Talking Shop with Leonard Podolak and Jessee Havey (the Duhks)

Winnipeg's The Duhks are back after a two-year hiatus. In their 13 years as a band, they have weathered a changing of the guard while maintaining a continuity that progresses on their new album Beyond the Blue (out June 24 on Compass Records).

While it could be argued their familiar sounds come from the scattered traditions of cultures found in the patchwork of our world, fans will quickly recognize the familiar voice of Jessee Havey, who left the project and has now returned. I had the opportunity to chat with Havey and founding member Leonard Podolak about the blurred lines of playing and writing music that takes its cues from strong tradition and its origins, while forging a new sound.

Chris Funk: It's rare that somebody returns to a band after leaving. [Jessee,] you're like the Christine McVie of folk music, or something. Good job. I’m a big fan of hers. That’s a compliment… I love the new record. Did you record it in Winnipeg?

Jessee Havey: No, we tracked with our friends Mike and Ruthy – they have a house and a studio called Humble Abode in Upstate New York, in West Hurley. It’s like this old garage/barn sort of thing that’s very homey. They have two little kids that are running around. We met them at the very beginning, in the first years of the band, when they were playing with a band called the Mammals – their band with Tao Rodriguez-Seeger. We met those guys and sort of… I don’t know if you know this term I learned recently called "bandmance," where you meet your soulmate band and are like, We should fall in love and be together forever.

Leonard Podolak: Yeah, we were married.

JH: We were married and madly in love and would do shows together sometimes. They came all the way to Winnipeg to open for us at our hometown venue – the West End Cultural Center. We did some shows together, we played in Australia together. The Duhks and the Mammals together were Platypus. Really, musically, we’d never met anyone that was our age, doing the same kind of old time, steeped-in-traditional stuff, but with a modern [twist] … everyone came from punk rock and ska bands. Those guys broke up and then, when we wanted to make this record, they were the first people we’d thought of. They’d been working as a duo – Mike and Ruthy, musically – but also starting to produce a lot. It just seemed like a no-brainer.

That makes sense, to have this house environment rather than a sterile studio, on-the-clock thing.

LP: That’s right. You know, looking at the clock and having all the A&R around. When we started the project, there was no record company involved yet, actually. We were just doing this on our own. They basically agreed to do it on spec. Not only that, like Jess said, these were old friends and we trusted them. We just wanted a musical environment as opposed to any kind of scene. Just people who know and love us, who we trust, and who trust us…

That’s great … I’ve produced bands as well, and I’ve made a few records for bands that are unsigned. For me, to be involved with a record like that is like the next level. You spoke to how being in a home environment with friends is a really liberating, comfortable experience. Did you find that not having a label or an end goal in mind beyond “we’re going to release this one way or another” was comforting, or was it frustrating, like maybe the music wouldn’t see the light of day?

JH: I thought it was really comforting. And we had this blind faith. This was the first opportunity we had to do what we want to do. The response we’ve been getting from audiences with me back… it was just kind of like they gave us this [vibe of,] “We will float you whatever you do. Just keep doing whatever you do because that’s why we’ve stuck around through all these lineup changes and breaks.” Were you scared, Leonard?

LP: On a business level, I was … because, in the time the band took a couple of years off, I was involved in a couple other musical projects with a quartet and a duo. We made simple, $3,000 records and printed them ourselves, and didn’t even think of approaching a label. We just sold them off the stage and, because of our history in the business, we still could get decent gigs at festivals and stuff, and could sell a good whack of records. And, gee whiz, we paid a dollar-fifty for those records, so who cares if it’s not getting widely distributed.

When [the Duhks] raised $20,000 on Indiegogo, that sort of let me know – you know what, we actually do have a fan base out there and maybe we’ll get a distribution company that will buy the records from us. We’ll sell it online and at gigs, and we’ll print it ourselves. It’ll be more work but, you know, even if it doesn’t have the wider distribution, our fans will love it. We’re servicing our fans. Even if it doesn’t get so big out there, we’ll get way more money per unit and it’ll still make us a decent living playing music on our terms. But then Gary from Compass called me up and explained to me the pros and cons of doing it that way: If you did want to get wider distribution, what would be involved? And how much of an investment would you have to make – how much would have to exist on your credit card?

