DIARY - 23 JUNE 2005 - THE DUHKS INTERVIEW
FLY LOW IN BLUE CLEAR SKY
her room had four blue walls/ they've been hers since she was small/ no
sleep in sight/ oh her father is the only one/ who pretends he can't remember/
what was done." Blue - Ruth Ungar.
the music of Canadian country folk band The Duhks but the birth of fiddler
Tania Elizabeth will have extra significance when they tour here in December.
Elizabeth was born in a Melbourne hospital on her parents working holiday
more than 20 years ago.
"My mum was travelling and found she was pregnant after buying a
non-refundable ticket to Australia," Elizabeth told Nu Country in
a call from Winnipeg.
"So I was born there. But my folks separated when I was two."
The fiddler joined The Duhks when she moved to Winnipeg at 18 and wrote
The Arch Of Abundant Love to commemorate singer Jessica Havey's
But the song - companion piece for Sting's anti-war song Love Is The
Seventh Wave - had no title until The Duhks played the famed Merlefest
in the U.S.
"Tania said 'let's send George Bush a message - let's love everyone
to death'" Havey
said of the song - finale of The Duhks 14 song self titled second album
on Sugar Hill-Shock.
Award winning banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck and Gary Paczosa produced The
Duhks - pronounced ducks - in Nashville.
Paczosa, engineer on Allison Krauss albums, also produced Weather And
Water - the second album by expatriate Australian band The Greencards.
"We performed with The Greencards at Merlefest, " Havey revealed.
"I did a workshop with their singer Carol Young. She was cool."
But it was fellow Canadian chanteuse Ruth Ungar who toured here with Wayfaring
Strangers who wrote their controversial song Blue.
Ungar has released solo discs and also performs with The Mammals who feature
Tao Rodriguez-Seeger - grandson of folk legend Pete Seeger.
"It was a message song about incest - a subject you rarely hear in
a song," Havey said, "I had no idea why she wrote about it until
she told me it was inspired by a play she was in. She did a character
study. I was doing music theatre too."
Although the subject may be taboo on radio it was a rare concert conduit.
"I've only ever had one person come up to me at a show, a transgender
woman," the singer said.
"She shook my hand and said that's very brave of you to do that.
I really appreciate you for understanding that. I wonder how many people
can actually relate to it."
Duhks, (pronounced ducks), also provided solace for fellow singer
Dan Frechette when they cut his song Mists Of Down Below.
"Dan had his car broken into at the West End centre and his baby
guitar and heaps of his song recordings and songwriting books containing
hundreds of his songs were stolen," Havey revealed.
"He wrote the song three months later and called Tania and played
it for her," Havey said.
"He was worried that he had lost his touch. He wrote it for us
from the perspective of a duck."
filmed an eerie music video for Mists of Down Below at a Toronto
The video conjures an uneasy sense of darkness and lost souls.
cut historic Leonard Cohen-Sharon Robinson anti-war song Everybody
Knows after their banjo player Leonard Podolak performed it at a
Cohen tribute show at the Vancouver folk festival.
They also included traditional murder ballad Death Came A Knockin'
after hearing Texan troubadour Ruthie Foster - duet partner of Eric Bibb
- perform it at Edmunton folk festival.
Death was also resurrected in Dover Delaware - their revamp of a traditional
song about the return locale for deceased soldiers.
The band earned royalties for revered singer Paul Brady.
"Bela gave us bunch of Paul Brady songs, some were great songs but
no way I could do them justice," Havey revealed.
"But we chose You And I. The lyrics are simple but take on
meaning in the delivery. It totally a co-incidence he was in Nashville
when we recorded it. I was actually sick the first day he was in studio.
He produced the vocals. He kicked my arse, challenging me saying 'I know
you can do more with that. You need to make that more your own - it sounds
too much like me.' It took about three hours before he was happy."
THE DUHKS SPREAD THEIR WINGS
Duhks started in early 2002, founder Podolak had a basic notion about
what he was looking for: "a really fun dance band playing traditional
kinds of music."
The ambitious banjo player tracked down a raspy rock singer, an introspective
guitar-builder, a freethinking fiddler and a salsa drummer.
Despite the variety of influences and personalities - or more likely because
of it - the ensemble immediately clicked.
"I didn't even really know the scope and breadth of the musicians
that I had recruited," Podolak says.
"And also, to a certain extent, we're all discovering that scope
and discovering what we each have and what we can bring."
Podolak's parents founded the Winnipeg Folk Festival in Manitoba.
The band is based in Winnipeg and his family often hosted musicians in
Vocalist Havey has known Podolak her whole life because her mum was actively
involved with the festival.
Havey's uncle also lived with Podolak's family at one point.
Meanwhile, when McConnell graduated from high school, he was too burned
out for college.
he studied as a luthier for seven weeks with a teacher in Saskatchewan
and plays his handcrafted guitar on stage.
"It totally energised me and gave me a new direction to focus
on," he says about the class.
"I loved it and took to it really quickly as well. It seemed
like a natural thing for me to be doing, for some reason. Right
away, I thought that's what I was going to do for the rest of my
life. It's like a craft and something you can pursue for the rest
of your life and still not know everything there is to know about
it, by a long shot. I was really excited to start following that
started a workshop in his hometown, then decided to hone his craft
in Spain. When he returned to Canada, Podolak persuaded him to join
had once toured for a few weeks with Podolak's previous band, Scruj MacDuhk.
Fiddler Tania Elizabeth joined after a call from Podolak although she
already had a solo career going.
The original drummer suggested percussionist Scott Senior, whose instruments
and rhythms come from all over the world.
Together, the young quintet - whose ages range from 22 to 30 - hit the
highways, blending Celtic music with world music with nods to bluegrass
and folk music.
music has been described as "contemporary acoustic," "progressive
soul-grass," and "kick-ass rock/folk fusion."
"I wanted us to be an Irish band, Leonard wanted us to do old-time
music and fiddler Tania Elizabeth wanted us to be a country pop band,"
"But the music became this crazy, organic thing that is mostly undefinable."
There are elements from Irish fiddle tunes, Canadian French and Scots/Maritime
folk, and Appalachian Old Time string band in their high-energy music.
First recorded exposure came when the band released an independent album
in 2002 before signing with Sugar Hill for its sequel disc.
The 14 cuts on the Duhks' self-titled release are evenly split between
traditional tunes and covers, with a few self-penned compositions thrown
in (several of the traditional songs and all of the self-penned tunes
The band's greatest strength lies in its instrumental virtuosity.
Check out their album and video when it debuts on Nu Country TV.
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