Veterans all, the Durham County Poets hail from the Eastern Townships of Quebec and call themselves a ‘folk and roots’ band. For their fourth album, though, they have chosen to pay homage to the blues. To do that, they have come up with a set of seven originals by the band, separately and together, and several covers. They are lead vocalist Kevin Harvey; David Whyte & Neil Elsmore, guitars; Carl Rufh, upright bass & trombone and Rob Couture, drums. The flagship song, the first single & video, is “Hand Me Down Blues”: Harvey sings about how he was introduced to blues as a child by his mother and how important it is to keep on ensuring that the blues continues to be handed down, all delivered in a most effective blues voice by the wheelchair-bound Harvey. This song may singlehandedly have earned the Durham County Poets their MBA nomination for Best New Artist or Group this year. Set to a lovely groove with some fine horns, this one just cooks along. And indeed, for a folk roots band they know how to put together some horn-led swing blues – Rufh doubles on trombone and they’ve added two tenor players on a few of the songs. “Hand Me Down Blues” isn’t the only good song, though. “The Moon Won’t Go Down” is an attractive one about a night full of troubles for our narrator, Rufh solos on trombone and double bass. The situation in the world today also bothers Harvey, he wants to stop the “Evil in the Heart of Man”, an electric blues highlight. More to the soul/R&B side is a lovely ballad, “Help me to Change”, a duet with none other than Dawn Tyler Watson. Bob Stagg guests on keyboards. “One Lonely Toothbrush” is a quiet, jazzy little tale of life after his girl has left. He finally decides to clean up the place and in a happy ending, she comes back, or does she? The horns come back for the charming “If the Lid Don’t Fit”, a joyous one about the need to improvise sometimes with group vocals. “That Ain’t Right” is well done jump blues about a wayward girlfriend. Of the non-originals, “St. James Infirmary” gets a light touch and the concluding “I’ve Been Living with the Blues” by Brownie McGhee is a treat. The web site is www.durhamcountypoets.com and shows mostly Quebec dates although they are going to be at the Moonshine Café in Oakville on March 26.

Mark Hummel - January 2020
January 2020 - Manitoba Hal