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Vice: An Oral History of Thrush Hermit’s ‘Clayton Park’

Rob Benvie, Cliff Gibb, Ian McGettigan, Joel Plaskett and many others on the album that should have turned the band into The Strokes.

By Cam Lindsay, Vice

In the annals of Canadian music history, Thrush Hermit were a blip on the radar in a decade ruled by Céline, Alanis, Shania, the Hip and the Barenaked Ladies. But to those who followed the Halifax band between 1992 and 1999, they were the coolest thing in Canada.

Introduced to the world as Sloan’s protégés, the Hermit were sometimes goofy, sometimes emo but always rock stars in the making, destined to follow in the footsteps of their mentors. But instead they broke up in 1999 while promoting an album of killer throwback rock that came two years too soon.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Clayton Park, the band’s triumphant sophomore album that unexpectedly became their swan song. Emerging out of Halifax’s early ’90s indie scene, Thrush Hermit—Rob Benvie, Cliff Gibb, Ian McGettigan and Joel Plaskett—rose up through the ranks of Sloan’s murderecords label, graduating to an ill-fated major label deal with Elektra for their 1997 debut album, Sweet Homewrecker.

By the time Clayton Park came out on Sonic Unyon in February 1999, the band‘s days were numbered. And although they barely survived the year, the album went on to become a CanRock classic.

As Thrush Hermit prepare for a (second) reunion tour this fall and the long-awaited vinyl reissue of Clayton Park, VICE spoke to the band, as well as those involved in the making of their masterpiece. [READ MORE]

The Guardian: Joel Plaskett and Bill Plaskett have a special shout-out to P.E.I. in advance of their concert

By The Guardian

Fans of Canadian rock music have likely heard Joel Plaskett.

From hits like “Nowhere With You” to “Through & Through & Through”, his career has spanned more than 20 years, with 17 studio releases albums and multiple Juno Awards.

He shows no signs of slowing down with the release of his new album, “Solidarity”, which is a collaboration with one of his earliest musical influences, his father, Bill.

P.E.I. fans will get a chance to enjoy the music of both Plasketts when they perform in concert on Oct. 24 at Confederation Centre of the Arts.

Plaskett describes the experience of performing with his father as a welcome change.

“He’s always been a social musician and I rarely play music socially.” He goes on to say, “This record has allowed him to step onto a professional stage and for me to feel like I’m playing music socially again – it’s the best of both worlds.”

Plaskett and his dad have always talked about making an album together. This year they finally saw a window of opportunity and decided it was time to stop talking about it and do it.

“Making a record that has both our names on it and features songs that we worked on together has been really rewarding. He’s been a huge influence on me and I’m proud that this record showcases the musical connection we have.”

So where does Bill Plaskett come from? For that, look across the pond. He grew up in Dagenham on the east side of London, England. He started by playing tenor banjo that he learned from his father, but graduated to bass guitar and playing rock ’n’ roll in a cover band called Section 62 in 1962. [READ MORE]

No Depression reviews Solidarity: “Folk Music With Solidarity — Alive & Well With Melodic Father-Son Duo”

GDOB2-30CH-001.cdrBy John Apice, No Depression

Interesting duo collection – and I am a sucker for this kind of performance. I was a big admirer of Lowen and Navarro, the Everly Brothers — circa 1968, Vigrass and Osbourne, Richard and Linda Thompson, Clive Gregson and Christine Collister, Richard and Mimi Farina, Nino Tempo and April Stevens and many less famous duos I have reviewed in the past that were marvelous. But this duo has a special relationship the other singers don’t.

So, here I have this Bill and Joel Plaskett collection – Solidarity — and it didn’t take long for my ears to get pulled in. First of all, the production values are exemplary. Do I agree with their political lyrics or views 100%? No. But this is folk music. I don’t care about politics when I am focused on the music – I am not a big fan of Woody Guthrie but I do like “This Land Is Your Land,” because I understand where the man was coming from. The songs on this collection as a whole are what I am interested in. The presentation, the showcase, the spirit in which it was made – sincere.

The acoustic guitars are miked and mixed beautifully and usually, an album kicks off with something that is tantalizing. Instead, the duo opens with a solid acoustic ballad written by Joel – “Dragonfly.”

