Vandaveer | Grace & Speed (Gypsy Eyes)

cd_vandaveer_0327One only needs to look to the masterful construction of "However Many Takes It Takes" to see that Heidinger feels the genre in his bones, as his learned tone confidently suggests that Vandaveer is worth a listen, that his stories are worth being heard.





"We've got to walk a million miles/ Oh, honey, go walk them with a smile," sings Mark Charles Heidinger, otherwise known in this incantation as Vandaveer, on the opener of 2007's Grace & Speed, an acoustic Dylan-meets-Drake ditty that pretty much sums up what the D.C.-centered (via Kentucky) singer/songwriter is all about this time around. Partially abandoning the sunny pop of his better-known group, the Apparitions, Heidinger explores the folk styles of the aforementioned artists, as well as Waits and McCartney, employing subtle strums and smooth picking to form a dusty skeleton while his crafted warble fills in the lyrical teeth. Although Heidinger's Vandaveer hasn't seen as many miles as the weighty artists he emulates, he does the folk thing well, and he always does it with a smile.

What's more is that artists such as this are indeed significant in carrying on the folk tradition.

Jumping from the simple, yet intriguing melodies of darker numbers, such as "Marianne, You've Done It Now" (which features some wonderful clarinet playing) and "The Street Is Full of Creeps" to lighter, more effective pieces, Vandaveer takes few risks, but rarely misses. Heidinger's voice contains a slight charming twang, and is otherwise smooth, clear, and incapable of offending. The guitar playing is sharp, sometimes unnecessary in its excessive polish, but always on the money. On "Crooked Mast," Heidinger mixes rhythm with leads, sounding a little bit like a countrified Nick Drake, and matching soulful "doos" to a bending riff. The only time Vandaveer strays from the minimalist formula is on album closer "Roman Candle," which seems out of place, but is in fact a pretty fun, head-bouncing number, and one of the better lyrical songs (so don't pass it up).

The only real failing of Grace & Speed, and for that matter, Vandaveer as a whole, is that it is to this point, underdeveloped. As a man with many projects, Heidinger could stand to devote more time to shaping his wide array of specific sounds. With that being said, this album is impressive as a seemingly casual effort. The songwriting is very natural, pleasant, and contains a number of nice melodies. However, outside of "However Many Takes It Takes," few songs are truly memorable. Whether the disparity between talent and distinction ever converges is beside the point. For now, Grace & Speed is a nice album for a toe-tappin' mood. C | Dave Jasmon

RIYL: Langhorne Slim's less raucous moments, The Avett Brothers, The Elected

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