(4 / 5)
Their sixth album. The first in four years. This skillful Canadian outfit delivers an all originals album that is the sound of musical freedom and a renewed energy that becomes quite addictive.
An eclectic mix of styles across this nine -track offering, that would fit snugly into a fair few genre labels one cares to slap on it. Americana, tick. Alt folk, tick. Alt country, tick. Etc, tick.
“Yarrow” is The Deep Dark Woods rebooted by main man Ryan Boldt, after a four year hiatus for the band. For ten or more years they developed an International following in the Americana and alt. folk scene, nominated alongside Alabama Shakes and Dawes for ‘Emerging Artist of the Year’ at the 2012 Americana Awards.
Today their vibe is a tad more dark, a bit more macabre if you like; tapping into Gothic surrealism that aligns with some of the great murder balladeers of our time. Boldt writes in a deep tradition of bleak and forlorn story telling, drawing lines from Ireland to Tennessee,the Oxford Girl to Folsom Prison.
Produced by singer Ryan Boldt and Edmonton singer-songwriter Shuyler Jansen, nine cuts offering just under 40 minutes of music. There has been lineup changes and various dramas across the 12 years or so of their career, but the two original main guys, Ryan Boldt and Geoff Hilhorst are still firmly in the saddle.
On this album their team includes Canadian duo Kacy and Clayton. Kacy, Clayton and Shuyler Jansen’s backing vocals add tremendous value to the general ethereal atmosphere. There’s an art to crafting great backing vocals and harmonies, and this lot have it in bundles.
The alt. country and Americana twang is still there, but their previous psychedelia and loose, “let’s see where the song takes us” jam feel, is not. Their blending of the old with the new in sound, is to be admired.
There’s feel good, up-tempo Western country, and there’s slower, heartbreak terrritory too. They do both very well. A guitar-soaked nine minute, “The Birds Will Stop Their Singing” is a high point. But it is all of a standard, oozing class and a chilled, renewed confidence. Only the nine cuts, only 38 minutes in duration; but this is all about quality not quantity, folks. They strip it all back for another standout, “The Winter Has Passed” which is on an acoustic tip, and where the harmonies really are magnificent.
A record that should be heard and not read about. Really. A record that needs to be heard in its entirety, track by track in order. Not cherry picked for the odd song you dig at that particular time in that particular mood. I’d be up for the crackle of a vinyl LP with a bit of dust on it, the smell of those record player valves warming up and the slight hum of the dated motor, when it comes to playing this gem.
For me, I was getting subtle nods to the 60s and the likes of the Byrds and even Moby Grape and those cool cats. But that’s deep, deep, deep down in the overall vibes. There are layers to this album to be discovered on each new listen.
This is the sound of The Deep Dark Woods with a fresh slant on things, but not losing their core being. That four year rest has clearly recharged their creative batteries no end.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’