Bringing deep, dark folk out of the woods they left behind

The Deep Dark Woods ***** (5 stars out of 6); April 25 at Lille Vega

Hailing from central Canada, the alt-country band The Deep Dark Woods were set to melt hearts on Thursday evening to one of the most varied crowds I have yet witnessed in the intimacy of Lille Vega, a crowd ranging from young children to seasoned senior citizens. 

Originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, The Deep Dark Woods play folksy, humble and hearty blues/country arrangements with a tinge of melancholy, revealing a soundscape both invigorating and heavyhearted. To the delight of the audience, The Deep Dark Woods provided an honest, well-grounded set that showcased a selection of their haunting ballads alongside the more upbeat country melodies, ensuring their admirers both tears and laughter.

Upon arrival in Lille Vega, the crowd were initially treated to a performance by opening act Own Road, whose acoustic set of psychedelic folk opened the eyes of the curious spectators. Despite immense power in both voice and guitar, technicalities unfortunately ensured that his otherwise strong repertoire drowned in thin air.

The Deep Dark Woods entered the stage and immediately opened with the ear-clinging single ‘The Place I Left Behind’. The audience was quickly enthralled by the warm tenor voice of Ryan Boldt and the atmospheric instrumentation, clearly inspired by the misty forest landscape of the Canadian backwoods. ‘Big City Blues’ followed, a swaying ballad that provided ample opportunity for mellotron virtuoso Geoff Hillhorst to spread his eager wings.

‘Glory Hallelujah’ brought out the inner preacher in the hearts of most, and the crowd happily sang along to the twangy porch country music. Next came the unforgettable folksy tune ‘All the Money I had is Gone’, played with a meticulous detail that showcased some beautiful harmonic singing from both the bearded frontman and the enthusiastic bassist Chris Mason.

Despite little direct contact with the audience, the band rarely felt distant – Boldt ended every song with a jumpy ‘thank you’ and a smile that could not be faked. ‘Two Time Loser’ provided a dose of rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia and swing-time dancing for some of the senior folk in the audience. The variety in their set was refreshing, also containing covers of Bob Dylan, and newer non-released material echoing some new dub/reggae inspirations. While they played for an hour and twenty minutes, the crowd had fallen in love with the amicable Canadians from the start. The crowd were brought into the depths of the Canadian woods, hand in hand with these Saskatchewan serenaders.

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