Release Date: August 2, 2011
Six Shooter Records; 13 Tracks
Review by: Lee Fraser
Songs of lament and regret fill the latest CD from The Deep Dark Woods.
The third full-length record from what I believe to be one of the strongest bands in Canada today, The Place I Left Behind is a collection of songs about people and places in the past. Self-produced in Halifax last October, the record was released by the excellent Six Shooter Records. It features smooth vocal harmonies, intricate organ and violin duets, and crisp guitar solos.
The album opens with "West Side Street", a song about the bad side of town and the struggles of life there. The upbeat tempo and sing-along chorus at the end of the song suggest that anything can be overcome… or can it? The song ends with some tortured guitar wailing. This leads into the melancholic title track, an almost apologetic tune about leaving the only place that ever meant anything.
The album has 13 tracks, about half of which are about women, and the other half are about towns, cities and foreign lands. Each of the songs about women tells a different story, ranging from unexplained murder ("The Ballad of Frank Dupree") to feeling used (the very cheeky "Virginia"). The overall theme of the album, lyrically, is reminiscing about the past, often with regret. The Deep Dark Woods have once again proven that their strength is in story-telling and traditional instrumentation.
One such example of effective story-telling is "The Banks of the Leopold Canal". The band puts a personal spin on the Battle of the Scheldt, a World War II clash in which thousands of Canadians perished. Told from the perspective of a soldier, it contains heart-wrenching lyrics with musical accompaniment that is sorrowful and reverent.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, "Sugar Mama" is an upbeat tune with a cheerful lyric, especially impactful because it follows two moody laments about women. "Sugar Mama" is a flirtatious little ditty, an appeal to an older woman that she should "take a chance on me, I'm a lot older than I used to be." This song will be a crowd favourite, for sure.
Regret and all, this is a very well-produced album with beautiful, rich tones. The Deep Dark Woods are a group of Saskatoon musicians who collaborate to create an old classic country sound crossed with traditional folk. The Place I Left Behind confirms that, as good as they sound today, they are a band that may only be on their way to peaking.
Following the release of the album, The Deep Dark Woods will be playing several festivals before touring central and western Canada. They will play Lee's Palace in Toronto on September 24.