The Vancouver Province
A lot of bands working in the so-called roots realm get hyperbolic comparisons to such luminaries as the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and Gram Parsons. Saskatoon quartet Deep Dark Woods actually touches upon these California country-rock progenitors for real. Case in point, the chiming harmonies in "Nancy" the second track from the band's latest Black Hen Music release, Winter Hours.
The tune is only one of a dozen that seem particularly focused on death, darkness, loneliness and heartbreak lovingly embraced by winter's cold.
But lead singer Ryan Boldt's high-lonesome wail manages to convey that sense of survival after suffering that makes great country music stand out over so much in the genre. And it also puts the legions of Bay Street vintage cowboy boots and second-hand Western shirt types to shame. This is a work of true beauty produced by Vancouver's Steve Dawson with lots of love.
"It's funny so many of the reviews on the webpage are all commenting on the album being frozen cold like Saskatoon gets," says drummer Lucas Goetz. "Not much of the music is themed around winter, but more on the depressing stuff that goes on around it here."
"We're not depressed types either, we just were in an introspective mindset on this album."
A lot has changed in the sound from the group's self-titled disc -- a rocking affair -- and the sophomore session Hang Me, Oh Hang Me. That album was nominated for Best Roots Album at the Western Canadian Music Awards. Given there is difference in all the discs, Goetz admits that the group has songs on the new album that are four or five years old, so its writing has always veered toward this mellower twanging style. Already, the buzz is on about the group getting another award nod for Winter Hours. Goetz says everyone is extremely happy with how Steve Dawson helped the group make the disc carry that strong early seventies country and folk rock sound.
For lead singer Boldt, bassist Chris Mason, lead guitarist Burke Barlow and Goetz, it's all good having its following getting larger. The band can sell out top list smaller venues across the country now and this may be the last time to see them in the intimate confines of the Railway Club.
"In certain cities, such as Vancouver, we're getting payback for all the steady touring we've done in Western Canada. We're looking forward to stepping up to the next level venues in terms of size, because we just don't play a lot of the really small venues in between the better shows anymore."
He says that the run from Winnipeg to Sudbury is the worst in his mind. But that's when the guys have time to think through the set.
"We're doing "Two Time Loser" in a very different way now and "The Sun Never Shines" has been sounding very good."
Perhaps the band's ability to pen such great grey day songs explains its local appeal.