The Duhks, live from Londonderry!
It’s impossible not to like the Duhks. Okay, for some people, maybe a combination of Celtic, gospel, Cajun, Middle Eastern, African, newgrass, waltzes, folk, and jigs might be too intense for a mellow Thursday night out, but really, whats not to like?
1) They’re from Canada – Winnipeg, Manitoba to be exact and there’s no place cooler or more Canadien than Winnipeg, Manitoba.
2) They’re very talented musicians who fit together seamlessly. You can tell by listening to them that this is a band with a lot of miles under their collective belts. Yes, I know that the Dugas sibs are relative newcomers to the band but you’d never know it by listening to them. A word about Sarah Dugas’ vocals – “breathtaking”. Want another word? How about “commanding”? I never had a chance to see Jessee Havey live so comparisons wouldn’t be fair but I can’t imagine a better voice to front this band. But heck, everyone in the band sings. Banjo virtuoso Leonard Podolak sings lead on “95 South” (and tells an entertaining story of it’s origin), drummer Christian Dugas takes a turn on lead, and fiddler Tania Elizabeth and guitarist Jordan McConnell sing backup. But Sarah Dugas is the woman. You think you’re a tough guy? Listen to her sing “Toujours Vouloir” (Always Wanting) and tell me your lumberjack heart doesn’t end up in a puddle at your feet.
3) Everyone I’ve spoke with who knows tells me the Duhks are a great group of kids. Kids; yeah right. They range in ages from mid-twenties to birthday boy Podolak who celebrated his 34th at the show (“…happy birthday dear Leonard, Happy Birthday to you”, being serenaded by the crowd) so they no longer qualify as kids. But as they chat with fans during the aftershow meet-and-greet (glad to see this is becoming a trend among bands) you’ll see their guileless demeanor. And you’ll notice their respect for traditional music and more obscure artists (the song “Fast Paced World” was inspired by Nigerian Fela Kuti, who’s obscure on this continent, anyway). Their sincerity comes across.
For this show, the setlist was culled equally from Fast Paced World, Migration, their earlier albums, and covers or unreleased nuggets. Many of their songs were instrumentals like the slyly named “Ship High In Transit”, or sing-a-long stomps like “Magalenha”, which features just vocals and percussion. “Magalenha” is the type of song where one could picture Michael Richards entering from stage right, and dancing maniacally like Kramer to the music. The song has that type of vibe. This definately is not a greatest hits tour. I was surprised at the absence of some of their better known songs like “Ol’ Cook Pot” or “You Dont See It”, which to my ear is the best thing they’ve ever done, perfect for adult contempo radio.
And hey, how about that name? “Hey man, I’m going to see the Duhks tonight!” “Huh? Who? I thought they were the Dukes?” I got the impression from Podolak that he wishes he put more thought into naming the new band. The name Duhks morphed from his old band “Skrooje McDuhk” (sp?), which I assume was an homage to Donald’s rich uncle and a logical progression to “Duhks” but his body language told me he’d like to have that one back.
I had only one beef about the show. It was short. Less than 80 minutes from start to finish including one encore (Zepplin’s Whole Lotta Love) which is a quick set for a headliner. We got sent home hungry. And this is coming from a guy who usually skips out on encores to beat the traffic.
The show was at Tupelo Music Hall, a place in southern New Hampshire that we’re lucky to have, if for no other reason than it keeps us from having to schlep into Boston every time we want to hear quality music. We’ve seen Alejandro Escovedo, Cowboy Junkies, Shelby Lynne, and Kathleen Edwards among others perform at this little club, and it seems as though the artists enjoy playing there too. Appreciative crowds, upgraded acoustics, BYOB – everybody wins. Hopefully, we’ll get the Duhks back there again soon. I wouldn’t consider missing them when they play local again.
Go see them. It’s impossible not to like the Duhks.
Here’s a link to my youtube video of their opening song last night. Unusual to start off with a Dylan cover…