Puremusic interview with Leonard Podolak

The Duhks are a joyous phenomenon. They’re mining gold from a North American vein of World music, by taking tunes of folk, celtic, old timey, string band, and gospel extraction, and arranging them for five outrageous musicians and a very high energy presentation. In every one of the members you see something that sets them apart from their contemporaries.

We spoke with founder Leonard Podolak, whose Dad, Mitch, is a rare Canadian musician and festival promoter. (Mitch started the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1974. From a WFF interview: "'Where is Winnipeg?' was a real big question when you dealt with the Yanks. 'Well, you know where North Dakota is? About 140 miles north of North Dakota, that’s where Winnipeg is.'" Mitch is still one of the guiding forces of the whole folk scene up there, one surmises.)

Leonard had the vision for this band after his previous one, Scruj MacDuhk, had been very successful before breaking up. It was really an evolution of the roll he was already on. He had the Rolodex by then, both of musicians and promoters. He relates in satisfying detail how he gathered the members of this glorious unit to the cause, and that enlistment is the essence, since what each member is bringing to the table is so strong.

Jessica Havey’s vocals and theatrical presence are riveting. It would be hard to take your eyes off her if Tania Elizabeth on fiddle and vocals were less alluring. But she is not, and her playing is fantastic. Scott Senior on percussion is wondrous, it’s a superbly voiced sound he gets out of the cajon for this band, and then puts all manner of congas, shakers, tablas, bells, pandiera, and other elements on top. You could easily say that it’s his contribution that brings the sound to a world class level, but then each member can be looked at in the same way. The musicality of guitarist and Uilleann Piper Jordan McConell is mindblowing, certainly live, but even more so in the studio. And the more you listen, the more you hear how it begins and revolves somehow around the banjo of Podolak--it’s not really loud, but it’s the pulse, and the heartbeat of the sound.

The spirit of the band for this music is what makes the tunes tick so resonantly. It’s different from a group that just writes some songs and goes out to play them. This is about tradition, and history, and bringing new life and new energy to music that’s been around a long time. And as Leonard eloquently put it in our conversation, it’s about entertainment. It’s about having and creating a good time. He’s been around this scene literally his entire life, and knows how to make it work. See The Duhks when they come to your town, and they’ll show you how it’s done. They’re going to be a Lot bigger before this is all done.   continue to interview