Your Daughters and Your Sons
he Newgrass “movement” isn’t. Instead it’s a lionized, artificial guild spearheaded by Bèla Fleck whose membership includes a handful of young, talented musicians. Those who do consider it a movement—or even a revanche, since it was named after the band of which Fleck was a member—tend to either ignore the pliability of the genre or consider its bend towards outliers like pop or rock as sacrilege. The music is either so unique that it should be placed in a different domain or so aberrant that it must categorically be considered an Other. There is some merit to both sides, since the appearance of bands like Nickel Creek and the Duhks (pronounced “ducks”) seem spontaneous; both groups exercise deft musicianship and artistic ingenuity and are still extremely young. Yet both groups have obviously built bridges to get to their respective and precocious zeniths, and it is in their nascent designs that we are exposed to a more callow but still exciting form.
Your Daughters and Sons is the Duhks molding themselves from some of the most rudimentary elements of bluegrass. Their sophomore album (The Duhks) differentiated itself through its use of slightly unusual rhythms—mostly Latin, some rock—and the vocal performance of Jessica Havey—which was certainly bluegrass but was unafraid to take liberties with inflection—but viewed on paper (and simplistically) they’re just a cover band with contemporary flares. Your Daughters and Sons, their debut album, sees them using traditional bluegrass pieces left and right, but their use is still rather impressive. Irrespective of which way you opine about them covering archaic songs, they have chops and they prove it. But their amalgamation of traditional songs also reveals a more nuanced sense of the genre itself, for it is in the type of traditional songs they use that has really always set them apart from their ilk.
Prominent among these elements is their use of Matapat, or Quebecoise folk/traditional music. While their reconfiguration of that influence was more impressive on “Du Temps Que J’etais Jeune” from The Duhks, the band offers a rendition of “Le Meunier et La Jeune Fille/Les Quatre Fer en l’Air” that proves to be quite dulcet. The inclusion brings a curious universality to the record, as though the tempo and sheer musical quality would alone be emotionally illuminative for those who can’t comprehend French or Quebecoise. Irish folk and traditional music also makes its appearance on “The Green Fields Of Glentown,” while a Southern zeitgeist pursues “Guiliano’s Tune.” No doubt most of the success of the instrumental pieces is due to Tania Elizabeth’s outstanding show on the violin. Only in her teens when Your Daughters and Your Sons was released, Tania’s versatility and execution with the instrument is at times nothing short of dazzling, but always superb.
Jessica Havey’s performance may initially feel as though it lacks the same emotional spirit found on The Duhks, but that doesn’t mean it’s in any way shoddy or adulterated. If anything, she seems to have merely performed with utmost fidelity to the music in question and, again, the performance is impressive. The overall effect the band conjures is that of a skilled and motley set of musicians who have obviously not only done their homework but got it right.
Luckily for the listener, you have available a more attuned set of songs on their second album because the Duhks’ debut is just that: a debut. In it we’re given glimpses and glints of not only their outstanding follow up, but the potential for them to carve a place for themselves that transcends guilds of fast fashion. Your Daughters and Sons is a good primer of a vast range of influences bottled up in a single genre, as well as an introduction to group of musicians who have executed those songs with alacrity and relish.