ballads, Oh, Willie, Please… using subtle restraint and carefully chosen notes from banjo and cello to perfectly create an atmosphere of foreboding and pain. – POPMATTERS

 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, the 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 songs, 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 & 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.


5/2 – Rockwood Music Hall – New York, NY
5/4 – Club 603 – Baltimore, MD
5/8 – Southern Cafe & Music Hall – Charlottesville, VA
5/9 – The Garage – Winston-Salem, NC
5/11 – Kirk Avenue Music Hall – Roanoke, VA
5/16 – Rumba Cafe – Columbus, OH
5/17 – Willie’s Locally Known – Lexington, KY
5/19 – Space – Studio Room – Evanston, IL
5/20 – The Ark – Ann Arbor, MI
5/21 – Southgate House – Newport, KY
5/22 – Uncle Slayton’s – Louisville, KY
5/23 – The High Watt – Nashville, TN
5/24 – The Earl – Atlanta, GA
5/25 – Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC
5/26 – Local 506 – Chapel Hill, NC
6/7 – Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO w/ They Might Be Giants
6/8 – The Depot – Salt Lake City, UT w/ They Might Be Giants
6/9 – Egyptian Theatre – Boise, ID w/ They Might Be Giants

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