Gary wanted to sign us in the beginning, too, and he almost did until Sugar Hill came along and offered us money. We saw Nickel Creek and that whole thing. We saw stars and believed all our own b.s. The Compasses have been long time fans and I’m a huge fan of Allison Brown, so it seems like a great match and I’m glad they came into the picture.

Yeah, it’s good to have that as an option. The industry has blown wide open, as you said. You can print up your own records and find distribution, but it’s also daunting to run your own label. I think about it often.

LP: You think about just logistics and taxes, all the jobs that need to get done on an ongoing basis – advancing and airline tickets and blah, blah, blah. It’s just constant. Managing the life of a record is a big responsibility. They approached us with a deal. It’s not a standard record deal. It’s a partnership. We’re splitting it. We bring the music, they have the infrastructure. We split the profit down the middle. Lovin’ life. So it’s a great experiment. I’m excited to try it.

I think I often have this artistic arrogance, like I’ve been doing this long enough, I can figure it out. But I do believe there are people at labels who still know what the hell they’re doing.

JH: Right, and you have that support. Something that’s really huge to me, especially since Leonard is at the helm of the business stuff: when you do release some of that and let someone else do it, it enables you to be an artist and do the job that made you do this in the first place.

LP: Exactly. We just did a Pete Seeger tribute concert together, Jess and I. we were actually joined by our pal Jordan McConnell, who was in the band for a dozen years as well. I sang a song called “Pretty Polly,” which my dad taught me. We sat across from each other with two banjos – knee to knee and face to face – and he told me the story of this murder ballad. First he told me what the story was, then he taught me the verses. I learned it verse by verse. Those are the connections. That’s why I started playing banjo. All this rigmarole, came afterwards.

It’s easy to get caught up in it. Speaking of that, we should talk about the music, probably. I read your press release and I’ve heard your band for years. As you’ve both been saying on the phone here, talking about traditions … The press release says it’s a neo-folk band and doesn’t consider itself on the record to be traditional. Obviously you just said you grew up playing banjo. What are the traditional influences of the band, and is there anything specifically Canadian that you feel like is traditional in the band, versus American?

JH: Good question.

LP: That’s a very good question. I think on this record, the Canadian influence… Jess should answer this because it’s her song. The fiddle tunes I wrote, I guess, have some Canadian influence too. But I think a lot of the Canadian influences existed more on our past records. This is a pretty Americana record. Usually we do a Quebecois tune. This time we did a song from Mali. And usually I sing in French, but this time Jess sang in French.

“Je Pense a Toi”…that song?

LP & JH: Yes

LP: Jess, take over this one.

JH: Well, we grew up at the Winnipeg Folk Festival which was, at the time, really a world music festival. So, subconsciously from the time we were babies, we were surrounded by this really eclectic mix. I don’t even know if I’m aware of what my traditional influences are. I think we’re both just kind of musical sponges. I’ve recently gravitated toward traditional Cajun music and really want to do more stuff like that. We’ve always joked, when we get called Americana, that we’re a Canadiana band. Americana, to me, is a fancier, cooler way of saying folk music – music from the people, for the people.

LP: American ones.

Canadians don’t like that music.

LP: You know what, there’s a big influence from Texas that’s taking place in Winnipeg right now, in general. People like Hayes Carll have a lot of influence on the people up here, who hang out at the Times Change. Of course Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. But people like Romi Mayes and…

JH: Scott Nolan.

LP: Scott Nolan, exactly.

JH: Mary Gauthier has done a lot of work with people here and she’s gone over really well. There’s definitely a Texas thing happening up here.

LP: But, to answer your question about the influences, my influences are old time music, Irish music, Quebecois music, French-Canadian music, blues a little bit, gospel a little bit. But, just like what Jess said, I learned it all at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

I feel like, when I listen to the record, I can find all those influences very prominently displayed, which I love. I find Black Prairie does that. We’ll flip from a fiddle tune to Romani music or something. On our older records we did that a lot too. But back to that song “Je Pense a Toi”…

LP: That’s a song by Amadou & Mariam from Mali, in Africa.

