Archive for February, 2009
The Deep Dark Woods is a Canadian band from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. For those American readers out there, it’s in the middle of the summer dust and -40 degree winter chill. It seems unlikely that anything could survive out there, let alone a good group of artists emerge from those flat plains. Saskatoon, though, isn’t terribly unlike Winnipeg. The same words and the same sentences could be used to describe that small city – yet The Guess Who managed to eke out the great American classic – “American Woman.”
However, the style of music couldn’t be further from The Guess Who. Consistently throughout all the tracks are the vocals and the core group which consist of two guitars plus base and drums. On the CD, however, there are a number of additional musicians. The style has heavy roots in country and folk music. The ambience is somber, quietly desperate, with narrative lyrics which explore a darker side of humanity. The song “Farewell,” for instance, is a song about a man who murders his girlfriend and then goes to prison for it.
He bid a long farewell to all of his friends,
He said I’m leaving town and I hope to begin
Something up north where the wind blows cold
I’ll be up there until I grow old.
All he had to his name was a suit case in hand
Five whole dollars and no place to land
Two shells in his rifle and a knife in his sack
He found a women that before he did lack.
Her name was Virginia, she came from the west
She took a train up from Baker to start something fresh
North Colorado she thought was the best
South California never stood the test.
They went for a stroll down Muddy Creek
Virginia sat down before she did speak
She said I can’t go on with you no more
You have become such a bore.
He plunged a knife in her stomach and grabbed her feet
And threw her into the waters so deep
Now he’s sitting in a cell and he’s oh so cold
He’s gonna be there until he grows old.
Some have said that they resemble Neil Young. However, I find a closer association with the Cowboy Junkies. The musicality of the two bands is similar. The vulnerable voice of Margo from the Cowboy Junkies as it laments hardship is often soft. Similarly, the lead vocalist from Deep Dark Woods is also subdued as he softly sings somber lyrics. Perhaps one of the major differences is that the Cowboy Junkies will sing about the hardship of miners or people who are living under the threat of war, Deep Dark Woods lyrics showcase the lonely criminal. Bob Dylan is one of the influential figures that they list. One of the things that distinguished Dylan from many others is that he took real stories and he turned them into songs. Largely, the lyrics from Deep Dark Woods, excepting “All My Money is Gone,” which is from an experience of going broke after after submitting his income tax with efile, and “Nancy,” which is based on a traditional folk song, the lyrics are entirely fictional.
I don’t think the band will ever reach the plateau of someone like Neil Young or even the Cowboy Junkies in their best days with this album. However, I also get the feeling that there is going to be a strong niche for them somewhere, and that Winter Nights is not the last we will hear from them. That being said, the album is solid. Each song is worth listening to and it was difficult to choose which of the three were to be posted with this article.
They are touring Western and Mid-Western Canada with a single show in Texas. Surely they will build a strong and loyal fan base from their efforts.
The Deep Dark Woods’ CD can be ordered for $15, or downloaded for $8.88 at their label’s website.
They are also online at MySpace. They’re extremely friendly and only too happy to hear positive feedback from their fans.
Burke and Ryan from the band have granted Awmusic an interview, but before I get into it, take a listen to a few samples from their album.
1) All The money I Had is Gone
3) The Birds On the Bridge
Q: What is the hardest thing you had to give up by becoming a musician?
Ryan: Working full time – we had to give up our jobs. So that means we don’t make as much money as we could. But that’s what you gotta do to make music. Freedom to go and do whatever I want whenever I want. Traveling around means not getting to take off whenever I want. So that’s the thing I’ve given up. But it’s all worth it in the end.
Burke: I haven’t really given up a whole lot. A steady job. A steady paycheck. I’d say that’s probably the toughest thing. Going on the road. Don’t have time for a steady job. Just odd jobs here and there, between tours.
Q: How do you see yourselves evolving as a band?
Ryan: Trying to start adding different instruments. We want to keep going and make things different and more interesting. That’s how a band lasts. You can’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again. I think we can last a long time. If you continue playing with two electric guitars, base, and drums, it might get a bit boring after awhile. We just have to continue to change to keep things interesting.
Q: How long did it take for you guys to ‘make it’?
Ryan: We started in 2005, so it’s been pretty quick. A lot of bands it takes a lot longer to get where we’ve gotten. We’ve gotten far in a short time; it’s awesome!
Q: What’s the main achievement of your new album?
