Canadian quintet The Deep Dark Woods isn’t your everyday alt-country folk group. With singer and guitarist Ryan Boldt’s full and rich voice expertly balanced with simple, melodic rhythms, it’s easy to get lost in memories of home. It’s the type of music that is so vulnerable and open that it makes you feel the same way as you listen. First coming together in 2005, The Deep Dark Woods is composed of Boldt, guitarist Burke Barlow, organist and pianist Geoff Hilhorst, bassist Mason and drummer Lucas Goetz. Their follow-up to 2009’s Winter Hours, The Place I Left Behind is the band’s fourth album and shows great growth since their debut seven years ago.
“The songs have definitely gotten a whole lot better lyrically. Especially compared to songs on the first record. I see some of them as kind of… dumb now,” jokes Boldt of their 2006 self-titled album.
But the band has also become closer.
“We’ve all learned how to play better together. We’re always learning to listen to each other and we’ve definitely gotten better at playing our instruments, so that helps a lot.”
Reminiscent of all the great rock ‘n’ roll acts before them, they have evident influences ranging from Bob Dylan to Otis Redding to Neil Young, but R&B and the blues also have a place on this list, since the guys are encouraged mostly by music that evokes some kind of feeling.
“Just anything where you can actually feel the soul, you know? If I can’t feel a song, then there’s no point in playing,” says Boldt. “You can force it, but it’ll come out bad every time.”
Boldt writes most of the songs himself, admitting it’s easy at times, but painful at others. His method varies, but the whole band works together to create their timeless sound. Since each member has great freedom in the artistic process, new ideas are encouraged at every recording. It’s all about playing what they want and letting the pieces fall into place.
The band’s name was also a group effort, first suggested by guitarist Barlow and later agreed upon by the other members. They felt it “suited the sad, slow music we like, so the name went perfect with what we do.” It was also slightly inspired by Robert Frost, of course.
Although the majority of Deep Dark Woods tracks can be aptly described as “gloomy,” their more upbeat songs, like the charming and catchy “Sugar Mama,” have the ability to bring a quick smile to your face with a balanced mixture of strings and warm harmonies.
But it’s the honest lyrics that will sway even the pickiest of folk lovers. They often speak of memories and thoughts you could have sworn were your own with Boldt’s truthful and affecting words. It’s oddly reassuring to hear the raw emotion in each song, especially the title track, “The Place I Left Behind.”
While they are definitely turning heads with their polished-yet-gritty sound, The Deep Dark Woods will never lose sight of where they came from and those who came before them.
“I think you need to really listen to music before you can actually take it seriously. There’s a hundred years of recorded material to learn from. You gotta listen to that and appreciate it. If you don’t, you’re never gonna be very good.”