The Durham County Poets are more than just a blues band. They are a collective of talented artists, each well versed in their own field, who combine their influences and styles to create a single cohesive unit capable of some amazing music.

The group consists of Kevin Harvey (lead vocals), David Whyte (electric and acoustic guitars, vocals), Neil Elsmore (acoustic guitar, vocals), Carl Rufh (triple bass, that’s a double bass and a regular bass, trombone, vocals), and Rob Couture (drums, percussion). 

The album includes a stellar collection of guest players including Rob MacDonald (guitar), Jim Zeller (harmonica), Mark LeClerc (saxophone), Patrice Luneau (saxophone), Andy King (trumpet) and Karen Morand (vocals).

On the heels of their Juno Award nominated album Hand Me Down Blues, the gang are back with Out of the Woods, a delicious collection of 12 tracks, slow brewed over the last two years. 11 of the tracks are original, with one notable cover. (More on that to come)

This new album is not a return to the previous one, it is the next logical step in the evolution of the Durham County Poets, their expanding sound and progressing style.

The album opens with “Working On It”, written by David Whyte. A tongue in cheek examination of a woman’s efforts to mold a man into what she thinks he should be.

The second cut is “Together In The Groove”. Written by Neil Elsmore, this is a soulful cut with a sweet groove, subtle horns and comfortable feel. As you take this 70’s sounding cut in, you cannot help but to move to the infectious beat. 

Up next, a song that just might get the PETA people talking. “Mean Old Dog” (another David Whyte offering) is not literally about a dog chained in a yard. It is a metaphor for someone who is trapped in a negative situation, darkened by it, and likely to strike out is approached too close. The music is smooth, with just a hint of chaos, a subliminal warning to keep your distance.

The fourth cut is a sweet ballad penned by Kevin Harvey. An excellent example of his powerful writing style, it features beautiful organ underlying the tune and a wonderfully simple guitar solo. What makes “Love’s Gotta Hold on Me” is the addition of Karen Morand on vocals. The interplay between her and Kevin Harvey is compelling, adding weight to the story of lost love at the center of this cut.

The title track is another Kevin Harvey penned cut and the first single released from the album. “Out of the Woods” harkens back to the old school gospel tinged soul and RnB from the 1960’s. The innocence of childhood, realization of self and the hope that carries us through.

David Whyte wrote the sixth cut, “Back at the Groove Shack”, a funky groove with jazz undertones, sharp horns and choppy piano. In many ways an exploration of getting out of the pandemic and back on the stage, singing and playing.

Up next is the Neil Elsmore penned “Through the Glass”, which leans away from the blues and RnB sound. Carrying a definite soul vibe, this cut is a straight up love song that speaks to the pleasure and pain that can hide in plain sight, and an extension of the iconic pandemic image of loved ones looking at each other from opposite sides of a window.

The eighth cut on the album is another example of David Whyte’s ability to pen tongue in cheek ditties. “Good Kind of Crazy” has a funky groove, stinging guitar and too cool to fool lyric’s, perfectly delivered.

Up next is the only cover on the album, the DCP take on the Bob Dylan classic, “Not Dark Yet”. This cut was part of the DCP appearance at the 80th birthday bash for Dylan at Club Soda, in Montreal last November. It only seems right that it be included in this collection. 

The tenth cut on the album is another Kevin Harvey exploration of classic old school RnB and Soul, this time with a definite Sam Cook feel. Harkening back to a more innocent age, a wonderfully retro track that would sound right at home on a Juke Box in the corner of a Soda Shop. 

Up next is “I’ll Fall Too”, another offering from Kevin Harvey, who supplied the majority of the originals on the album. A lovely folk rock feel about the journey of life in the company of the one you love. It may not be forever, but it is great while it lasts.

The final cut on the album is “That’s What Makes Me Smile” which was penned Neil Elsmore. A friendly downhome feel and yet another style explored in this diverse collection. They say the best things in life are free, which is explored with perfect clarity in this feelgood little ditty. A perfect ending to the uplifting musical journey that is “Out of the Woods”.

There are two bonus tracks available with the purchase of the album, which is available through their website, Two quirky cuts that are certainly worth checking out!

If there is a theme to this album, it is Hope. Each cut is an uplifting sonic experience, which is so badly needed as we emerge from the shadow of the pandemic. It is also a necessary shot in the arm, medicinal music that helps prevent post-pandemic blues. (Terry Parsons)