Last night, as Rita annoyed the Gulf Coast, my wife and I traveled to Charlotte and the Neighborhood Theatre to hear the Duhks (pronounced Ducks, not Dukes), a band of 20 somethings from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I had heard them briefly - and at a distance - at Merlefest and thought they would be great in a small venue. I was right.
Those of you who know me realize that I am often most taken by music that is difficult to categorize, hard to stick a label on. The Duhks are right down my alley. In fact, when they were featured on NPR's All Things Considered last February the piece was titled: The Duhks, a Tough Band to Pigeonhole. As the "Live at NPR" piece began:
The Duhks defy easy categorization. Fans and acquaintances have used phrases like "Blue Rodeo meets Celtic rock," "progressive soulgrass" and "Destiny's Child meets the Chieftains" to describe the Canadian band.After a couple of songs I leaned over and asked my wife - who has heard just about as much music as me - if she had ever heard anybody like them. "No," she said slowly, "I don't believe I have." Then she smiled. I guess we are both Duhklings now.
Here is a press kit photo from their web site. While it does do justice to their youth, it does not give a clue to their mature musicianship - or their new tattoos.
Opening the evening was the Kellin Watson Band from Asheville, one of my favorite places in the Universe. In fact Kellin must have attended UNCA about the same time as my daughter. Unlike my daughter, Kellin told our crowd that she did not graduate, preferring to seek her fortune as a musician. She may have made a good decision.
To my ear she sounds like a wonderful cross between Rickie Lee Jones and Joan Osborne. She writes much of her own material and her guitar is definitely not a singers prop. Like her friends the Duhks, Kellin is musically mature beyond her years.
Sitting in the darkened theatre I was once again reminded of the magic of live music. And I thought of all the great music being played at that moment at small clubs and converted movie houses like the Neighborhood - great music you don't hear on the radio and is often hard to find in stores.
And I also thought that not long ago it would have surprised - and maybe bothered - me that I would enjoy so much music played by "kids" half my age. Not anymore. As I was reminded again last night, it's the music that matters.
Next week it's the subdudes. Red beans and rice anyone?