Hanging from the Rafters
From a look upwards at the exposed, pretty ceiling of Calgary’s Festival Hall in Inglewood, Calgary, I doubt you could hang from the rafters. A pity, given all the seats were filled and music lovers and dancers hugged the aisles. The Deep Dark Woods was in town, performing at the Calgary Folk Music Festival Fall Concert Series to a sell-out crowd on, wait for it, a Monday night.
Songs from Yarrow
The Saskatoon-based alt.country band has picked up a grand following since they were established in 2005, putting out five albums between then and 2013. They went on AWOL for a bit but are back with a brand new recording that’s officially released later this week, titled Yarrow (Six Shooter Records).
Now, when a band puts out an album named after a plant, an herbal plant for that matter, I go a bit botanical-like and contemplate why? There’s no title track to give clues to some herbal use passed down from Grandma to stop nosebleeds or help the kids when they have a fever. No sense of this pungent herb (one smell and you will never forget it) being used to physically, or metaphorically, stop the bleeding (Yarrow gets its Latin name Achillea millefolium from the story that Achilles stanched the bleeding battle wounds of his soldiers by using a tincture or poultice (love those old words) of the white flower with multiple tiny leaves). But across the whole album, there is a sense of conditions to treat, heart-aches to cure and old wounds to close up.
Never mind the botanicals, what about the music?
Alt-country is a fair label to start off with but it needs a bit of a qualification to explain the taxonomy. To my ears, there were some distinct and clear notes coming from the legacy of Fairport Convention, possibly the first band to put a Fender into Folk. That deep resonant sound of a Jazz Master was there in the capable hands of guitarist Evan Cheadle. The whammy-bar twang from the shiny red Gretsch handled by singer and songwriter, Ryan Boldt took that English sound over west on to the Prairies of Canada. Then there was a hint, just a little bit, of Jon Lord from Deep Purple coming through the big hands of Geoff Hilhorst on Rhodes/Hammond organ. Leon Power was on drums and Erik Neilson on bass. Jayne Trimble, who performed support-act songs from Wolves! Cried the Maid (Big White Cloud) under her stage name, Oxlip came back on stage with her acoustic guitar, banjo and sweet, yet haunting, harmonies for the whole of The Deep Dark Woods set.
Soothing songs and melodic melodies
It was the ‘Woods second number Up on the Mountaintop that gave me the feelings about Fairport; a guitar intro kicking back to the start of Matty Groves, a centuries-old song from the north of England made famous by that band. No black beret on Boldt’s head but it did remind me of Richard Thompson, who, here’s another connection, performed at the Calgary Folk Music Festival last year. The band opened up their set with their new single, Fallen Leaves and went on to play all but one of the songs from Yarrow. Like the multitude of uses of that herb, it’s a recording filled with soothing songs, melancholic melodies, and recuperating tales. The Deep Dark Woods is good to take a repeat prescription.
More images of Oxlip and The Deep Dark Woods
For more images of Oxlip and The Deep Dark Woods please visit J. Ashley Nixon Photography