The Georgia Straight
Saskatoon alt-country artists the Deep Dark Woods are no strangers to the hazards of the road. Just last month, the quartet drove from Toronto to Thunder Bay in the middle of a snowstorm.
“It was crazy,” recalls guitarist-vocalist Ryan Boldt. “Not very fun.” On the afternoon that Boldt calls the Straight, he’s stopped at a gas station en route to Banff after a gig in Calgary, but this time the weather conditions are okay for driving. It’s a good thing that musicians like him are willing to traverse our oft-treacherous byways, because—as evidenced by the group’s sophomore CD, Hang Me, Oh Hang Me—the payoffs for discriminating roots fans are immense.
Hang Me’s rollicking title track is one of three traditional works on the CD that Boldt, a collector of old lyric books, composed his own melodies around. “There’s probably, like, 20 versions of that song that I’ve heard over the years,” he explains. “Dave Van Ronk does a version, Jerry Garcia. All types of people do that song.”
While the band’s self-titled 2006 debut was recorded live “off the floor” in 12 hours, Hang Me took one full winter to complete, with producer Ross Nykiforuk (the Northern Pikes) at the helm. It was mixed by local roots legend Steve Dawson, who runs Black Hen Music, the label that DDW—and current touring partner Shuyler Jansen—are signed to. “He likes all the same stuff we like,” says Boldt of Dawson, “so he knew exactly what we were going for.”
Artists such as Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and English folksinger Shirley Collins are major influences on Boldt, but these days he constantly listens to Celtic music. “I try not to bother everybody in the band with that,” he says, “but I think they get a little annoyed with tin flutes and fiddles all the time.”
Saskatoon’s indie scene is thriving, according to Boldt, who cites groups like Golden Smoke, the Sheepdogs, and Vicious Crystals as proof of that. He admits there’s not a helluva lot to do in his hometown in the dead of winter besides staying indoors and playing music. “That, and watching hockey,” notes the die-hard Edmonton Oilers fan. “I try not to leave my house in the winter, unless we’re touring. As soon as we get back, I’m in the house until we leave again.”
- Steve Newton