ALBUM: VANDAVEER – DIG DOWN DEEP
This is Washington based singer songwriter Mark Charles Heidinger’s 3rd album in 4 years. Clocking up an impressive 450+ gigs in the process, and a few EP’s, he would appear a busy man. But his music sounds anything but hectic and urgent.
He’s like a confident and empowered Damien Rice… a vocally deeper version of David Gray. Singer Rose Guerin, who adds weight to the choruses with her lighter, world weary but stunning harmonies, compliments Mark’s voice perfectly.
The sound has been largely stripped back to acoustic guitar and both singers, with occasional strings and piano. The mood is generally laid back and contemplative, wondering what could be or looking back with hindsight.
The abrupt snare drum/hand clap on ‘Concerning Past and Future Conquests’ strike me as a little cheesy and stick out like a sore thumb. ‘Beat, Beat My Heart’ works perfectly with a muffled heartbeat, plucked and softened from ‘No Wow’ by The Kills, sitting underneath simple guitar picks. ‘The Great Gray’ has foot stomps and a meaty kick drum accompanying the hand claps, which seem more comfortable in their surroundings now. ‘As A Matter Of Fact’ builds beautifully with a memorable piano riff, the lyrics set a scene in the Wild West, but the overall sound steers clear of Country enough for me to like it.
‘Pick Up The Pace’ flirts with the unfavoured snare beat once more, I can imagine this being played over a Dukes of Hazard chase scene. The electric guitar makes it sound like a happy-go-lucky 80’s American TV theme tune. In contrast, ‘AOK’ and ‘Spite’ draw you in and stir emotion with their fluctuating pace “…if my heavy heart should open wide…” Vandaveer toured with Bon Iver, fans of whom may find something to appreciate here.
‘Dig Down Deep’ successfully puts you in the right mood from the start, though I feel it struggles when it wants to be louder. The quieter moments provide the highlights, apart from during the final tune ‘The Waking Hour’, which is somewhat of an anti-climax. There are a couple of tunes that make me hover over the skip button before persuading me otherwise but undoubtedly, a stripped back live show could not fail to make the spine tingle. I feel there’s no real need to add any lipstick to the vocals, guitar, strings and piano, because of the strength of the lyrics, which held my attention perfectly. It left me frustrated when there was too much going on.