The song has an interesting back story about having to hire a medium to rid a studio of an unhappy spirit. That alone would interest me in a song. Seems the tune is sung from the perspective of the spirit. Clever.

During the period of ridding a building of this manifestation, they found a dead dragonfly in the lobby. They keep this corpse now in a cassette box — a sign that the spirit has been eliminated? The tune was written by Joel with the tradition of Bill — his father’s guitar hero – Bert Jansch and Al Tuck. Yes…songwriters who were incredible in their own way. The song plods along pleasantly as ballads will go – but, then suddenly at 2:33 there is a spike and Joel whips out an electric lead guitar that fires off bouncing from Ronnie MacEachern’s fiddle and Erin Costelo’s accordion. All done with class including Bill’s fragile vocal approach which added to the poignancy. The song is pensive but it has a melody line that is vibrant and memorable.

Hoping interest in the rest of the album hasn’t been compromised “The Next Blue Sky,” explodes with the drama and brilliance of Lowen & Navarro (“Cry”) and it sparkles. The voices are ambitious and create a nice exhilarating performance. Joel’s mandola rings out over the acoustic guitars and it’s just…it’s exciting. Yes, that’s what it is, exciting.

Due to the passing of Eric Lowen in 2012, Lowen & Navarro are no more. But it’s nice to hear another duo carrying on in their tradition, or at least mining the same vein of music and doing it so well.

The Plaskett’s have won multiple JUNO Awards in Canada and the father and son team are quite special as they manage to perform with such beautiful flexibility in a seamless jubilant showcase. These are not greenhorns but seasoned pros. Sounding old in a traditional manner is “Blank Cheque,” (the album version) and it has a nice solid beat with early strains of folk music. Lots of gas in their respective tanks – clean and clever drums accentuate with muscle as Shannon Quinn saws the fiddle in this tune. Joel himself lays down the beat on the skins.

There is no lyric book (a shame) but I believe they are singing a great line: “…it’s gonna take more than love (or luck) to save your neck.” And was the word “periphery” in the song? If it was, that was refreshing. The lyric on this track is excellent. Well thought out. The uniformity in the vocals is a musical presence welcome on my speakers. Enclose a lyric book next time. [READ MORE]

Jeff Burger reviews Solidarity in his Five Noteworthy New Releases for No Depression

By Jeff Burger, No Depression

Bill and Joel Plaskett, Solidarity. This adventurous, well-produced father-and-son collaboration is loaded with lilting folk and folk/rock. The lyrics, which incorporate clever wordplay and memorable lines, range from the introspective to the political. “The Next Blue Sky” will have you up and dancing or at least tapping your foot, while the melancholic “The New California” will paint pictures in your head. The album manages to be as cohesive as it is diverse. It’s also consistently impressive.

The Globe and Mail: A Plaskett family affair

On the new album Solidarity, Joel Plaskett leans into his folk roots while his dad Bill brings out the songwriter’s political side

Musicians Joel Plaskett, right, and his father Bill pose in Plaskett’s recording studio The New Scotland Yard in Halifax on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. DARREN CALABRESE/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Musicians Joel Plaskett, right, and his father Bill pose in Plaskett’s recording studio The New Scotland Yard in Halifax on Tuesday, January 17, 2017.

By Josh O’Kane, The Globe and Mail

Loitering in the back room of vintage music-gear purveyor Paul’s Boutique, Bill Plaskett gets a compliment from its namesake owner: “You know, you look like Roger Waters.”

Bill looks back in silence for just a second. Rock trivia is not his forte. His son, Joel Plaskett, jumps to the rescue. “You know him? Pink Floyd.”

“Oh, Pink Floyd, yeah,” Bill says, smiling slyly. These days, the British folk-revival maven is learning a lot from his rock-aficionado son. Three decades after Bill taught Joel the guitar, helping launch him into the Cancon canon, they’re releasing an album together. And as much as it’s a chance to repay Bill for a life of lessons learned, Joel’s still learning, too.

Out Feb. 17, Solidarity is Joel’s ninth proper album since the 1999 breakup of his alt-rock band Thrush Hermit. It’s also the most explicit folk foray of the Halifax musician’s career – built in his co-headlining father’s image, soaked in traditional sounds from both shores of the Atlantic.

