I despise most “multi-cultural” bands because they end up being musical jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none. The Duhks (pronounced like duck) manage to avoid this musical pitfall due to their enormous talents and obvious reverence for their musical roots.
Comprised of 20-somethings hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, The Duhks have been together for two years. The CD leads off with the gospel-flavored song “Death Came A Knockin’.” A powerful percussion line followed by strong three-part lead harmonies and fiddle obbligato sounds sort of like Sweet Honey and The Rock goes Celtic. The second tune, “Mists of Down Below” combines a bluesy lead vocal with Celtic fiddle and modal guitar. Once more, the strong percussion section drives the song forward with elegant syncopation. My favorite tune, a cover of Ruth Unger’s “Four Blue Walls,” uses all the band’s strengths for great effect. Tania Elizabeth’s fiddle lines mesh with Scott Senior’s percussion to provide a poignant counterpoint to Jessica Harvey’s heartfelt vocals.
Co-produced by banjo whiz Bela Fleck along with engineer Gary Paczosa, The Duhks couple outstanding dynamic agility with natural timbral accuracy. On the first tune, a penny whistle punctuates the end of the first musical line. Even when I’m expecting it, that whistle never fails to whip my head around. It sounds so real that my ears perk up like Pavlov’s dog at feeding time.
If you long to hear music that combines what Bill Monroe used to call “the ancient tones” with a modern musical sensibility, look no further than The Duhks. Their music will roll over you like liquid off a waterfowl’s back.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s March ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.