Ryan: We’ve gotten so much better as a band. My voice has gotten a lot better. The main achievement is that we’ve become way better musicians since the last album, that’s for sure.
Burke: It’s a little bit of a departure from our last one. It’s folkier. It’s a lot of ballads. The best thing about it just the studio use and the producer we worked with brought a lot to the album. It was a real good time to record. Real low stress and kinda laid back, long days but pretty laid back. The guest musicians were all fantastic.
How did you guys all meet to form a band?
Burke: Chris and I, the base player, went to high school together. We’ve been playing guitar and writing songs since we were 16 or 17. I met Ryan at a summer camp when I was 12. We were friends long before the band. We just met Luke – worked with him briefly. Then Luke, Chris and I formed a different band. Kind of more of an Indie rock band: Radio Head, Queens of the Stone Age type stuff. That was kind of more of a hobby band. We didn’t take it seriously as far as trying to get a career going. And then when that band we went our separate ways. We started playing the three of us. Then Ryan came back and we started rehearsing in Luke’s parents’ basement.
How do your parents feel about your choice of becoming musicians rather than working stiffs?
Burke: They’re pretty supportive. All of our parents are. I actually went to school. I have a degree in chemistry. I might go back to that. Right now they’re pretty supportive of what we do, and they want us to make a go of it, make a living at it.
Q: What did the band do to become successful?
Ryan: We worked really hard. We have a guy like Chris who works day and night getting us shows. He works constantly – emailing people and calling people, different booking agents and labels. Practicing. When we first started out, it was like four nights a week we practiced. Constantly practicing. Now that we’ve gotten better, we don’t have to practice as much. We had to work hard to get the band tight as it is now.
Q: How does being a musician affect the relationships in your lives?
Ryan: You don’t see your girlfriend as much as you’d like. I know they get sad when you leave all the time. It definitely affects your relationships, but you just tell ‘em that’s the way it has to be. We’re doing what we wanna do. It’s difficult going on tour for a month at a time and you miss your family and your girlfriend and your friends. You don’t see your friends as much as you want. But that’s just what you gotta do if you want to play music.
Q: What do the lyrics from Winter Hours come from: your life, reading, movies, or something else?
Ryan: A lot of them are based on old folk songs. I’m a big fan of Irish, English and Scottish folk tunes. The song “Nancy” is kind of based on an old English ballad called “Farewell Nancy.” A lot of them are based on folk tunes. “All the Money I had is Gone” I just wrote it one day after I got my income tax and I had to pay $783. It comes from personal experience and traditional songs. Sometimes they come out, and you don’t know where they come from.
Q: What’s your favorite song on Winter Hours, and why?
Ryan: My favorite songs are “All the Money I had is Gone,” “Winter Hours,” or “When First Into the Country.” Those are probably my favorite. But I like them all a lot. It’s our best record. The last couple of records, after we recorded them, I was like, “Ahh I don’t know about this tune or that tune,” but I’m satisfied with this last one.
Q: Your lyrics are very often give the image of a cowboy a hundred years ago or so in the old wild west or the wild middle. Did you have a cowboy in your mind, or do you yourself feel a sense of loneliness inspires you from your adventures on the road? You mentioned before that it’s harder for you to keep a relationship because you’re often on the road, you’re often leaving them behind. Do you find that has any influence on you? Do you feel like a cowboy sometimes, wandering off alone?
Ryan: I don’t know if I feel like a cowboy. I feel more like roving gamblers, one of those ramblers, like a vagabond that never has a steady place to stay. It definitely affects my lyrics, being lonely on the road. Being missing people that I want to see. That definitely affects my lyrics being lonely on the road. Being missing people that I wanna see. That definitely affects the way I write for sure. When I write my songs, the best songs I write are when I’m lonelier.
Q: Farewell, Nancy, and Two Time Loser, are narratives about couples who don’t seem to be doing too well – they’re dysfunctional. Are the narrative lyrics a reflection of real people or are they entirely fictional?
Ryan: Well, definitely “Two Time Loser” is about me. “Nancy” is definitely a fictional song. Singing from the grave – a guy is about to die, he’ll see her in heaven. “Farewell” is a murder ballad I wrote on the ferry going from Victoria to BC. It’s definitely a fictional song. I’ve never murdered anybody. I don’t know anybody that’s been murdered. I like murder ballads. That’s one of my big influences: murder ballads.
