Visionary Traditionalists

The Duhks – The Duhks
The Duhks

The Duhks (Sugar Hill Records SUG-CD-3997, 2005)

Once you get past how to say the name of this young Winnipeg-based band (it’s pronounced “ducks”), your next order of business might be how to categorize them. And good luck. Take a spin through this self-titled CD of theirs and you’ll hear sizable doses of musical strains that encompass Celtic, Appalachian and French Canadian strains along with the more aggressive tones that bluegrass and folk music are capable of. Plus, their main vocalist is a tattooed, closely cropped gal who sings like she’s equal parts gospel proclaimer, soul crooner and blues testifier. And they’ve got a percussionist who seasons the proceedings with unexpected but adaptable Afro/Latin/Caribbean beats.

Be thankful that labeling these guys and girls isn’t your headache. Just get your hands on this album and enjoy every moment of it. From the steely, instantly engaging “Death Came a Knockin'” to a bubbling cover of Sting’s “Love is the Seventh Wave,” the Duhks are definitely on to something here. They
reconfigure many a traditional tune, lovingly cover works by some of their gifted peers and seamlessly make every song an unforced fusion of acoustic sparkle and underlying rhythm. Plus, they are a true ensemble, each member contributing key elements to the multifaceted (and ultimately multicultural) sound.

Fiddler Tania Elizabeth creates sprightly textures that dance in and around the assured work of Jordan McConnel (guitar, uileann pipes) and Leonard Podolak (banjo) while Jessica Havey (vocals) and Scott Senior (percussion) bring their own purist-defying skills to the inner and outer edges.

The songs go from joyful to brooding to rocking to reverent, and these Duhks do it all simply swimmingly. Recommended for anyone who loves the styles mentioned above and even more so for those who think they don’t.

Buy The Duhks

Author: Tom Orr

Tom Orr is a California-based writer whose talent and mental stability are of an equally questionable nature. His hobbies include ignoring trends, striking dramatic poses in front of his ever-tolerant wife and watching helplessly as his kids surpass him in all desirable traits.