Willie is one bad character. First we heard of him, he was the wolf who lured “Pretty Polly” to an early grave. He disappeared off to sea, and we thought we’d seen his last, until Vandaveer arrived with news.
With harmonies mournful, chilling and precise, Mark and Rose sang us the story of his terrible crime in “Banks of the Ohio.” The banjo plucked out a tune as tense as can be. It was too tragic to be believed, he’d taken another life.
We listened back, through the crackle of the 78 and the thickness of the hot winter room. It sounded like our man Willie, no doubt about that.
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Right at the outset they proclaim “Death is here!” as if after the events of the first side of Vandaveer’s acetate, there was any other possible outcome.
Thanks to all who were able to join us at City Winery on Sunday, May 20. It was beautiful to see our New York Series artists take the stage together to celebrate the shared experience of field recording. And we couldn’t have been more honored to have Marshall Crenshaw join us onstage to record a 78 acetate live with the stage monitors silenced and the eyes of the audience upon him. It was a most moving moment in a night filled with many a momentous feeling.
We’ve posted photos from the show on our Facebook here. And you can listen to the digitized versions of Marshall’s acetates, “More Pretty Girls Than One,” and “Passing Through” below.
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The 78 Project: Vandaveer “Banks of the Ohio”
When the PRESTO clicks on and the platter starts to spin, there is a moment where the whole room focuses in and everything becomes a part of the music; the radiator’s hiss is a harmony and the sounds of traffic below tune to a G so perfect you can check your strings against it. And so it was on a wintery afternoon in New York, as every whisper of steam and every squeak of the bed’s springs under the weight of the PRESTO merged into Vandaveer’s “Banks of the Ohio.” The hotel seemed, on that December day, built to make this record, its purpose finally revealed in a rush of song.
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Special thanks are due to Ye Olde Carlton Arms, the artbreak hotel that was kind enough to host our crew for this episode. They are true to their history and truly kind to their fellow eclectics.
Vandaveer (Official Teaser)
If you listened only to his narrative of a scorned suitor’s terrible revenge in “Banks of the Ohio,” you might be reluctant to follow Vandaveer down a long dark corridor. But we took a chance in the name of an acetate, and let him lead.
We’ve lived in New York City for a collective eon. But we learned from Vandaveer that our own hometown still keeps secrets.
At the end of a long episode shoot, in a hotel room made tropical by radiators older than our PRESTOs, Vandaveer’s Mark Charles Heidinger and Rose Guerin, with J. Tom Hnatow on banjo, made our season bright with a holiday greeting custom made for The 78 Project. We brought out a fresh acetate, and they recorded a festive message and beautiful rendition of the classic New York Christmas song “Silver Bells.”
WATCH: Vandaveer “Silver Bells”
From all of us at The 78 Project, our dearest wishes for a peaceful, happy season. Thank you for listening and watching this year.