That’s amazing. The presentation of it… I don’t associate Winnipeg with this Franco-Manitoban population. Is there a large one? I associate that with Montreal and Quebec.

JH: Yeah, I guess people don’t really recognize it, but there’s a huge Franco-Manitoban population. Leonard went to French immersion school. I did some French immersion. Manitoba definitely has a huge French culture.

LP: There’s a whole neighborhood in Winnipeg called Saint Boniface, which has 60,000 French-speaking people.

JH: That’s where I was born. Were you born at that hospital?

LP: No, I was born at the Women’s Center.

JH: Womp womp. I was born so much more culturally [laughs].

LP: That’s the culture that Sarah and Christian [Dugas] grew up in. They’re from Saint Boniface. They were a part of this whole music scene that also exists and has its own life over there, across the river.

JH: That’s where we made our first record, at their dad’s house in Saint Boniface.

What kind of music was that? Was that specifically French-Canadian music or just your own stuff?

JH: Just our own stuff.

LP: The first Duhks record? The traditions are displayed even more prominently on that record. That’s a record we made three months after we formed as a band. We got all together and put together a repertoire and recorded it because we had a summer full of festivals already.

JH: I had never been in a band before, let alone a recording studio.

LP: I had the opportunity to call on these folks because the band I was in previously, called Scruj MacDuhk, had broken up. I had a round of gigs I’d gotten to keep from Scruj, for the Duhks. There were some artistic directors who [told me,] “If you’ve got a new band, I’ll still getcha.” One of those was a guy name Carsten Panduro, in Denmark, at a festival called Tonder. It’s this big festival that takes place in a tiny little town. I had an epic experience there the year before with Scruj and he wanted to have me back. Well, he wanted to have Scruj back but Scruj didn’t exist anymore. So we made this stupid little demo. The percussion player at the time was just learning Protools and, on one of the sets of reels, he played a pattern for eight bars and then just copied and pasted it throughout the whole arrangement. [laughs]

JH: I forgot about that.

LP: That was Rodrigo Munoz, who was on the first record. Carsten had us and we had to make a record right away, so we called on Mark Schatz, who played for years with Bela Fleck and is on the road again with Nickel Creek. He’s a great upright bass player and hamboner, clogger, banjo player, and just a great dude. He came back up to Winnipeg and we made this record, and away we went.

Speaking of Tonder, one of the songs on your new record is called "Tonder Honing"…

LP: I was in the performers’ bar at the Tonder festival and there was a great group of musicians called Dreamer’s Circus. Nikolaj Busk is this amazing accordion player. They were writing this tune for a ball that was happening in one of the tents that night. They have everything from the most popular thing in Denmark to the most folky thing ever at this festival. They were having a ball called the Fano Ball, from the island of Fano, which is the heartbeat of traditional Danish music. I’d met this guy a couple times. They were writing this tune for the ball and I was going up to the bar to get a drink.

They [said,] “Leonard we’re writing a tune. This is the A part. How should the B part go?” Just as a joke. I said “Play it for me again.” So they played it for me and then they played the first half and I just started singing what wound up becoming the second half. They let me in on the composition of it. We worked it up and I joined them that night at the Fano ball, where they had all this traditional dancing, and I played that tune with them. It was so cool.

And it made the record.

LP: It’s on the record, I wanted to do it. It’s a new tune I wrote. [laughs]

I was going to guess it’s a nyckelharpa song, or something, from the spelling and the sound of it.

LP: Yeah, well it’s related; it’s close. It’s not Swedish, but it’s northern European for sure.

Back to the banjo … we’ll jump back to the record in a second. Is there a style of banjo playing that’s specifically Canadian as well, in your opinion? You said the first song you learned was “Pretty Polly,” which I assume is Appalachian…

LP: No, the banjo is an American tradition. There are Canadians who play the banjo. I’m a Jewish-Polish-Ukranian-Canadian banjo player. [laughs]

I was hoping there was some stone I hadn’t turned over and you’d say, “You don’t know about the banjo playing of Nova Scotia?”

