Canada Day with the Durham County Poets

MORRISBURG – A passion for music drew them together in 2011. That same passion keeps them performing. And that passionate, wonderful music is what the Durham County Poets – Kevin Harvey, Carl Rufh, Jim Preimel, David Whyte, Neil Elsmore, Rob Couture – will be offering the audience at their Harmony Concert, Saturday, July 1, 7:30 p.m. at Stone Crop Acres Winery.

Nominated for a Juno for their album ‘Hand Me Down Blues’ in 2020 and nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award, the band, which hails from Ormstown, Quebec, has performed across Canada and the United States, and has won fans and critical praise everywhere. While they are often associated with blues, Kevin Harvey, who talked to me about the Poets, said “The Durham County Poets don’t want to be pigeon-holed as just a blues band. There’s a real variety in our style. Sometimes, we’re a little jazzy, sometimes a little folk, sometime a little Gospel. But the guys in our group, all my friends, they are really incredibly accomplished musicians. And there is just such joy in making music.”

Kevin laughs that when the band first got together “we each just wrote songs on our own, brought them to the table and voted. Now there is more direction to our approach to lyrics and music. I write, David writes, but all of us get together to create the arrangements for a song. My fellow musicians create the great music that makes our songs. We are all very open to suggestions from each other. (Sometimes, like I had to during COVID, I communicated a new song by humming on Zoom: I’m strictly a vocalist, not an instrumentalist!) and sent it to the others. In our concerts, along with our original pieces, we also perform other works, but always ones with that Blues flavour. And now that we’re out of COVID – it was nearly a year before we could actually rehearse together – and doing concerts and shows, there’s a lot of new pieces in the works.”

He said that for the band, it has been a joy to be back out touring again. “We love the life on the road, and making a deep connection with a live audience.

Whatever the venue, big halls or small ones, as musicians, we give it our all. I believe that we need that relationship with our audiences, that energy and power.

There is no doubt that people inspire us and it’s wonderful that they love and relate to our music.”

Albums like ‘Chickaboodah Stew’, ‘Grimshaw Road’ and ‘Out of the Woods’ have firmly established the incredible musical scope of the Poets, and the versatility of each performer. The band is looking forward to coming to Stone Crop Acres to perform July 1. “The Winery is such a wonderful location, and the crowds are really welcoming. We always make new friends when we come here. We’ll be doing music from our last two albums. And we’re also bringing a very special guest with us – blues/rock guitarist Cliff Stevens – we’ll be doing a couple of his wonderful songs in each set. We’re looking forward to a great show.”

There are new albums in the works for the Durham County Poets, and tours scheduled that will take them to Festivals in Quebec and Ontario and to a Jazz Festival in New York. There’s a busy summer ahead, for which, Kevin said, the band is grateful. Music is central to all their lives, and an on-going joy.

At the end of our interview, I asked Kevin Harvey about his, and fellow Poets’ passion for performing and for a life on the road. “I see it this way,” Kevin said.

“I’m going to use one of my favourite lines from the great Ronnie Hawkins. ‘Well,” Ronnie said, “ I figure to do this ‘til I’m 80. If I haven’t made it then, well, I’m gonna give it ten more years.”

Since you’re here…

… Thanks for reading this article. Local news is important. We hope that you continue to support local news in your community by reading The Leader, online and in print. Please consider subscribing to the print edition of the newspaper. Click here to subscribe today.

Subscribe to Email Alerts

Enter your email address to subscribe to Email Alerts and receive notifications of new posts by email whenever The Leader publishes new content on our website.