Chills climb spines when sound is given room to unfurl. The Deep Dark Woods’ unflinching pursuit of steadiness between decadence and minimalism is guided at every turn by their intuitive ability to balance grit, clarity, drive and restraint with a sure focus on experimentation.
Winter Hours (2009), caught critics’ ears across the country. The album, a solemn ode to darker themes of seclusion and detachment, could yet warm even the bottomless, frozen nights of hometown Saskatoon, SK. With Winter Hours, The Deep Dark Woods won Best Roots Group at the 2009 Western Canadian Music Awards, and Ensemble of the Year at the 2009 Canadian Folk Music Awards. The band also had the runaway winner in CBC’s Great Canadian Songquest with “Charlie’s (Is Coming Down)”, a song about Good Time Charlie’s in Regina.
The Deep Dark Woods frame their music with subtle orchestration; songs are trimmed with minimal embellishments of banjo, piano, with subtle mellotron flutters. Drummer and multi-instrumentalist Lucas Goetz’s layers heartbreaking arches of pedal steel under the clarity and warmth of Ryan Boldt’s voice. Newest member, organ-player Geoff Hilhorst furnishes the songs’ edges with slurred polyphonies, while surefooted, danceable basslines and rich second vocals belong to Chris Mason. Burke Barlow’s clarion guitar tone and lead lines are focused and impeccable.
Their new album, The Place I Left Behind, finds continuity in themes of temporal and geographic alienation, neglected inward trails, and the scars of abandoned intimacies. The album opens with a song about Saskatoon’s rougher edges. “West Side Street” is a study in contrasts – finespun vocals and a gently rolling melody cushion the gloomy story. “The Place I Left Behind” is loosely based on an old folk standard. Gorgeously morose, the title track confirms that The Deep Dark Woods capture lonesome yearning at its loveliest. “Sugar Mama” is a sweet and lively invitation to tap toes and shake off the blues; a seeming coming-of-age story is treated with playful banjo and an airy gait.
A rainstorm over the desert of modern music, The Place I Left Behind offers murder ballads alongside scrappy rockers, lovesick hymnals and slow-dance waltzes. The album illuminates folk traditions without stripping the shadows of roots music history - The Deep Dark Woods wake the ghosts of Appalachia with their prairie gothic pyre-side tales. The Place I Left Behind echoes with traces of time and space that are never fully abandoned or forgotten.
"I doubt it's an intentional act of class warfare, but with the release of their third full-length album, Winter Hours, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, alt-country band Deep Dark Woods could hit cultural paydirt. Venn diagram the record collections of Deep Dark Woods and Pitchfork's 2008 album list topper Fleet Foxes and you'd round up a sizeable stack of Neil Young, Gram Parsons, and the Band LPs. But while Fleet Foxes have taken their influences and crafted them into pretty, abstract musical excursions and historical hymns to nature, Deep Dark Woods work the material, storytelling aspects of the tradition. Storytelling needs a narrator, preferably a reliable, sympathetic one that's easy on the ears, but it also needs a strong voice capable of venting horror, frustration, sadness, anger, outrage. And god knows we've got enough to be outraged about these days."
"This band is the best of its kind, masters of their genre, and well worth your time...
"...The music on Winter Hours is gentler, more complex and more reflective than its predecessor's jamboree folk...."
"This is a band worthy of real attention."
"...These twelve tales of frontier tragedy weave an alt-country pastiche of hanging trees and impending doom. When the Deep Dark Woods arent singing of sudden death, theyre crawling into some dark hollow looking for it...."
"Robert Frost predicted correctly: the Woods are lovely, dark and deep. Especially on their new album, Winter Hours, which is the most enjoyable cold 'n' gloomy record to come out of -30C temperatures. Who thought depressing Prairie winters could lead to such a musical masterpiece?"
"...The Deep Dark Woods have delivered a record that will surprise critics and fans alike... This might be the best roots act in the country right now, and they've set the bar high for any that want to challenge for the title...."
"...it has a timeless sound. What I mean by that is that you cant listen to it and immediately identify what decade it comes from. Music like that has a tendency to have more staying power than those with flavor of the month stylings...."
“Dark songs of betrayal, remorse and redemption, steeped in traditional American songwriting—from the whispered, wistful opening track, the Deep Dark Woods delivers 12 captivating songs, hinting at influences from the Band to Gram Parsons to outlaw country”
“And the more you listen to the album as a whole, the more it starts to sound like a timeless, magical masterpiece. The arrangements are absolutely gorgeous – The DDW deftly blend acoustic guitars, pedal steel, some keys, and even toss in some banjo and strings for good measure. But what stands out most are the vocal harmonies. It is phenomenal.”
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