The Deep Dark Woods “Broadside Ballads Vol. III”

Victory Pool Records, 2024

Emotive interpretations of traditional folk songs.

Amidst their albums of original material, The Deep Dark Woods have recorded a series of records of traditional folk songs called ‘Broadside Ballads’. This is the third such album, and with eight songs, clocking in at just over 30 minutes, it’s certainly a case of quality over quantity. The tracks are mainly quintessential folk songs covering death, deceit, broken hearts and leaving loved ones behind. As Ryan Boldt, The Deep Dark Woods’ main man, observes “there are not too many jolly songs in there”.

The album opens with the ‘The Banks Of The Lough Erne’, a song recorded by Dick Gaughan on his classic album ‘A Handful Of Earth’ as ‘Lough Erne / First Kiss At Parting’. It features Erin Rae whose voice blends wonderfully well with Boldt’s. It’s followed by ‘Brigg Fair’ an English song originally collected in North Lincolnshire, where a fair has been taking place in Brigg since 1205, at which horses are bought and sold. It’s another song of love and parting.

Spanish Is The Loving Tongue’ is a song that is often misattributed as “traditional”, but in fact it’s based on the poem “A Border Affair” written by Charles Badger Clark in 1907. It portrays the romance between a white man and a Mexican woman amidst the racial and political tensions of the US-Mexico border. It features some achingly beautiful pedal steel guitar courtesy of Matt Kelly which complement the poignant lyrics as the song ends with, ‘I broke her heart and lost my own, Adios, mi corazon’.

The Cocky At Bunageree’ is a doleful Australian folk song. A cocky refers to a smallholder farmer, for which the narrator of the song has the misfortune to work. It’s sparsely arranged with just Boldt and an acoustic guitar relating the rueful tale. ‘The Boatman’ is a Scots Gaelic song dating from the late eighteenth century, written by Sìne NicFhionnlaigh. The song beautifully captures the emotions of her courtship with a young fisherman.

The album ends with two songs about unrequited love. ‘Peggy Gordon’ is thought to be Canadian in origin, it’s beautifully arranged. The final track is ‘Bridget O’Malley’ a traditional Irish song, it’s another tale of love going unreciprocated. Boldt who is a relentless listener of music, says “It’s all I do. When I’m not playing music, I’m listening to it, trying to find songs that make me feel an aching pain in my chest”. He’s certainly succeeded with this and the understated, organic arrangements will tug at your heartstrings.

8/10
8/10

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