Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
April 6, 2015 - 12:00am EDT
Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star

The Duhks' progressive "neo-folk" or "cerebral folk" music is best described as highly-arranged folk and Americana that draws inspiration from various genres such as old time string band, Celtic, soul, gospel, folk, and zydeco. Hailing from Winnipeg, the quintet likes to invite a few guest artists into their mix; in this case, Tim O'Brien (5 tracks), Luke Bulla (1 track), and Katie Herzig (1 track). "Migrations" were produced by Gary Paczosa and Tim O'Brien who suggested songs, contributed additional lyrics, and even played or sang along in Tim's case. In keeping with their successful personalized sound, we hear well-crafted, creative songs with soul-stirring vocals and striking guitar, banjo, bass, fiddle and percussion. Low whistle and Uilleann pipes also appear in their kettle of sound. Three of the five Duhks provide vocals, both lead and harmonies. Whether covering Tracy Chapman's "Mountains O'Things" or serving up a Zydeco-flavored "Down to the River," they manage to find some novel material to infuse with their stamp. Tracy's song, of course, encourages us to "renounce all those material things" to save our souls. An instrumental medley of two originals with a Cape Breton tune illustrates how The Duhks blend tradition with their own individuality. Repertoire is also drawn from African-American spirituals (Turtle Dove, Moses Don't Get Lost) and Celtic-flared instrumentals (Three Fishers, The Fox And The Bee). 

The band's affinity for reflective ballads with poignant lyrics capitalize on Havey's plaintive vocalizing (Heaven's My Home, Who Will Take My Place, Out of the Rain) to round out the set. "Heaven's My Home" provides a subtle vision for cautious optimism in a life full of trials, travails and adversity. "Who Will Take My Place?" was written by Dan Frechette about the Irish patriot Michael Collins but has more universal application for anyone fighting oppression. Penned by Jessee Havey, "Out of the Rain" provides sunny direction "far from the pain of being tied to your back door." 

The Duhks' are Scott Senior (percussion), Jessee Havey (vocals), Leonard Podolak (banjo, fiddle), Tania Elizabeth (fiddle, mandolin), and Jordan McConnell (guitar, whistle, pipes). Creative artistry is built around an ability to free one's own muse. The Duhks' approach allows for personal expression without belittling the very traditions that they're stretching. This successful and impressive effort was done right and with abundant rewards. Before reinventing tradition, The Duhks have obviously lived and breathed the tradition itself by knowing, respecting, and appreciating the natural graces and flowing rhythms of Celtic and folk music. It's an amazing feat for these twenty-somethings. With this strong foundation, The Duhks then incorporate their own life experience to arrange and create a signature sound. The musicians' sensory journey takes us along with joy, sorrow, inspiration, and even occasional humor. 

Whether serving up a beautiful, spiritual ballad or a rousing medley of reels, they manage to make each a part of greater Duhkville. With impressionistic and memorable material, this album continues presentation of The Duhks' earthy. Their music conveys an understanding of the bond between land and soul. Their compelling performance is one wrought with the emotional impact and virtuosity of soulful vocals, slapped skins, wailing fiddle, flowing guitar, and bouyant banjo. With a band vision to redefine both folk and pop music, The Duhks are well on their way to doing it with their acoustic tools of the trade. Thanks for not not relying on any electric instruments, synthesizers or drum machines. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)