When: Sat., March 24, 10:45 p.m. 2012
On their fourth album, The Place I Left Behind (Sugar Hill), this five-piece from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, combines various strains of rural American music into kaleidoscopic folk-rock—something like how the Band would've sounded if they'd been indie rockers. The first time I heard the opening track, "Westside Street," I cringed the instant I heard the earnest, sub-Springsteen delivery of front man Ryan Boldt ("Through the narrow streets, from our crooked home"), but four seconds into the song, when beautiful harmony singing enters to echo his words, my resistance melted. There's nothing novel about Deep Dark Woods—even Boldt's lyrics mostly update familiar tropes like unrequited love, unfulfilled desire, and murder—but the band's sturdy adaptations of country and folk forms are so warmly melodic, beautifully atmospheric, and richly arranged that I like them more every time I hear them. Guests on fiddle and banjo play up the old-timey angle, and contributions by full-time members—Geoff Hilhorst's washed-out organ, Burke Barlow's lyrical, liquid pedal steel—give some of my favorite songs a real spark of colorful ambience. Unfortunately the hokey "Sugar Mama" sounds like a campfire sing-along, but there are only a few duds like that—the high points outnumber them by a landslide. —Peter Margasak Liza Day opens.