With this band name, album title and songs called "The Gallows," "All The Money I Had Is Gone" and "The Sun Never Shines," you know you're not in for a sunny pop record. Sure enough, the third album from Saskatoon's Deep Dark Woods is a sombre, melancholy, oft-bleak affair, but it is also a highly compelling and convincing work. The group cite such influences as the Band, the Grateful Dead and old English folk ballads, and the group's chief songwriter, Ryan Boldt, is clearly inspired by the latter form (one traditional tune, "When First Into This Country," is covered here). He has a rich and mournful voice that suits these ballads perfectly, while his comrades chime in with fine vocal harmonies. Ace producer Steve Dawson contributes both sonic clarity and his fluent skills as a multi-instrumentalist. Deep Dark Woods take a few chances too, as on Burke Barlow's unfashionable, but totally mesmerizing, lengthy, Neil Young meets Carlos Santana-like guitar solo on epic eight-minute closing track "The Sun Never Shines." This is a band worthy of real attention.
How was recording with producer Steve Dawson?
Boldt: We had a great time with him. He mixed the second record in Vancouver but he wasn't there when we recorded it in Saskatoon. This time, we went to Vancouver and did the whole record with him and hung out with him. He's really easy to work with. We all love hockey so much. We went to a couple of games and we played NHL '09 on the PlayStation 2 at the studio in between recording tracks. One of the most fun times I've had playing music, that's for sure.
How do you find some of the traditional folk tunes you cover?
I listen to a lot of English folk music. My favourite folk singer of all time is English: Shirley Collins. She is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me musically. I learned a lot of songs from her and from finding books she'd written with [American folklorist] Alan Lomax. Those old lyrics and folk tunes are just so wonderful, and you have to bring them back again. The way I write lyrics is very traditional too.
Vocal harmonies are a Deep Dark Woods signature. Does that get easier the more you play and tour?
Definitely a lot easier. When we first started, I'd go home some nights and just feel like, "oh, man, the vocals were so bad tonight." I'd just get a bad feeling. But eventually we worked it up and now it feels dead-on. It feels good to all sing together. (Black Hen)