Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Winter Hours - The Deep Dark Woods

Winter Hours

The Deep Dark Woods
Black Hen Music.

SCQ Rating: 76%

When winter descends here in Canada, we’re confronted with enough snow and bitter cold to last several months. The southwestern corner of British Columbia usually gets off easiest, followed by - my hometown - the Niagara region, yet wherever you are and wherever I seem to move, there’s no escaping winter’s clutches. Among the bleakest places to hibernate must be Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the hometown of The Deep Dark Woods, who have characterized this dark season with Winter Hours; an album that fights our cottage-fever with warm tones of traditional country and folk.

Their first single, ‘All the Money I Had is Gone’, bears the alt. country cross that Ryan Adams and Josh Ritter swing around, yet with Ryan Boldt’s emotive baritone and the bluegrass ensemble’s deft instrumentation (Burke Barlow, Chris Mason and Lucas Goetz round out guitar, bass and drum duties), the familiar chords sound entirely fresh. That single is no fluke, as Deep Dark Woods’ irresistible melancholy flows throughout, opening the disc with ‘Farewell’’s far-reaching choral, landing plum-outta-ideas on the barstool for ‘How Can I Try’ and the title track’s beautiful vocal harmonizing. Strange thing is, Winter Hours always seems more hopeful than depressed, entrenching the band’s slow acoustics with a cast of worthy musicians who give ‘As I Roved Out’ its cozy fiddle and ‘The Sun Never Shines’ its classic organ. These additional contributions do their fare share of chasing the snow-clouds away and ensure that Winter Hours can be easily spun front to back.

Of course, it helps that Deep Dark Woods understand you can’t spend your whole winter sulking indoors, as illustrated by the bluegrass-jaunt ‘Nancy’ and the folk-rock pulse of ‘Two Time Loser’. The protagonist of Winter Hours may be dead broke and lonely, but that shouldn’t stop him from the occasional night out. Released on the edge of spring, I delayed purchasing this release because my own seasonal depression decided a record of additional winter blues might push me over the edge. Little did I know how optimistic Winter Hours would be, treating their fair share of heartbreak and isolation with an “aw shucks” customary for their genre. When the frost creeps back over your front lawn (cause you know it will), spend some time with the Deep Dark Woods.

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