[23 March 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
If you couldn’t tell by the title, the Deep Dark Woods’ Winter Hours is a pretty sullen album. But its downtrodden sound works, by and large, as Ryan Boldt and company subtly explore different sounds without straying from the foot they have set firmly in the country tradition. “Nancy” chugs along at a barn-stomping pace, breaking up the hushed ballad of “Farewell” and the beautiful, lilting shuffle of “How Can I Try”. The album is always thoughtful, Boldt sounds pensive and lonely even at his most strident, but there are moments of immediacy in all these sad songs. The harmonizing on “The Birds on the Bridge”, for example, sounds like they’re pushing Boldt along, not letting him wallow alone like he has for much of the album. Most of Winter Hours sounds like country by the numbers, although the Deep Dark Woods put their heart into it and make these songs distinctly theirs. Still, the size and guitar attack of closer “The Sun Never Shines” hints at a potential for something bigger the band would do well to explore. Turns out they can stretch out and rock with the best of them, they just don’t do it enough. They show us a lot of good stuff on this album, but that last track is great. And, hopefully, it shows us what direction these guys are headed in.