All in the family 

If it looks like a MacDuhk and sounds like a MacDuhk it must be Scruj MacDuhk

WHO: Scruj MacDuhk

WHERE: Buffalo Bill’s

WHEN: Feb. 19

The last time Scruj MacDuhk played Whistler, they hadn’t won any awards, they hadn’t even released a CD and they performed to, well, let’s say a reserved crowd for a fund-raiser at Our Lady of the Mountains Church.

However, the moment the group finished their set, the audience leaped to its feet, exploded in applause and demanded an encore. And it was that reaction that has remained etched in the memories of Scruj MacDuhk and makes them eager to return.

"A lot has happened since then," says banjoist Len Podolak. "We really got together as a band. We’ve gelled."

That’s putting it lightly. The group has toured through Canada and the United States, cut The Road to Cansor , earning them two Prairie Music Awards and a Juno nomination.

"(The awards) give you a sense of credibility. It’s always good to have something like that to show that we’re a serious band," Podolak says.

The band may be serious but their music is far from it. How do you sum up the sound of Scruj MacDuhk in a single word? Fun! Celtic. Bluegrass. Appalachian. French-Canadian Folk. Sometimes a song encompasses all of these influences. Other songs are traditional versions of just one. Whatever the genre, each piece is meant to touch your soul and stimulate your dancing shoes.

If you’ve never heard or seen Scruj MacDuhk, you may be surprised by the youthful faces behind the old soul music. Not one member is over the age of 27. How do a bunch of kids from Winnipeg fall into such non-mainstream music?

"We’ve all been exposed to (this type of music) for a lot of our lives," says Podolak. "I grew up at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Folk music is an underground thing. We’re people who love playing the music and love playing for other people. Everyone in the family just has a musical background."

Family?

"Family!" laughs Podolak. "I mean band… we’re like a family."

Most of the members were friends before they were bandmates. Podolak went to elementary school with singer and pianist, Ruth Moody. Fiddler Jeremy Penner was a "pickin’ pal." Bass fiddle player Oliver Swain and guitarist Lindsey Bart were both recruited by former band member Jeremy Walsh. And percussionist Christian Dugas "was just hanging out with us all the time," says Podolak. "It came to the point where we were just like, ‘hey man, do you want to be in the band?’"

Podolak is encouraged by the band’s recent tour. "The music is really starting to catch on… we’ve been building a fan base."

Canadians have always been receptive to a wide range of music. Americans, however, seem a little in awe of Scruj.

"They don’t know what to make of us. It’s like we’re music from another planet – and they love it," enthuses Podolak.

The band has played two major festivals south of the border including the Hyawatha Festival in Michigan. They sold out of CDs after the show and then packed the house later that night at a local bar. The band is hoping for the same reaction when they embark on a larger U.S. tour this spring.

Their stop in Whistler is part of a western swing which will include the International Folk and Dance Alliance in Vancouver and the Wintergrass Festival in Tacoma. The band is booked for dates right through until August, when it will make its European debut in Tonder, Denmark.

And somewhere in between the band will be back in the studio with hopes of a new CD release by summer. Podolak’s voice conveys both pride and excitement for the growing momentum of Scruj MacDuhk, but it’s obvious he’s as firmly grounded as the roots music he picks.

"We play folk music. We don’t have any dreams of becoming pop stars. We play music from the heart and we love to play it."

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