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Fast Paced World – The Duhks

Sugar Hill Records

After the departure of vocalist Jessee Havey and drummer Scott Senior, the Duhks have returned with their fourth studio album, Fast Paced World. Sarah Dugas has taken over the singing and a heap of the songwriting duties; her brother Christian now backs the band on drums. And it is his drumming that is partially to blame for sliding this albums quality away from great towards pretty good. Dugas the drummer has listened to far too many Tom Waits albums, though some of the blame for unnecessary weirdness must lie at the feet of producer Jay Joyce.

Perhaps Joyce is also to blame for the rather poor song order. The album begins with Mighty Storm, a fine traditional song about a mighty storm, but done up here Christina Aguilera-style. The only comment I have is the most important word in a parents vocabulary: No. It is followed the albums namesake, a lament upon the postmodern atomization of atomized postmodern life, also dropped X-Tina-style. Again, no, not so much. The trio of songs that follow, however, sound like they are from another album, a great album.

Dugas sexy This Fall, fiddler Tania Elizabeths instrumental interlude, Adams 3-step, and a magnificent song sung in French, Toujours Vouloir, sound more like music you might hear flowing out of a basement cafn Paris circa 1908 then on a compact disc in 2008. But just when you think the quality dial is going to stay put, the greatness is interrupted by You Dont See It, a song from the pen of fellow Canuck, Dan Frechette. Perhaps there is something to be said for having an Aguileraesque song and an Underwoodesque (yeah, Carrie) song on the same album, but other then further clarifying what is meant by a mistake, Im not sure what the point of it is.

And yet the rest of the album returns to great. Dugas and Elizabeth share the diva spotlight well. Jordan McConnells guitar is tasteful; Leonard Podolacks banjo is pleasing. So why did we have to have those gaffes? Was it the personnel changes which were not finalized until earlier this year? (Ex-drummer Senior appears on the rapid-tongued Magalenha.) Was it a simple lack of material combined with a pressing need to release something with the new lineup? Did someone have too much to drink? Speculations are not my bag, but I will tell you there is enough great here to make Fast Paced World a pretty good album well worth the price of admission.

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