Hope and beauty, north stars we chase, eager to lay our gifts at their feet so they might shine upon us. Capturing this chase and fleeting catch is both one of the most pervasive inspirations in music and one of its most elusive prizes. Yet somehow Vandaveer nails both raw beauty and honest hope on the opening title cut of Dig Down Deep (released April 26 on Supply & Demand), and it’s not the last time they ensnare both on this bohemian hymnal for hurting hearts.
Dig down deep, don’t fold
For the faintest wind might blow you off your mark,
Off your game and soil your old man’s name
Hoist your head. Don’t weep
Or a terrible storm might sweep you out to sea
That big black sea will lay you down to sleep
As this verse makes clear, this ain’t rainbows & candy style hope. There’s carnage and bruises on the pathway to hope in Vandeveer’s music, but they’ve got the eyes to see the beauty – fleeting as it may be – in our lives measured out with coffee spoons, where the small slights and daily disappointments add up to a slow bleed that steals the strength from our steps. Dig Down Deep hums on a human wavelength, the one where our quiet, inner voices chatter, dark thoughts finding voice in a stream of doubts and delusion. Vandaveer walks in, rusty guns at the ready to take down these thoughts, never diminishing our “flipped over, inside out” feelings yet ready to scatter the ashes once we put them to rest.
In more practical terms, this is some lovely, dynamic music, all the players involved, including These United States’ dream drummer Robby Cosenza, serving the varied needs of each song, building intricately around the core of bandleader-songwriter-singer-guitarist Mark Charles Heidinger and vocal foil Rose Guerin. The aura of the 70s singer-songwriter golden era hovers over Dig Down Deep, but there’s worst things that being favorably compared to the likes of Harry Nilsson and Cat Stevens. The mood moves from churchly hush to hand-clap, tambourine ready fare like The Nature of Our Kind.
With hands crisscrossed, all the clocks on the walls told different times
And the cheap red wine splayed all the tiny fragments in my mind
Oh, the caterwaul of crooked little chimes ringing out of tune
Yes, ringing out of tune
Oh, the symphony!
The cracking of the trees
The crashing of the waves
The quaking underneath our feet
All in perfect pitch and key
Just the nature of our kind
Nakedly poetic, refreshingly engaged and swimmingly delivered, Vandaveer’s latest makes heavy things light, shines light into places we might prefer to keep covered and offers jaunty tunes for such soulful spelunking.