LP: No, there’s people on the East Coast who play four-string banjo. But that’s Irish.

You were speaking of Cajun music earlier. Obviously the song “Lazy John” leans heavily on that. Everybody hears Cajun music and they think of the South and New Orleans, but if you dig deeper, you realize it comes from Canada.

JH: That’s right, Acadians.

Acadian music, and I guess arguably maybe [there’s a] Scottish influence too, through Scottish music in Nova Scotia. The merging of the two…

LP: That’s funny, absolutely. There’s the merging of a whole bunch of things going on there.

JH: I’ve never thought about that before, but maybe that’s a big part of why I gravitate toward Cajun music. My dad was from Nova Scotia and definitely raised me on some traditional Nova Scotian music.

I guess what I’m driving at, back to what you said earlier about being this Americana band … really a lot of this music can be traced back to early Canada. It’s kind of a bummer that Acadia doesn’t get its due, by the public, as an influence of Cajun music. Maybe people who are steeped in it understand where it has come from.

LP: Yeah, but you go down to Louisiana and, just now, there’s a bit of a renaissance of their own culture. People like Blake [Miller], who recorded accordion on our record, from the band the Revelers… those folks are Anglophones, mostly. Some of them have a French background but they grew up speaking English and are now learning French and gaining an awareness of the background of this music they grew up listening to. They’re starting to digging deeper into it. Now, in Louisiana, there’s just starting to be an awareness of Cajun music.

I was in Prince Edward Island a couple of months ago, and they also feel a strong connection with the music of Louisiana. For better or worse, some of them survived and there’s still Acadian culture there. But, since they got all booted out, some cool stuff was borne from that. They feel connected with those people down there.

But, to answer specifically about “Lazy John,” that’s actually an old time Appalachian tune. One time, Dirk Powell recorded this song – he and his ex-wife Christine Balfa, who is the daughter of Louis Balfa – recorded a song called “Le Chandelle Est Allumee” (“The Candle’s Still Lit”). It’s a song they wrote about Cajun culture still surviving, but they took a melody from an old timey Appalachian song, called “Lazy John.” I thought it’d be kind of cool to do it in reverse. We’ll make “Lazy John” and do it with a Cajun [flair]. It’s the exact same melody and we’ll do it with a fiddle and a banjo and also the accordion, and give it that Cajun groove as best as we could for a bunch of Canadians and Yankees – there’s the New York contingent of the band too. But also that funny bridge that happens at the beginning and in the middle, I made that up on the bouzouki, thinking about tradition. I was playing an Irish instrument thinking about Celtic rock. 

The song “One Step Away” is like a New Orleans second line to me.

JH: Yeah, totally. I told them… we were in the process of solidifying the list of songs for the record and I said, “Okay everything looks great but I’m not making a Duhks record without a gospel song on it. So, we need to find a traditional gospel song.” Literally an hour later, I get a text message with a voice memo from Ruth Ungar Merenda, one of the producers. She said “I’m not done yet, but how’s this?” She fucking wrote that song – pulled it out of her ass, because she’s a brilliant genius. I heard it and went yup that’s it, that’s the gospel song. She had the concept of a second line feel. We’ve started doing that live and I’m having fun with it. That is a traditional gospel song, but it was just written for this record.

I love it. On “I’ll Go East, You Go West,” to me that sounds like it’s pulling from a Romani influence. Was that where you were drawing from?

LP: I don’t know who that is.

Like gypsy music.

LP: Oh, yes I gotcha. Sort of. Yeah. I made that tune up on the banjo. I was thinking of klezmer, but that’s so closely tied to what you’re talking about. Even though I’m a Jewish Polish Ukrainian guy, I’m way more in tune with the milieus we’ve been talking about – Western, Northern European, Irish, Celtic, old timey Appalachian, American traditions. But I don’t’ know kilezmer music. This is my take on a klezmer tune.

