critic’s pick 314: vandaveer, ‘the wild mercury’

Vandaveer_TheWildMercury_1500x1500-_web-1024x1024“Like Bonaparte, I was bona fide,” sings Mark Charles Heidinger – aka folk-pop soldier Vandaveer – on one of the more arresting tunes from The Wild Mercury. This particular episode, The Final Word, reaches back to Napoleonic times for a rather unsettling bit of imagery to encapsulate love’s last chorus – the slice of a guillotine blade.

Yep, that’s pretty much the final word, alright.

Such a snapshot suggests The Wild Mercury is an altogether brutal affair, which it really isn’t. Lexington expatriate-turned-Louisville neighbor Heidinger, along with longtime cohort Rose Guerin, have come up with an inviting platter of relationship raconteur-ing, familial reflecting and worldly conversing. If anything The Wild Mercury, for all its flights of melodic fancy and occasionally dark sidesteps, is a very cordial affair, as well as Vandaveer’s most seamlessly constructed pop portfolio yet.

Vandaveer may be a Louisville attraction these days but The Wild Mercury bears a distinctively Lexington signature. Duane Lundy is again handling co-production chores, providing a lean but spacious sound to songs that bloom from the moment But Enough On That For Now opens the record in a psychedelic haze. The tune quickly dovetails into Heidinger’s luminous folk sensibility, his typically blissful harmonizing with Guerin and the deep melodic hooks that propel this parental rumination of a life “cruel and beautiful.” The chorus is pure pop pride, a catalyst that sets The Wild Mercury into a spin that seldom subsides.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few pensive moments. Holding Patterns embraces a more outwardly (and literally) autumnal feel with a tumbling melody colored by the pedal steel guitar echoes of another localite, J. Tom Hnatow, that reel around the sterling harmonies. Two more proven Lexington hands – drummer Robby Cosenza and multi-instrumentalist Justin Craig – further guide the song’s subtle drive.

Absolutely Over the Moon flips the music on its side with a boozy meditation that sounds like Bob Dylan singing a sea shanty. But the resulting confession, as well as the wandering soul delivering it (“a drifter and shapeshifter… mostly a boy without a clue”) is set beautifully adrift within an ethereal hum that sounds a vintage Daniel Lanois record unfolding.

There are loads of other delights, as well, including the plaintive folk-country contemplation A Pretty Thin Line (again with Hnatow’s pedal steel work nicely underscoring the plaintive singing) and the comparatively efficient and sunny reverie Love Is Melancholy, But It’s All We’ve Got.

Combine all this with The Wild Mercury’s place as the inaugural release on the Lexington-based WhiteSpace Records and you have a slice of folk serenity cultivated in our own backyard. Sure, Heidinger now belongs to Louisville. But wherever you spin it, The Wild Mercury is the sound of home.

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