Winters in Saskatchewan are no joke. “Terrible, just terrible,” in the words of The Deep Dark Woods frontman Ryan Boldt. Bitterly cold temperatures and high lattitude darkness might partially explain the band’s love of gothic stories in the tradition of murder ballads like “Old Joe Clark” and “Hang Down Your Head Tom Dula.” On their new collection, “Yarrow,” The Deep Dark Woods tell stories of loss, grief and justice, leavened by the graceful harmonies of Boldt and singer Kacy Anderson over a thick stew of organ and electric guitar. In a twist that might come from one of their songs, Boldt contracted scarlet fever shortly before recording. Pumped full of antibiotics, he hopped a plane for Saskatoon, joined his band in the studio, and then sang some of the most achingly beautiful duets you’ve ever heard.
Boldt told us he didn’t consider reworking the songs when he got well.
“Sometimes when I’m sick, or extremely tired, I think I play better because I’m not thinking as much about the playing. I’m just out of it. And I play better.”
We met up with the band recently at Portland’s Bunk Bar to record a soundcheck session and talk with Boldt about his love of traditional music, and singing duets with Anderson. They performed two songs from “Yarrow” and a traditional song, “Just as the Tide Was Flowing.” Watch the performances in the VuHaus player above, and hear the interview in the audio player below.
Audio recording and mixes: Steven Kray
Bunk Bar audio: Boone Howard
Editor: Jarratt Taylor
Videographers: Jarratt Taylor, Nate Sjol, Andrew Barrick
Executive Producer: David Christensen