Q: The one band that you guys really remind me of is the Cowboy Junkies. Most bands’ singers have a lot of energy. But with the cowboy junkies they’re almost lethargic, sadly lethargic. There seems to be this cross between country, blues – blues lyrics with country music with a touch of rock and roll. That seems to be the sense of the style that I get.
Ryan: To be honest, I’ve never listened much to the Cowboy Junkies. I’m definitely influenced by the Lonesome Dylan stuff, like “Time Out of Mind” and the band Lonesome Suzie and all that stuff – I never got into the later stuff. I’m into anything from the thirties to the mid. I never got into the 80s or 90s stuff.
Q: How old are you?
Q: Are your parents influential in your tastes? How did you gravitate to the older music?
Ryan: My parents never really influenced me in that stuff. They kind of influenced me in the gospel. I got into it from this one fella. I did a radio show back in high school. He was into that stuff.
Q: A lot of movies, not to mention the media, about music stars, paints a picture of sex, drugs, and the destruction of hotel rooms. Can musicians be role models?
Burke: I’d say for sure.
Q: Do you think those stereotypes are valid, or is it Hollywood puffing smoke?
Burke: It really happens. Canadians musicians do this or that because the promoter didn’t give them their full quote. They can be role models. That happens. But a lot of it gets blown up out of something that might not be such a big deal.
We’ve never destroyed a hotel room. It’s something to work towards.
As a budding teenager in the early 90’s I was your typical alternative grunge kid; plaid shirts, army boots, wallet chains and an attitude comprised of angst and nonconformity. At that perfect age for rebellion and disgust for our society I found myself latching onto such bands as Nirvana, Porno for Pyros, Sonic Youth, Alice in Chains and Jane’s Addiction. They made me very lucky with the quality of music that was developing, almost becoming an escape from the normality and giving me a place to hide. I took solace in it and realized there were others that shared in this, bringing feelings of comfort and acceptance.
Jane’s Addiction was one of my favorites; they were huge and ‘Been Caught Stealing’ was one of those songs that caught me by my soul and sent shivers throughout my body. The mixture of barking dogs and Perry Farrell’s high pitched voice over a bass line that was primal enough to rock your nuts, while at the same time melodic enough to make you want to do some sort of sultry dance. I still get that tingling feeling.
Whether you’re like me and are more towards being middle age than a teenager, or a just a young buck branching your musical tastes beyond what’s “new” and “hot” and want to see what generations past had to bring to the table, this is a treat…. On April 21, Jane’s Addiction will be releasing ‘A Cabinet of Curiosities’, a three CD, one DVD box set on Rhino records. The CD’s will be made up of demos (some of which are previously unreleased), live recordings, remixes and covers of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and The Stooges’ ‘1970’. Another highlight (as if that wasn’t enough), is the live “mashup” of Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ lyrics over Bauhaus music ‘Burning from the Inside’ titled ‘Bobhouse’. The DVD will contain several music videos including ‘Mountain Song’ (which was banned from MTV), as well as a live set recorded in Milan, Italy in 1990 and ‘Soul Kiss’, the Jane’s documentary that never found it’s way to DVD until now.
Apparently this set will be available for digital download also, but then you’d miss out on the wooden cabinet that frames this masterpiece; along with all the reproduced concert flyers, ticket stubs and other memorabilia.
Rhino Records also announced that on April 18 they will be re-releasing the bands 1988 album ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ and 1990’s ‘Ritual De Lo Habitual’ on 180-gram vinyl (for all of us that still love the vinyl).
