Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Yesterday, there was a shirt on the rack at a thrift store here that caught my eye. The rest of the rack appeared to be filled with suit coats and leisure jackets - all from the 50s and 60s - so they had likely been donated by a widow, widows or son or daughter who'd cleaned out their widower father's silent residence. This item, in particular had the patterning of a standard, lumberjack-y, flannel shirt, but amongst the other suit jackets, from the side view, it looked like it fit in with those dressier pieces, standing out as the best one of the bunch. It's what I wanted to wear to a gathering, to a place that had a cash bar and people were shooting the shit about football or spring training. It's something I would have wanted to have worn into dangerous wind chills or into an old tavern for hunters, with furry trophies mounted on the walls and the air filled with thick cigarette smoke, the new bans be damned or never heard of. When I commented on it though, and it was pulled off the rack, it was just a regular old, insulated flannel shirt, albeit one that still seemed special. It could have just been specialness by association, but whatever the case, I wanted to take it home despite the thick smearing of white, latex house paint across its bottom quarters, as if the painter in question had been a four-year-old child, wiping its boogers or jelly from a sandwich on whatever was closest at hand. It was an ugly stain, but I would have worn it.
The shirt, in its current state and in whatever imagined state it used to be in - for it makes no difference, really - seems as if it could have been the uniform of choice for Canadians The Deep Dark Woods, a band from Saskatchewan that feels as if it's chopped some wood and tapped some maple trees in its time. It's a band that we would peg as being ready for any conditions - with arms covered, feet booted up warm and dry and a good hearty breakfast of eggs and flapjacks resting like a log in its stomach. The band carries the torch of great Canadian songwriters old and contemporary - from Neil Young and The Band to Patrick Watson and Jason Collett - and makes it their own by making it a hybrid of the sound that feels local, as if they're walking us around their hometown, showing us how little or how much there is to see. They show us their lawnmower and the lawn they use it on and how it runs right up to the edge of the forest or how the road that gets us to their house just runs out, as if exhausted. We feel as if we're in a part of the world that respects daylight being at a premium, not a given and which experiences crippling winters where there's a threat that your cupboard could go bare if you didn't play your cards right. We feel like we've been brought somewhere that barn dances still happen, where people still get together to play cards on Friday and Saturday nights, where there are potlucks with great deviled eggs, baked beans and spit-cooked hog. Lead singer Ryan Boldt, guitarist Burke Barlow, bassist Chris Mason, drummer Lucas Goetz and organist Geoff Hilhorst bring us music that feels like fresh tracks of snow in a field, like days that get rained out and you're stuck in your own head, in your own house and in your own heart. It's one hell of a place to be, but it's as insulated as you're ever going to be. You feel safe there, so you stay for a long time, making more tracks.