My wife is from Denmark and there was a whole part of our courtship where I was on tour with the Duhks and she was working in Afghanistan a lot. The second [part of that] tune, when we recorded it, I changed it a little bit to make it sound more Irish. It had more minory notes on there. It was an Irish tune, like a reel or something, but it had this sort of Eastern feel too. So then Ruth made up those cool words.

The drumming lends it to another region. It’s an interesting song. To me, on the second half, the fiddling sounds – you say it’s Irish but it sounds to me almost Scottish.

LP: Yeah, exactly. Those traditions are so closely tied and that’s Tania Elizabeth playing the fiddle on that track. Her deal, if I were to speak for her in No Depression, I would say that as far as the Celtic influence goes for her, it came from Cape Breton. So, there is more of a Scottish feel to what she does. She’s got a really strong – whatever, both her hands on the fiddle are amazing – but she tends to ornament more with her bow than with her left hand.

I don’t play much fiddle. I dabble in it, but it pulls on my heartstrings. I’m jealous I can’t do it. What about “Banjo Roustabouts” and “Burn”? I’ve noticed the way some of the instruments are treated, which I really love – it sounds like you’re distorting fiddle and banjo a little bit, taking a line out into some amps. Am I correct in hearing that, or are there actually electric guitars in there?

LP: You are. On both of those, Jefferson [Hamer] played a 12-string electric guitar. On “Burn” in particular, it has fiddle, viola … it has Lydia Garrison playing the old time fiddle. It has Rosie Newton, who replaced Tania in the band during the record. But they’re both on the record – Rosie playing viola and Tania playing electric fiddle.

I really love that. I do that with my band Black Prairie. We’re layering in sounds, splitting out between a microphone and an amp. It’s really fun to do, but do you ever feel like you’re crossing the line too far? Obviously your band doesn’t have any problems with mashing together a few genres…

JH: Nah.

But, when does an acoustic band become an electric band? I often think about that myself.

LP: Well, where does electric music come from? [laughs]

That’s true. Good point.

LP: We’re just playing them both at the same time. I mean, it still sounds rooted in tradition to me, though. You take the exact same part that Tania or Jefferson are playing plugged in on an acoustic instrument, and have it acoustic on the record, and the parts sound pretty similar. The playing is based on, really influenced by both electric and traditional playing. It’s still real playing, so that’s all I care about.

JH: Boys, I hate to interrupt and I hate to say it but I have to catch a plane really soon.

LP: Is there anything you want to ask Jess in particular before she jumps off?

I don’t’ think so. It must be amazing standing in front of these musicians, singing. I’m glad you’re back in the group.

JH: Me too. After I left the band and started playing with other people, I realized how insanely spoiled I was. Considering that the Duhks was my very first band … it’s hard to play with people who aren’t absolutely brilliant. So maybe I’ve become a bit of a snob, but it’s not my fault, it’s Leonard’s.

Leonard, I wanted to ask you real quickly about “These Dreams.” Is that a song she brought to the band?

LP: That’s a funny question because Tania wrote that song and she’s actually not even on that track, as it turned out. There’s all kinds of crazy things that happened.

Even though this is the new beginning of the band, a lot of things happened in the Spinal Tap-ian tradition of the music business. Partway through the record, it came to light that Tania was being courted by the Avett Brothers. This is an opportunity that can’t be passed up right now. They’re at the top of their game and it means so much. I think what people really love about the Duhks is the musical concept, and they love that Jess is back.

It opened up an opportunity to have another fiddle player, so we had two fiddle players on the record. But, before that had really come to light, before that was really going on and we were talking about the repertoire of the record, Ruth was going into all our brains and going into all our personal vaults. This was a tune that Tania had written years ago and it didn’t have the chorus yet. I had pictured the melody that became the chorus – as well as the horn part – as a horn part. It was just sort of like this melody that was floating around in my head even though it was connected to Tania’s song. We hadn’t played together for years ... This song came to light again and then that melody came to light again and, in the meantime, she made the melody into the chorus and written words to it. When we were doing this, the bridge part that was originally an instrumental, Ruth wrote some words to it. So then it became this collaboration between Tania and Ruth and I. We tracked it and recorded it. Nevermind that Tania’s not in the band anymore [laughs].

