First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2005, Volume 12, #2
Written by John Metzger
The Duhks’ self-titled debut may be slightly bloated, and hence a little uneven, but the band’s instrumental virtuosity is so strong that it’s certain to make a huge splash on this summer’s folk and bluegrass circuit. With an approach that fits somewhere between Ollabelle and the Indigo Girls and is shaded by the likes of Nickel Creek and Béla Fleck, it’s not surprising that within the span of 60 minutes, the group manages to cut a wide swath through music history, one that incorporates everything from Irish reels to traditional gospel-blues concoctions while also touching upon the contemporary folk of The Mammals and the reggae-tinted pop of Sting. Propelled by the multi-cultural percussion of Scott "Señor" Senior, much of the material crackles with surprising immediacy as fiddle, guitar, and banjo tumble and twirl with hypnotically splendiferous results. In particular, a pair of spirituals (Death Came a Knockin’ and True Religion) are given a life-affirming resonance by the underlying Latin-imbued rhythms, while the Celtic medley dubbed Gene’s Machine is underscored by a subtle Eastern groove. Elsewhere, the band, led by Jessica Havey’s powerhouse vocals, perfectly captures the emotional depth within Ruth Ungar’s Blue; Mists of Down Below/Meghan Hayden’s careens around its prog-rock corners with all the bluegrass-hued textures of ’70s-era Kansas; and The Wagoner’s Lad glides effortlessly over its gentle folk arrangement as Tania Elizabeth delivers its lyrics with a sadly optimistic yearning. Yet, for all of The Duhks’ adventurous enthusiasm, the collective can’t save a coarse and cloying cover of Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows or drab and dull renditions of Paul Brady’s You and I and British songwriter Jez Lowe’s Dover, Delaware. Despite these missteps, however, the bulk of The Duhks’ eponymous outing is frequently stirring and full of enough inspiration that the set is transformed into a rather promising and magnetic debut.
Of Further Interest...
The Duhks is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box