I had never seen the Durham Country Poets before their 5 à 7 CD launch at Divan Orange, though when I received the invitation for the launch, I listened to a few tracks and was instantly intrigued. When I arrived, the venue was full of enthusiastic fans for the time of day, and I immediately saw the reasons for their excitement. The Durham County Poets are talented musicians, and their compelling performance of songs from their new release Chikkaboodah Stew had folks up on the dance floor before it was seven in the evening.
The Durham County Poets are a Quebec band the Chateauguay Valley, whose new album features an eclectic blend of folk, blues, rock and even gospel. A good example of the mix of styles comes midway through the CD, when the haunting country rock tune “Wayside” is followed by the more folk-gospel feel of “I’ve got a Friend.” The lyrics of “Wayside” talk about the people we pass by or forget in our world, asking poignantly, ‘’I just don’t understand folks these days/ Can’t somebody help him on his way?’’ Many of the songs deal with issues of lost love and the uncertain directions we ponder in life, and the lyrics of each song suit its music and mood. The bluesy feel of “Long Way to Go” is a good example, fitting well with its lyrics on life’s journey: ‘’Well I know where I want to be/ And you don’t get there easily/ It’s an uphill winding road.’’ The song builds to an almost gospel call towards the end.
While many of the songs on the CD delve into serious themes, there are lighter toe-tapping songs as well such as the title track and the song “Mama,” which is an uptempo tune about not having the money to pay rent. I even noted a klezmer feel to one song, “Glow On,” with the appearance of a clarinet. These are examples of the varied styles I mentioned earlier. The songs on the album are all composed by the band, and much of the energy I saw in their live performance is captured in their recordings.
The Poets are: Dave Whyte (guitars); Carl Rufh (upright bass); Neil Elsmore (guitars); Jim Preimel (percussion); and Kevin Harvey (vocals).
Check out DurhamCountyPoets.com or find them on Facebook. Their music may be purchased online at independent music retailer CD Baby.
Jeffrey Mackie is a poet living in Montreal. He also does a regular literary feature on CKUT radio.