Alt-folk outfit Vandaveer have a new album of old-timey murder ballads, Oh, Willie, Please…, releasing on 30 April via Quack!Media. These types of traditional tunes formed a sizable chunk of English and Scots/Irish folk music that later blended into bluegrass. “Pretty Polly” is an old British folk song that made it’s way to Canada and the Appalachian mountains and it’s been performed through the years by notables such as the Byrds, Ralph Stanley, Judy Collins and Pete Seeger. Vandaveer now revisit this ghastly tale with a haunting and gorgeously spare arrangement, using subtle restraint and carefully chosen notes from banjo and cello to perfectly create an atmosphere of foreboding and pain. It’s musically masterful.
Today, we have the pleasure of bringing you the video premiere of the single, which brings out the ghostly element of the music.
Vandaveer’s Mark Charles Heidinger tells us more about the song: “‘Pretty Polly’ was brought to the table by Rosie [Guerin] for this record. We knew we were going to make an album of traditional folk songs and murder ballads, but we hadn’t settled on a final collection of tunes. Rosie had a lovely recording of this song made by some family folks of hers that was so very striking. We spent a morning working up an arrangement of our own for this song during the session and things progressed quite quickly. We eventually had our good buddy Ben Sollee add a cello part and things really came together. By the time we made our way to California last fall to shoot the video the song had become a beast unto itself. Our friend and director, Jared Varava, cooked up a bombastic idea and we ran with it. We couldn’t be happier with result. There are moments when you realize how truly lucky you are as an artist to call what you do a career. This was one such moment.”
Director Jared Varava says, “This video was kind of a miracle that it happened at all. It started as a bit of a whim and then became something much larger. It was important to me to play with the song narrative but have the video tell a different tale. So we tried our best to invent the aftermath of the original narrative and have it coincide with what we thought was fitting for the vibe of the tune. Which meant “ghost story” obviously. Our friends Tricia Vessey and David Yow were perfect for the parts and a joy to spend long hours in the cold with. Which isn’t that what it’s all about…”