The Deep Dark Woods


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Some of the pre-release comments on the Deep Dark Woods' fifth album, Jubilee, which was produced by California neo-folk revivalist Jonathan Wilson, hinted that the Saskatoon, Canada-based band had taken a hard left turn into psychedelic folk fuzz guitar territory, but that's hardly the case. Jubilee continues in the melancholy part-country, part-folk narrative shoes of its predecessors, full of foggy, mysterious soundscapes and lyrics that always seem full of loss, pain, and regret no matter how lead vocalist Ryan Boldt sings them. It's not a psychedelic album, even if it's full of instruments like the novachord, the celesta, the vibraphone, and the Mellotron, most of these played by organist and keyboardist Geoff Hilhorst -- they all blend into the Deep Dark Woods' late-night, empty-barroom sound. In truth, half the album sounds like Roger McGuinn's early solo albums, which were full of slow, tense modal-styled pirate ballads. That's not a bad thing, but then McGuinn's solo work never found much commercial success, if indeed the Deep Dark Woods even care about that. These are songs that build in slow, flowing layers held together by dusky, swirling keyboard parts and Boldt's low, everyman baritone vocals. Highlights include the striking and ancient-sounding "18th of December," "Red, Red Rose" (a song about lost love that is as clear and straightforward lyrically as anything here), "East St. Louis," the mock epic "I Took to Whoring," and the brightest-sounding thing on the album, "Bourbon Street." In the end, Jubilee is more about reflection than dancing, and more about dusk than dawn.

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