[1 October 2009]
Vandaveer follows up its smashing and poignant 2007 debut, Grace and Speed, with the superb Divide and Conquer. Mark Charles Heidinger, a wandering folk singer/songwriter from DC by-way-of Kentucky, takes his name from the family name engraved on an heirloom, a watch from his father. He pairs one extreme to another, contrasting wildly vivid and passionate phrases against light and delicate nuances, while incorporating themes of love and death, good and evil, etc. Heidinger’s sister, Rose Guerin, adds to the mix and provides beautiful and haunting vocal harmonies. Nothing can really substitute the strength and closeness of sibling vocal harmonies, while timbres are echoed and untraceable similarities bind the two voices. Heidinger also enlists a couple buddies from his band These United States (he plays bass).
The standout “Fistful of Swoon” makes use of unexpected harmony intervals and pays attention to dynamics for a dirge-like telling of a king leading his village to destruction. The tones reach into some rarely touched receptors. Dark and horrid lyrical images help to further the mood. “The shriek of sirens singing out of tune / A dozen black roses in hideous bloom,” whisper Heidinger and Guerin. Two tracks later, “A Mighty Leviathan of Old” rouses the listener with what feels like an uplifting, well-arranged, and precisely harmonized drinking song.