The Duhks - The Duhks

The Duhks’ journey south of the Canadian border began in the nurturing womb of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, where banjoist Leonard Podolak’s first spread his wings, and it traverses an entire continent before landing stateside with a warm and energetic album that touches the true heart of folk music. The quintet’s debut CD mixes traditional songs from two continents with the rhythms and textures of two more to create a true music of the people.
The Celtic jigs of "The Dregs of Birch" and "Gene's Machine," a four-song medley of traditional Irish tunes, stand side-by-side with Jessica Havey's smoky vocal soul on Appalachian standards "Death Came a Knockin'" and "True Religion," and an equally expansive gap is bridged between the folksy "Wagoner's Lad" and more modern country sounds of "Four Blue Walls" and "Dance Hall Girls."

The admirable but trite lyrical sentiment of "You and I" and faint, nasal vocals of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" lie like exposed roots on the trail, and the Duhks do stumble--albeit gracefully--but they don't fall. Instead, Tania Elizabeth's fiddle and vocal harmonies lend Havey's deep, heavy blues a pair of dancin' shoes on the Celtic hoe-down of "The Magnolia Set," and Scott Senior's percussion sets an exotic beat throughout the album. Guitarist Jordan McConnell exercises restraint and virtuosity in all the right places, and Podolak's banjo floats just beneath the surface of everything.

From the traditional French Canadian folk of "Du Temps que J'Etais Jeune" to the acoustic reggae of the Sting cover, "Love Is the Seventh Wave," The Duhks exhibit a stylistic dexterity matched only by the depth of their roots. Their self-titled debut CD moves smoothly from blues to bluegrass and Irish to irie without ever loosening its grip on the acoustic warmth that draws people to folk music, regardless of the geographical or generational gaps between the folk and the people.

by Brian Gearing