The Deep Dark Woods/Changing Faces/Six Shooter Records
Four out of Five Stars
At this point in their trajectory—some six efforts in—Canada’s Deep Dark Woods have essentially become a vehicle for its two prime players, singer/bassist/guitarist Ryan Boldt and keyboard player Geoff Hilhorst, with current collaborators Evan Cheadle (guitar) and Kacy & Clayton (backing vocals, acoustic guitar) well in tow. Both the band’s handle and current album title, Changing Faces, appropriately affirm their approach at this juncture, given the solitary sounds and incessant sense of yearning and desire. This is indeed a backwoods version of The Deep Dark Woods, with songs such as “How Could I Ever Be Single Again?,” “Yarrow” and “My Love For You Is Gone” sounding like nothing less than old Appalachian folk ballads mined from the essence of sadness and despair. The spare and somber “Anathea,” the album’s sole traditional tune, draws them back further still, an old English ballad that conveys dire implications and deep, dark designs.
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Changing Faces was supposedly inspired by a change in environs, and not surprisingly in fact, Boldt seems uncommonly disoriented at times, which only adds to the melancholy mood that pervades the piece as a whole. The yearning and desire expressed in “When I Get Home Tonight” shares a palatable sense of passion and purpose, but there’s loss and loneliness inherent here as well. The odd effects in this case, what sounds like a strangled lead guitar and Hilhorst’s Farfisa organ, flourish on album opener “Treacherous Waters” and add tone and texture to these otherwise sad soliloquies. When Boldt opts to offer a lingering lament on “Everything Reminds Me” or purveys an incessant strum on “In the Meadow,” the traditional trappings up the ante to create more ominous intrigue.
Still, it’s odd at times trying to identify with this pastoral pastiche. It’s clearly a far cry from the populist precepts they purveyed earlier on. While they maintain the rootsy regimen that’s always been at their core, they share it now with a fragile finesse, a sound that’s tender, enticing and yet mined from an obviously archaic perspective. Those that fancy folk music will find much to admire even in spite of some spooky scenarios.