We played it a couple of times without the horns, but it doesn’t really have… we took the liberty in the studio and got some horns on it. With “Lazy John,” even when there isn’t an accordion there, it’s no problem, because there’s a nice robust rhythm section and there’s still a strong melody section with the fiddle and the banjo for that kind of song. But, “These Dreams” without the horns, the melody doesn’t quite have the juice. And, without Tania being there, it isn’t quite as much fun to do. I was thinking about that though because my expectations for this record are probably higher than they should be – and higher than they were. When you asked how I felt when we got this going and I was like, whatever, we’ll sell them off the stage... I feel like this record has the potential of getting us back in the scene and being a successful band again.

I started to think, what if we had to play that song every night because it wound up being people’s favorite? But I could do it, what the hell.

Yeah, sure. I could hear that song being suddenly a single on AAA Radio, for example.

LP: Yeah, whatever happens. I’m not even sure what song the label has picked to point out to radio. People will either gravitate to it or they won’t. I hope they do. I hope people like this record. We worked really hard on it. We lost the guitar player right after we recorded it and we lost the fiddle player during the recording. We were really lucky we got a guy from Quebec on the guitar named Colin Savoie-Levac, who plays bouzouki on one tune – “You Go East, I’ll Go West” – who’s a 20 year-old maven of Quebec. He grew up in the heartbeat of Quebecois music in Joliet. He’s 20 years old and he’s got that whole bass thing. He plugged a third line into his guitar so he could do the electric too. He’s just so into it.

Kevin Garcia, who’s played with Duncan sheik and this band from Wales, I forget what they’re called. Kevin on percussion is amazing. And Rosie on the fiddle – who plays with Richie Sterns from the Horseflies and is a great singer – she plays the hell out of Cajun, old time, and Irish fiddle. She’s a perfect fit for the band. She made up that melody in “Lazy John” over the bridge chords that I wrote. [Podolak sings the melody]. She plays Cajun music and Irish music, so again to that question. Through thick and thin, all said and done, we got a great record of new repertoire and players who love to play it, and who fit into the group perfectly. Jess and I are back together, and the Duhks will fly.

Awesome. I think a record is, I always say, a timepiece. It’s just what you were making in that moment. I’m asking you about all these decisions, like why you put this song on your record. But, when you’re really immersed in it, it’s hard to say why you’re making those decisions.

LP: Right, like “Burn” wasn’t even on the list except the writer was a good friend of mine and I had to call her back. She’d put in a call to me and I was thinking about her. While I was sitting there in the studio, getting ready for the next song, I started playing the tune while I was thinking about her. Lo and behold the band heard it and said, “What the hell is that?” So, we recorded that song and it wound up being epic.

Right. It’s interesting as a band who cites itself as having traditional influences. You’re kind of in the best position in the world, like that song I was just speaking about “These Dreams”… you can put that song on there next to a Cajun or Acadian song, with an Appalachian influence over the top. It’s kind of the best position in the world to be in. You haven’t cornered yourself as a gospel bluegrass band or a hard-driving band that plays barbecues only. As a fan of that, that music is close to me. I love all the music you’ve cited and love, I listen to it and try to play it. I often feel lucky. I always say I’m from the suburbs of Chicago and that’s why I play all these different kinds of music. But I didn’t have a regional music. I feel very fortunate, and I feel sorry for someone who has to go rap every night onstage. I don’t feel sorry for them, but I mean…

LP: One of the things about growing up, and this goes to what Jess was saying earlier about the folk festival... I haven’t talked about this but my parents started the Winnipeg Folk Festival and a few other festivals around the country. [My dad] has this wall of LPs – everything form the late 1940s in the folk scene to, at that point, the mid-80s. It started to be CDs after that. But the record collection… my folks played music all the time around the house. As a kid, I didn’t discern where any of this music came from. It was just folk music. All these traditions were like the elements.

