The Deep Dark Woods
Article by: Blake Boldt | Photos courtesy of The Deep Dark Woods | Posted: 09/18/2012
Canadian alternative country band The Deep Dark Woods moved into rarified air on the Ryman Auditorium stage at their second Americana Music Association Awards ceremony. The band, nominated for Best New/Emerging Artist of the Year, performed the title track of their latest album, "The Place I Left Behind," in front of a room full of Americana luminaries. Although they lost their category to the Alabama Shakes, the band soaked up every moment during their debut awards show performance. "It was really nervewracking," admits lead singer and guitarist Ryan Boldt. "My favorite guitar player of all time, Richard Thompson, and a great songwriter too, was there. And there was Buddy Miller, Booker T., and Emmylou Harris. It felt kind of surreal."
After four albums that have demonstrated increasing confidence and skill, the members of The Dark Deep Woods are starting to experience more of those legendary encounters. Their sturdy brand of raw, emotional alt-country is drawing in audiences internationally. Formed in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the band is a five-piece outfit: Boldt, guitarist Burke Barlow, bassist Chris Mason, organist and pianist Geoff Hilhorst and drummer Lucas Goetz. Their ethereal harmonies are sung with devastating effect, and their compositions show an instinct for capturing the plight of ordinary people with extraordinary pains. "Lyrics come first," Boldt says simply, "and then I'm fitting the melody around that. I can only do it at certain times. I don't try to force it." Touring duties can make writing on the road a difficult proposition: "Lyrically you can, but with the music it's too hard. You're touring with bandmates and you never have time alone."
The band's eponymous debut in 2006, as well as follow-up albums Hang Me, Oh Hang Me and Winter Hours, are brimming with rich narratives often revolving around hard-bitten characters. “The Ballad of Leopold Canal," which Boldt wrote after watching a documentary about the famous Canadian battle, considers the plight of the surviving soldiers. Similar in mood and execution is “Ballad of Frank Dupree," a doleful murder ballad that Boldt sings with a clear ambivalence. Still, the band is able to deftly handle changes of pace and perspective: The banjo-driven “Sugar Mama" is a sprightly tune that feels like the first blush of love.
The band members prefer eclecticism in their own record collections, drawing inspiration from a myriad of influences like Bob Dylan, The Band and The Stanley Brothers. The various strands in their unvarnished sound -- bluegrass, country, folk, Southern rock 'n' roll -- run the gamut of American music. "I loved what [English folk band] Fairport Convention was doing," Boldt says, "which was taking old English folk songs and putting electric guitar on them. It's nothing new at all, but that's certainly what we're influenced by."
The band, currently signed to Sugar Hill Records in the United States and Six Shooter Records in Canada, has expanded their touring docket with appearances at popular American festivals MerleFest and Newport Folk Festival this year. They also embarked on their first international tour, including a performance at the Tunder Festival in Denmark. "It's really new to us," Boldt says. "We've toured the States for quite a bit of course. Going over to Europe, it was fun just to hang out. The people were amazing, and a lot of the shows were sold out. We got to play quite a few festivals over there." On the crowd favorite, "All the Money I Had is Gone," Boldt sings about contending with limited financial resources, a common reality for up-and-coming musicians. That challenge, though, compares little to the rush of connecting with a live audience. "The 45 minutes to 2 hours that we get to play every night makes it all worth it."
The Deep Dark Woods - "The Place I Left Behind"