Live from the Sticks

At the 2012 Dawson City Music Festival (DCMF), attendees are in for a treat. With a lineup that became progressively more exciting as it was leaked over the early months of spring, one of the bands that stands out is The Deep Dark Woods.

Well, to me anyway.

You see, a strange thing happens when you live in the Yukon for a while. Almost in an instant, your tastes change.

You want something, more. Down home. Softer, yet more profound.

Their brand of alt-folk-country has me and many others excited about The Deep Dark Woods coming this far north.

The best part is we are not the only ones.

“We’ve been wanting to play the DCMF for a while,” remarks Chris Mason, bassist and backing vocalist for the band.

“We’ve had plenty of friends go up to Dawson and work for the summer. We’ve all heard a lot about it, and we’re pumped to go to such an amazing place.”

Mason has toured Canada, the U.S., and different parts of the globe with the group. This year alone will take them to the Ottawa Bluesfest, the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, Austin City Limits in Austin, Texas, and dates in the United Kingdom and Europe.

The Deep Dark Woods, out of Saskatoon, was founded in 2005 as group of guys who either grew up together or were friends of those friends.

The ensemble features songwriter and guitarist Ryan Boldt, lead guitarist Burke Balow, bassist and backing vocalist (who also adds to a few tracks of his own songs to the discs), Mason, keyboard aficionado Geoff Hilhorst, and drummer and multi-instrumentalist Lucas Goetz.

Their sound has matured over the years. From their first self-titled release in 2006, self-recorded in 12 hours, they have toured incessantly. After their third album, they brought in Hilhorst.

“Geoff joined the band after Winter Hours. It totally changed the dynamic for the good,” Mason tells me.

“We had a vision of what we wanted to sound like, and now we have it.”

That vision has taken them on the road once again during the 2012 festival season.

“We’ve done a lot of touring, and have gotten better and better over the years,” says Mason.

“We’ve even got agents, and are working with Six Shooter Records in Canada and Sugar Hill Records in the U.S. These things keep opening better opportunities for us.”

2009’s Winter Hours, the group’s third disc, produced by Steve Dawson and released by Black Hen Music, received rave reviews from critics and earned several awards including Best Roots Group at the 2009 Western Canadian Music Awards, and Ensemble of the Year at the 2009 Canadian Folk Music Awards.

Winter Hours also earned The Deep Dark Woods numerous other nominations.

“Those things are a bonus. None of our goals are to win awards,” says Mason. “We honestly just want to play more and more shows, go to different countries, and have amazing adventures… but winning does feel great.”

During tours, the musicians are slowly working on new songs. In their down time they sit down and record what they’ve all come up with.

The Place I Left Behind is their latest, released by Six Shooter Records last August.

It was recorded in Halifax, at the same studio where they recorded their contribution to the 2009 edition of CBC Radio 2’s Great Canadian Song Quest. They liked the room and the engineer, and thought they’d try it out.

“With each album we try to switch up different things to have a naturally unique sound. For The Place I Left Behind we rented a ton of pedals and guitars and amps,” says Mason.

“When we we’re recording we were playing on cool, unfamiliar equipment, and that contributed to the album’s outcome.”

It paid off.

Sun Media called their latest “a masterpiece of sombre beauty and eternal heartbreak”, and Exclaim! noted The Place I Left Behind “is another wholly satisfying album that builds upon past successes and carries the band forward as one of the country’s finest roots acts.”

The Deep Dark Woods can’t wait to put on a show under the midnight sun.

“Right now we’re focusing on just playing good shows. Come December we’ll have a break,” says Mason.

The 34th annual DCMF takes place July 20 to 22. For more information or to find out how to volunteer at the festival, see

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