There are few Canadian vintage folk artists that can hold a candle to the consistent story telling, spot on harmonies and tight musicianship that define The Deep Dark Woods. Their last LP, Winter Hours, garnered well-deserved praise from publications on both sides of the border, and put the rest of the Canadian roots scene on notice. It also featured one of the best songs written in years.
The Place I Left Behind perfectly sums up the melancholic tales the band crafts, but it also marks huge changes for the band. The band moved from Black Hen to Six-Shooter, added the rich smoky tones of piano/organ man Geoff Hilhorst on a full-time basis and made the bold decision to produce the record on their own.
Anyone lucky enough to see the band in the last 18 months would know the band is scrappier and louder on stage than ever before, but instead of smoke The Place I Left Behind smolders. It’s a collection of slow-burners; a cohesive experience spiked by hints of R&B and rock (the guitar work on “Mary’s Gone” kills me) that plays to front man Ryan Boldt’s (and to be fair, the entire band) strengths. They make you sway, they make you want to hold someone close, and when they deliver that organ solo to close “I Just Can’t Lose” or captivate you with the title track’s gripping narrative, they transport you to some place special.
The Deep Dark Woods is a humble outfit that avoids the spotlight, but after people start to digest and embrace The Place I Left Behind, headlining folk and roots festivals seems like the only possible next step. The Place I Left Behind exceeds even the highest of expectations and remarkably pays tribute to the sound that defines our country’s musical heritage without sounding dated. There’s a sadness that runs throughout the 13-song affair but the uplifting harmonies and warm organ work act as the perfect counterpoint. Basically, it’s the type of record that ignores seasons and trends, for the simpler and much loftier ambition of timelessness.