Vera Van Heeringen – Won’t Be Broken

Album Review | Wood and Steel Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 5/5

If ever I’m fortunate enough to be at a festival with Vera Van Heeringen on the bill, I always stick around for her entire set, regardless of who might be appearing on the other stage. I always find her sets easy to settle into, which no doubt has something to do with her distinctively warm voice, her command over both guitar and mandolin and her unique stance as a first rate wordsmith. As a former member of the New Rope String Band, notable for their completely bizarre slapstick humour, Vera always came over as the female equivalent of Buster Keaton, her stoic expression effortlessly bringing joy to the audience. Here though, we see a completely different side of Vera’s multitude of talents, and on this her third solo album, which follows the equally impressive Standing Tall (2011) and Proper Brew (2015), the Dutch singer songwriter continues to show remarkable skill, whilst placing herself at the forefront of the growing tradition of transatlantic acoustic musicians. 

We really need look no further for proof of Vera’s exceptional song writing  credentials than with the opening song “Gods”, which eloquently explores the changes we could make if only we were of a more divine nature. There’s pain within the lyrics, each adhering to a searching quality, unafraid to take a peek into the dark side, “Man with a Gun” for instance, which demands repeat plays. Stylistically, Vera and her faithful collaborators, Dave Luke on guitar and mandolin and Andy Seward on both electric and double bass, maintain a now familiar new bluegrass sensibility, with a brief ‘toe-in-the-Bayou’ moment on “Blankets”, where Dirk Powell and Jock Tyldesley’s accordion and triangle take us immediately to the swamps of Louisiana for a perfect conclusion to Vera Van Heeringen’s best album yet. Won’t Be Broken is perhaps a reflection of her engaging live appearances, the songs demand your attention throughout and coming in at just over half an hour, it’s hardly a big ask, so afford yourself the time and you certainly won’t be disappointed.

Choice Track: “Gods” (NSV 484)