The Deep Dark Woods - Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, Fri 31 Jan 2014
The Canadian alt.country quintet shine through their musicianship and songcraft
If you’re not yet familiar with Canada’s alt.rockers The Deep Dark Woods they’re the type of band who’ll transport you to the musical equivalent of a bourbon-laden Austin bar. Early in their Sneaky Pete’s show frontman Ryan Boldt humbly notes it was ‘very well attended’ (sold-out actually) – a sign perhaps of a burgeoning following for the group, whose UK tour included Glasgow support for American troubadour Bill Callahan.
The five-piece’s sound is foundationally country – summoned by a troupe of four guitars, occasional keys, soft drumbeats and whispering cymbals. The result is tinged with the spirit of a bygone era, supported by a lyrical leaning towards the traditional: yearning melodies imbued with fables of religion, family, wild, rugged landscapes and heartache. As a showman, Boldt proves friendly if ‘jetlagged’, retaining momentum between tracks and looking quizzically at the spurting dry ice – meanwhile the band look comfortable enough in their musical realm to forgo special effects.
The sizeable set traverses a back-catalogue of albums: the sweet melodies of ‘Sugar Mama’, rollicking ‘Hang Me, Oh Hang Me’ and a soulful song about pennilessness, ‘All the Money I Had is Gone’ get an airing. Last year's album Jubilee was given an expected showcase, including a lilting version of the record’s title track led by Boldt’s masterful acoustic guitar and yearning, evanescent vocal harmonies. ‘The dancing hits’ also included a worthy cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie’, after which a reserved crowd turned vocal to demand a last tune. After bantering ‘Well, we can’t get offstage’, the band obliged with a radiant version of atmospheric ballad ‘The Place I Left Behind’. Overall, The Deep Dark Woods shine via their musicianship and songcraft, enhanced with passages of hypnotic, well-woven instrumentals.
A note should also go to Glasgow's excellent Trembling Bells as support. Their fleeting set provided a fittingly 70s tone, with psychedelic guitar melodies and a soaring female vocal from Lavinia Blackwall.