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REVIEW: The Duhks show eclectic mix of musical influences

The Duhks returned to CSPS, 1103 Third St. SE, with the Canadian band's eclectic mix of musical influences on display

The Duhks
The Duhks

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Duhks returned to CSPS, 1103 Third St. SE, on Sunday with the Canadian band’s eclectic mix of musical influences on display. Despite a shuffled lineup — including a new fiddle player performing just her ninth show with the band — The Duhks were in fine form, delighting a near-capacity crowd.

Leonard Podolak, founding member and group leader, had five banjos on hand, explaining that he needs them because of the different tunings he employs during a concert. Podolak played with energy and skill. He beautifully blends his playing with that of his band mates — not always an easy trick with an instrument with such a distinct sound. Late in the show, he also gave a little hambone clinic, getting the audience up on its feet to participate.

Podolak handles some of the vocals, but lead singer Jessee Havey — an original member who returned to the band in recent years — is the primary vocalist. Her voice is warm and her phrasing is impeccable no matter the style of music. With style and grace, she delivered everything from the blues to spirituals to songs that could easily slip into country radio rotation.

Fiddler Anna Lindblad hails from Sweden and has been with the band a very short time, but you’d never know that if it hadn’t been mentioned from the stage. She matched her mates throughout the show, including nailing a tricky unison passage with Podolak on an early Duhks tune. The fact that Podolak had known the song for years and she’d known it for far less time didn’t faze her in the least.

Guitarist Colin Savoie-Levac is another recent addition to the band but, like Lindblad, he seemed fully at home. In addition to solid playing throughout the show, he delivered the occasional wisecrack, endearing himself to the crowd and keeping Podolak on his toes. Savoie-Levac also slipped on a pair of shoes to add the sound of some percussive dancing to a few songs.

Percussionist Kevin Garcia, who joined the band last spring, is a wonder. His varied instruments — including a cajón, ankle bells, a kick drum and more — allowed him to create different tones and textures. His drum solo late in the show was as engaging as it was impressive while also in keeping with the expressive playing he offered all evening.

The band creates its music by borrowing from a wide array of influences including Appalachian music, traditional Irish styles, zydeco and more. As they spoke about each song, it was clear that the members of the band are deeply influenced by various individuals — friends, musical heroes, teachers and collaborators. The Duhks have soaked up a world of source material and ideas. The band distills all of it into an appealing sound of its own.

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