Jessee Havey cringed and then couldn’t stop laughing when she realized how closely the Duhks’ 20th anniversary reunion show tonight resembles the folk-music mockumentary A Mighty Wind.

Jessee Havey cringed and then couldn’t stop laughing when she realized how closely the Duhks’ 20th anniversary reunion show tonight resembles the folk-music mockumentary A Mighty Wind.

The Christopher Guest comedy follows three different folk-music groups from the 1960s returning to the stage for a reunion concert many years later.

The film pokes fun at folkie stereotypes but also earned an Academy Award nomination for best song — a duet with Mitch, a burned-out legend (Eugene Levy) and Mickey, his former musical and romantic partner who seeks to rekindle both (Catherine O’Hara).

"You could make some A Mighty Wind comparisons. Now I feel like we should learn A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow," Havey says while singing the line from the Mitch and Mickey song.

"I’m a huge Christopher Guest fan, and the first time I saw that movie, I grew up with folk-singing parents and I thought it was a little too close to home."

Like the acts in A Mighty Wind, the Duhks are an on-again, off-again group that found early success, thanks to five albums in 11 years and two records that found the folk-music charts: its 2005 self-titled album and 2008’s Fast Paced World.

"I can’t believe it’s been 20 years. Today is my 39th birthday, and I was 19 when we made that first record," Havey says.

"I can’t think of a better way (to celebrate) than with those guys. They’re like brothers and sisters to me."

Leonard Podolak says it was an article in Americana U.K. magazine that put the burr under his saddle and got him going again.

"It said, ‘Whatever happened to the Duhks?’ " he says. "I responded on the Facebook. ‘If you want I can give you my phone number and you can ask us.’"

Havey joined the band when she was 18, and at the time it was a dream come true after she spent her teen years adoring Scruj MacDuhk, Podolak’s old band with lead singer Ruth Moody, who went on to join the Wailin’ Jennys.

"Apparently I even wrote a letter to Scruj that I loved Ruth Moody but if anything ever happened or she didn’t want to be in the band anymore I wanted to be their singer. I was like 12 or something. My mom told me that, I don’t remember that."

Havey’s folk-singing parents knew the Podolaks — Leonard’s father Mitch helped found the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1974 — and that connection led to a fateful phone call.

<p>DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>‘The dream is for it to never really go away,’ says Jessee Havey, here with fellow members of The Duhks.</p>

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

‘The dream is for it to never really go away,’ says Jessee Havey, here with fellow members of The Duhks.

"(Leonard) called me and told me Scruj had broken up and basically said, ‘What are you doing for the next three years?’ Havey says. "I said of course, and we were off to the races and we were full throttle for five years until I took my first what we know now as an extended hiatus."

She was able to restart the theatrical career she once planned, and that included time with the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, teaching musical theatre.

"When I left the band I was at MTYP full time, and the big joke was theatre was my fallback," she says.

But the pull to rejoin the Duhks’ flock remained.

"I was so over having a day job and just wishing I could have my band back," she says. "I was in a cab on the way to work and Leonard called me, a similar situation as the last time, ‘It’s not going to be full time or anything like it was before, but how would you feel about being a Duhk again,’ and I started crying, ‘I just want my band back I don’t care what it is.’"

The group’s original members, who are getting together tonight at the West End Cultural Centre — Jordan McConnell, Scott Senior, Tania Elizabeth, Havey and Podolak — decided at different times to focus on life at home rather than chase further folk-music fame on the road.

Senior teaches in Seven Oaks School Division, McConnell has a business building guitars, Havey and Podolak are deeply involved in Winnipeg’s arts scene and Elizabeth has just finished a stint on tour with the Avett Brothers.

This iteration of the Duhks is only three concerts and a question mark: tonight’s show, a June appearance at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado and the Fire and Water Festival in Lac du Bonnet in August.

Podolak says it could go many different ways afterward.

"At this point in time, we’re not diving into it full bore, let’s plan a record and we’re going put our lives on hold again," he says. "Now it’s about the music, it’s about the friendship and honouring the experience that we had and knowing 20 years later and now we have kids and we have jobs but man, that was a great thing that we did and we can do it again."

Havey would love to have the Duhks become a musical hobby that adds some spice to summers.

"I would love to make another Duhks record and do all that stuff, but we’re all grown up and in very different places in our lives right now.

"The dream is for it to never really go away."

alan.small@winnipegfreepress.com

Twitter: @AlanDSmall

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Alan Small

Alan Small
Reporter

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.