The Deep Dark Woods add a touch of menace to Bluesfest
In the days following the announcement of the Polaris Music Prize shortlist, everyone and their cousin - including many of us jurists - seemed to have a pretty powerful opinion on it. Some said it was stellar, some said it was beige and some said that having six previous nominees on this year's list (of 10) suggested something was rotten in the state of Denmark.
Among the omitted acts championed by critics of the various Polaris lists, jurists or not: Saskatoon's Deep Dark Woods and their outstanding record Winter Hours, which didn't even crack the Long List. Asked about it, DDW guitarist/vocalist and chief songwriter Ryan Boldt says he doesn't really care.
"I don't really pay attention to those things very much," he says. "I just try and play music and if people like it then that's great. If people don't like it I'm not going to change anything to please anybody. I do it for myself and for my band members."
Though it won't win the Polaris and its $20,000 purse, Winter Hours is a stunning record that more than deserves the praise it's received. Capturing some essence of a long, tough, depressing winter in the Prairies, it boasts a meandering, melancholic vibe and thoughtful, fragile songwriting.
"We're definitely influenced by where we come from," Boldt says. "The long winters and the staying inside for eight months of the year definitely has an effect on the music, that's for sure. But we're influenced by a lot of different styles of music [too]. This record is definitely
influenced by English and Irish and Scottish folk music, which I'm obsessed with."
However, he concedes the point: "If we lived in Toronto it would be a completely different record."
A talented, unheralded Canadian songwriter, Boldt is unabashedly interested in writing about morbid things. Anyone who's listened to Winter Hours knows this instinctively; you can feel it as much as hear it. "I like murder ballads and I like lonesome songs and songs of burying your sweet woman who passed away," he says. "I just like songs of death. There's definitely a link between [all the songs on Winter Hours]." That said, Boldt isn't a downer to talk to, and is certainly capable of being stoked. Case in point: He's itching to get to Ottawa for Bluesfest.
"I've always wanted to go, even before I started playing music," he says. "Now, being involved in it is pretty cool."
The Deep Dark Woods
@ Ottawa Bluesfest
July 18, 5:45 p.m.