Box set track listings:
01 Jane Says (Radio Tokyo Demo) *
02 Pigs in Zen (Radio Tokyo Demo)
03 Mountain Song (Radio Tokyo Demo)
04 Had a Dad (Radio Tokyo Demo)
05 I Would for You (Radio Tokyo Demo)
06 Idiots Rule (Demo) *
07 Classic Girl (Demo) *
08 Up the Beach (Demo) *
09 Suffer Some (Demo) *
10 Thank You Boys (Demo) *
11 Summertime Rolls (Demo) *
12 City (Demo) *
13 Ocean Size (Demo) *
14 Stop! (Demo) *
15 Standing in the Shower … Thinking (Demo) *
16 Ain’t No Right (Demo) *
17 Three Days (Demo) *
01 Ted, Just Admit It… (Demo) *
02 Maceo (Demo) *
03 No One’s Leaving (Demo) *
04 My Time (Rehearsal) *
05 Been Caught Stealing (12″ Remix Version)
07 Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey [feat. Ice-T & Ernie-C]
08 L.A. Medley: L.A. Woman/Nausea/Lexicon Devil (Live)
09 Kettle Whistle (Live) *
10 Whole Lotta Love (Live) *
11 1970 (Live) *
12 Bobhaus (Live) *
01 Drum Intro (Live) *
02 Up the Beach (Live)
03 Whores (Live) *
04 1% (Live) *
05 No One’s Leaving (Live)
06 Ain’t No Right (Live)
07 Then She Did… (Live) *
08 Had a Dad (Live) *
09 Been Caught Stealing (Live) *
10 Three Days (Live)
11 Mountain Song (Live) *
12 Stop! (Live)
13 Summertime Rolls (Live) *
14 Ocean Size (Live) *
01 Mountain Song (Unedited Version)
03 Had a Dad
04 Ocean Size
06 Been Caught Stealing
07 Classic Girl
08 Ain’t No Right
Live at the City Square in Milan (for MTV Italy, October 1990)
09 Whores *
10 Then She Did… *
11 Three Days *
* previously unreleased
The naming of music genres can get pretty ridiculous at times, with people adding post or neo or revival to existing genres. However every once in a while a genre of music will have a fairly unique name, such as shoegazer, named for the musicians constantly gazing at their shoes while they switch wistfully between effect pedals. Of all the best examples of shoegazer bands out there the Brooklyn based Asobi Seksu are a perfect example.
Their newest gift to the world is Hush a fallow up to the amazing 2006 album Citrus. Hush has a much different sound to Citrus, moving almost completely away from Shoegaze and switching to more of a dream pop sound. Although the moving of genres can often work wonders (look at Beck, changing genres nearly every album) Hush doesn’t quite pull it off. It is missing the twangy guitar work that was found in Citrus replacing it with a more synthy over tone. Its not to say that Hush is bad its just not really what is to be suspected to fallow up Citrus.
Asobi Sesku have taken the recent dream pop influence and given themselves a new sound, making their music closer almost to Deerhunter then to other Shoegaze like Blonde Redhead. If you are a fan of Dream pop then by all means you will enjoy this album, however if you’re an Asobi Sesku fan who was hoping for Citrus 2 then I’m afraid you might be a little disappointed.
It’s hard to be taken seriously in hip-hop. The suave black kid named Jimmy from Degrassi: The Next Generation has become Drake: the suave rapper/singer ready to make a splash into the music industry. Signed under Lil’ Wayne’s label, the Canuck rapper has already created a huge buzz on hip-hop blogs and has toured sold-out arenas as part of Lil Wayne’s “I Am Music” tour.
No matter what you say or think about Drake’s previous job experiences – one thing is certain – the boy knows how to rap. And he does it well. He must’ve been writing in between takes while shooting for Degrassi. In my opinion, 95% of rappers out there are liars anyway. It’s better to come off, as a child-actor turned rapper rather than finding out you were never a gang banging drug dealer.
“So Far Gone” is a Drake’s second major mixtape rlelease and he shows significant growth and improvement from his previous “Comeback Season”.
Though labeled a mixtape, “So Far Gone” sounds more like an official album. A large portion of it is originally produced and sounds sonically cohesive with it’s smooth and bare sound. And no hip-hop album is complete these days without a few Lil’ Wayne cameos.
Drizzy establishes himself as a quick-witted lyricist right off the bat.
And me doing the shows getting everyone nervous
Cause them hiptsters gonna have to get along with them hood niggas
His choice of covers would be considered unorthodox in the hip-hop realm. He drops verses with Peter Bjorn and John and sings his way through Lykke Li’s smash hit, “Little Bit”.
Though his rhymes are dope enough to make me believe that he could be Lil’ Wayne’s ghostwriter, his Weezy influenced delivery is evident. The notorious Auto-tune makes several appearances on a slew of songs. I wish he didn’t succumb to its services because Drake’s RnB vocals are quite respectable without the overused device.
Drake cements himself an identity with this mixtape – an identity that looks pass his “wheelchair Jimmy” persona. He is blessed with multi-faceted talents. And with the biggest artist of the year by his side, you will definitely be hearing more of Drizzy in ’09.
