The Duhks

The Duhks

Sugar Hill Records, 2005

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


It’s rare I have a radically mixed reaction to a CD. Usually, it’s pretty safe to say I like it or I don’t, and I write the review and move on. With the self-titled debut from Winnepeg-based roots music band The Duhks, I’m still not sure – and I’ve had it in my CD player for a while.

The Duhks, a five piece outfit whose musical influences give eclectic a new meaning (and I quote from their website: ‘soul, gospel, North American folk, Brazilian samba, old time country string band, zydeco, and Irish dance music’), have a lot going for them. They’re musically adept, lead vocalist Jessica Havey has a truly impressive set of pipes, and no less a musical luminary that Bela Fleck thinks they’re pretty damn wonderful. The CD is crystal clear and perfectly produced (by Fleck and Gary Paczosa).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

So why am I not immediately and voluminously enthusiastic? Song choice. I have rarely if ever listened to a CD where I had both tracks that I couldn’t stop listening to and tracks that frankly made my teeth hurt. The Duhks weave all over the quality expressway like a drunk motorcyclist with bad steering, and it’s a hair-raising ride.

First, the bad. (Gotta get the bad out of the way, right?) I would like to move that we declare a moratorium on covering Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows.” Between Concrete Blonde’s absolutely ass-kicking and ominous version and Don Henley’s dry, ironic, and cynical version, it’s time to retire the song like Jackie Robinson’s uniform number. And even if it wasn’t, The Duhks’ uneven, almost…happy version would still be pretty awful. It’s not the worst cover version I’ve ever heard, but it ain’t good. I’m also not crazy on either “Death Come A-Knockin’” or “True Religion,” two traditional numbers that just don’t seem to have anything new to say.

Just when you think I’m about to lay a smackdown on The Duhks, though, there’s “The Mists Down Below,” “Dance Hall Girls” and “Dover, Delaware” – all of which are really great songs. The poignant, haunting violin on “Dover” particularly gets to me – and it’s not even the best thing on the CD. That honor belongs to “Four Blue Walls,” simply one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard and a virulent, passionate, and powerful testimony to moving beyond abuse. The CD closes with a fun bluegrass-meets-reggae cover of Sting’s “Love Is The Seventh Wave” that’s just a delight.

The Duhks are a great band. There are miscues on this debut CD, but they’re all related to song choice rather than any lack of talent. I look forward to their further work; there’s some elements here that make me think they’re going to be something special.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2006 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sugar Hill Records, and is used for informational purposes only.