Durham County Poets – Out of the Woods
CD: 12 Songs, 56 Minutes
Styles: Classic Electric Blues, Ensemble Blues, Jump/Swing Blues
What is art? That’s a question for the ages, and Mitch Melnick of Billy Bob Productions has answered it better than I ever could: “Art isn’t just the turn of a phrase, reaching for a note, digging deep within or discovering the majesty of a brush. It’s a way of life. A higher calling. For many, the most spiritual moments in life – other than life itself – occur not necessarily in a house of worship (whatever gets you through the night) but in a house of blues.”
Canada’s Durham County Poets demonstrate this definition of art superbly on their fifth album, Out of the Woods. It’s a collection of twelve tracks with a big band sound and a collective message of hope and emergence from the darkness. “We ain’t all yet out of the woods,” explains lead singer Kevin Harvey, “but, hang on now, just a little bit longer. It’ll be okay tomorrow.” With many experts saying we’re still in a pandemic state, isn’t this what we all need to hear? The Poets don’t only provide nearly an hour of solid entertainment. They lift our spirits, reassure us, and prove that the purpose of the blues is to alleviate them instead of make them worse. That’s why we listen. That’s why we care. That’s why this genre must be preserved for all time.
With David Whyte on guitar, Carl Rufh on bass, Neil Elsmore on guitar, and Rob Couture on drums, this band soothes and excites at the same time – a difficult feat to achieve. Consider “Together in the Groove,” the second song, “Love’s Got a Hold on Me,” and “Good Kind of Crazy.” They’re upbeat and positive, yet they don’t make listeners manic. Quite the opposite. They pep you up without driving you over the edge. Their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet,” however, is spot-on. When Harvey sings “I feel like my soul has turned into steel,” you know the feeling deep in your girding bones. “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.” Fortunately, “What We Got Going On” and “That’s What Makes Me Smile” bring the sunshine right back.
Special guest stars include Bob Stagg on keyboards, Mark Leclerc on tenor saxophone, Patrice Luneau on baritone sax, Andy King on trumpet, Rob MacDonald on electric guitar, Jim Zeller on harmonica, and Karen Morand and Sonja Ball on background vocals.
True confession: I struggle with major depression. This is exactly the album I need to help me through my latest episode. The Durham County Poets know what it’s like to be in the thick of such a forlorn forest, but they know the way Out of the Woods. Let them show you, too.