For those that don’t read my blog (and why would you?) I was in Memphis last week filming the 2009 Folk Alliance Conference. A week-long folk music party at the Marriot Hotel. Music 24/7. It was an incredibly unforgettable experience. There were young and old folks jamming in the lobby, concerts held in hotel rooms and most importantly, beer was being passed around freely. Nothing would please me more than to present you with songs by artists that I felt were the highlight of the conference…but I’m afraid that in the ride back my disc drive broke down and whenever I put a disc in it now it laughs in this obnoxious french accent and spits my discs back out.
So I thought, hell, there’s PLENTY of music that I listened to on the road heading down to Memphis (And back where I had to make a stop in Cleveland). I’ll post about that instead until my drive gets fixed. So you folks get a mix from me and I continue to feel like you want to hear them. Win-win.
DVDA – America, Fuck Yeah!
There was a problem crossing the border. It seems that my travel companion and I looked a bit TOO suspicious for simple Canadians going to see some folk music. We were told to stop and under the instruction of a massive power hungry piss-midget of a border patrol guard, got out of our car leaving all our possessions and watched a group of six people go through all our belongings. I’m happy to say though, that this was the ONLY sign of that good ‘ol American paranoia that I only hear about on Fox News. Still, you’d think these guys were in an action film. Thus the following song:
Steve Carlisle – WKRP Theme
I never really went in to Cincinnati. We just drove past it and went across the bridge. but still…seeing those buildings and the signs I couldn’t help but sing the tune to one of my favorite sitcoms ever. “Baby…if you’ve ever wondered…wondered, whatever became of me…”. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
Johnny Cash – One Piece At A Time
Good place. Had some damn fine chili there and met some really nice people when we were lost and looking for directions to Bowling Green. I’d have to say that Kentucky folk are the nicest folk I’ve come across. While driving through, A Johnny Cash tune got stuck in my head. It’s here where we can see that my tastes started turning towards some good ‘ol country music.
Charlie Daniels – Uneasy Rider
Zoomed on past this place. tapped our feet and hands to this song while driving by.
Lovin’ Spoonful – Nashville Cats
David Allan Coe – You Never Even Called Me By My Name
A nice city, but a bit on the tacky side. Oddly enough, not as big on country music as you’d think. Apparently the city officials hate all the country artists coming in to the city and have done their best to get rid of them (such examples include interfering in the building of the new Grand Ole Opry and the regulation of the “Country District” to about two streets). Still, these songs came on and I figured it very suitable, since both mock the country music business in their own special way.
Memphis (And Graceland)
Evils Presley – American Trilogy
King Curly – The Bumblebee Has No Home
As stated above, I had a LOT of fun in this city. The people were nice, the music was banging and they were never short of kitchy crap. And nowhere is this more evident than in the land of the King himself, Graceland. Pictures of Elvis were everywhere and some of his worst songs were wailing on thirty year-old speakers while overweight tourists from Texas gathered around all excited at a chance to experience a glimmer of the life that Elvis had. If they had marketed his name anymore there would be fried peanut butter and banana sandwich vendors and staff members selling pill vials containing elvis-brand mints. But I suppose that’s in poor taste. no… let’s stick with the leopard skin walls.
I managed to get a hold of one of my favorite songs from the week from one of the groups to come out of the conference. King Curly hails from Australia and has an interesting sound. They have all the fixings of an eccentric jug band (well, sans jug) but have the time to write some damn fine lyrics and create songs with inspirations ranging from zombies to Tiny Tim.
Presidents of the United States of America – Cleveland Rocks
My entire ass it rocks. I wasn’t in Cleveland for very long, only to get some sleep and check out the infamous Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and then back to Toronto. But from what I did see of the city, I wasn’t impressed. I will concede, however that it is not within the realm of fantasy that people would think this city “rocks” but in all honesty, I prefer Toronto. Points must be awarded, however, to the hotel we were in who gave us room 1313 that had a wailing breeze coming through the hallway in to our room. Apparently Marilyn Manson stayed there.
The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was…very underwhelming. The movies and information was at least 15 years out of date and was severely lacking in a lot of artists that would normally have been a given for them to have been there. Van Morrison, Peter Frampton, AC/DC, The Byrds, KISS…all missing. Still, some of the memorabilia was cool to see and I got a nice t-shirt out of it.
Que National Anthem
So there you have it. All in all it was a great trip, but I’m glad I’m back in the land of free health care, gay marriage, liberal views on marijuana, playoff beards, good beer, Tim Horton’s and any other common Canadian thing that is in a damn beer commercial.