For me, it’s exciting. You sound like you have a similar problem that you like to own a lot of instruments and play them. I love it when I see a new genre of something that’s considered folk music. You’re talking about this Danish music and I’m like, god, I only know the nyckelharpa from Scandinavia. I’m wondering, what’s the Dutch equivalent of that? I’m going to get off the phone with you and get on Google and nerd out for three hours on YouTube.

LP: It’s amazing. I really strongly recommend checking out Dreamer’s Circus. They’re amazing players. It’s funny – their influence. There’s a guy in that band who wasn’t in on that tune, the bouzouki player. If you listen to the way the accompaniment of the guitar and the bouzouki -- and even the fact that there is a bouzouki accompanying traditional Danish music -- t goes to show the influence that Irish music has had, and [the influence] stuff like the Tonder Festival and the Northern European folk festivals have had in spreading the music.

Every time “These Dreams” comes on and my dad’s in the room, because he’s a die-hard folkie... I’ll say, “Look, you can put a contemporary acoustic pop song on an eclectic folk album and no problem. It’s just another flavor.” My dad always said to me, “You have to be as diverse as possible.” And it’s true. We get invited to Cajun music festivals. We get invited to French music festivals, pan-French, Franco-world music festivals, folk festivals, rock and roll festivals every now and again. Scottish and Celtic festivals, French-Canadian festivals. Our audience is seven to seventy or eight to eighty and all over the map, because we play music that comes from those people.

Chris Funk is a Portland, Ore.-based multi-instrumentalist best known as a member of Black Prairie and the Decemberists, among others. His most recent recording is Black Prairie's new album Fortune, out now on Sugar Hill Records. Black Prairie is on tour throughout Summer 2014. Visit their website for tour dates or to purchase Fortune

The Duhks' new album Beyond the Blue is due June 24 on Compass Records. Visit their website for tour dates or to pre-order. 

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Tags: beyond the blue, black prairie, chris funk, duhks

Comment by Pete on June 10, 2014 at 7:14am

Fantastic interview. Great history lesson. Can't wait to hear the record and see them when they come to Summer Sounds in Greensburg, PA later this summer.  Hope to read more from Chris Funk...

Comment by Bruce Triggs on June 10, 2014 at 10:02am

Great interview!  

(Dumb obsessiveness:) There might be a typo in the last line of the section in the middle on Cajun and Acadian music and the song "Lazy John."  

The paragraph: "LP: Yeah, but you go down to Louisiana and, just now, there’s a bit of a renaissance of their own culture. People like Blake [Miller], who recorded accordion on our record, from the band the Revelers… those folks are Anglophones, mostly. Some of them have a French background but they grew up speaking English and are now learning French and gaining an awareness of the background of this music they grew up listening to. They’re starting to digging deeper into it. Now, in Louisiana, there’s just starting to be an awareness of Cajun music."

I think that last "Cajun music" might should be "Acadian music."  

(Otherwise I'm not clear what it would mean if they're just getting aware of Cajun music in Louisiana.)

Sorry, I tried to send this as a "personal message" but couldn't figure it out.  Sigh.  

Comment by Kim Ruehl on June 10, 2014 at 10:37am

Bruce - That was a direct transcript of the conversation. I think what Leonard was getting at was the younger generation of Louisiana natives starting to understand and appreciate the roots of Cajun music, as opposed to just playing the stuff they've heard around them all their lives, the way they've heard it. They're developing a deeper awareness of what it is and where it came from, etc.

Comment by Will James on June 12, 2014 at 12:03pm

Just thrilled to have Tania Elizabeth and her new band Buffalo Stack opening Gram Parsons InterNational VII Nashville for us Nov 7 at Douglas Corner Cafe! Very interesting interview, thanks.

Comment by Will James on June 16, 2014 at 7:36am

Bruce, the word Cajun comes from the word Acadian ('cadian, cajun), so not sure I'd call it a typo, at least from a linguistic viewpoint. Otherwise I understand Kim's distinction and explanation. (Also as a transcript, it could have been transcribed as Cajun though Acadian was spoken, for the same reason Acadian morphed to Cajun.)


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.