Joel’s long toyed with singer-songwriter styles, but this is different. Fiddles, whistles and banjos pop up as Bill finger-picks and Joel strums six-string and tenor guitars. The pair stickhandle traditionals: Bill plays Jim Jones bare-bones, while they trade verses and harmonies on We Have Fed You All for a Thousand Years. Joel, meanwhile, dolls up new songs with trad flourishes. Blank Cheque rollicks like a kitchen-party jam, and the Yellowknife ballad The New California gets a phalanx of whistles.

Joel Plaskett in the studio in 2012. INGRAM BARSS

Joel Plaskett in the studio in 2012. INGRAM BARSS

And then there are Bill’s songs, stretching back decades.
The longer Joel’s career stretches on, the more his music returns to his childhood. Sitting on a bench across the street from the Toronto music shop, Bill and Joel discuss recording the album’s final song, On Down the River – a song that had been brewing in Bill for decades. It’s a simple, quick, stripped-down take with just one microphone, a would-be demo done in the lobby of Joel’s Dartmouth studio.

The approach was deliberate. “I tried to make it sound like the cassette of all his songs that I heard when I was a kid,” Joel says.

Joel’s journey from nineties alternative impressionist to burgeoning folk scholar begins with his father. Bill, now 72, grew up working-class in east London, and fell quickly into finger-picking as traditional jazz and skiffle took him headfirst into the British folk revival.

He obsessively followed the careers of revival leaders such as Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Davey Graham as he travelled to northern England, then Canada, settling in the mid-seventies near Lunenburg, N.S., with Sharon MacDonald, Joel’s mother.

Sharon, a dancer, flooded the home with experimental, jazz and pop music. But Bill’s folk obsession grew after they settled on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Within a decade of Joel’s birth in 1975, Bill established a coffee house, started his own trad bands and helped found the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, leading to many late-night after-parties at the Plaskett-MacDonald home.

The young Joel, though – his path meandered. Obsessions with Chuck Berry and Billy Joel turned to eighties skate music and, eventually, Led Zeppelin. Bill tried in vain to teach Joel guitar; he tried drums and saxophone instead. It was only when the family moved to Halifax in 1987, and Joel met the friends that would form Thrush Hermit, that he accepted guitar lessons.[READ MORE]

CBC’s q: Bill and Joel Plaskett join forces on new album Solidarity

By CBC’s q – Produced by Mitch Pollock

Joel Plaskett performing live at the q studios in Toronto, Ont. (Cathy Irving/CBC)

Joel Plaskett performing live at the q studios in Toronto, Ont. (Cathy Irving/CBC)

While Joel Plaskett has made a name for himself as one of Canada’s great songwriters, his dad Bill is an accomplished musician in his own right.

Growing up, Joel heard his dad playing tunes at home, took that inspiration and ran with it. “In a child’s desire for attention from his father, he’d come up and put his hands on my strings,” Bill recalls, of Joel’s interest in his guitar playing. “So I made him a cutout guitar with a string that went around his neck so while I played, he could play too.”

Bill and Joel Plaskett chatting with host Tom Power in the q studios in Toronto, Ont. (Cathy Irving/CBC)

Bill and Joel Plaskett chatting with host Tom Power in the q studios in Toronto, Ont. (Cathy Irving/CBC)

In all those years, Joel has never collaborated with his dad — until now. They’ve come together on a new album called, fittingly enough, Solidarity (out Feb. 17). [READ MORE]

Noisey – Dad Rock: Why Joel Plaskett Made a New Record With His Pops

By Cam Lindsay, Noisey


We spoke to the father-and-son duo about connecting and staying young through music.

Joel Plaskett hasn’t aged a bit. His voice hasn’t lost any of its youthful lilt since I first interviewed him back in 1995, when we were both teenagers. He’s still as rhapsodic and talkative as he was when he was touring Smart Bomb with his old band Thrush Hermit. And even though there are a few greys poking out of his hair, he even looks as though time has not yet caught up with him over all these years.

Of course, Joel Plaskett has in fact aged. Duh. And the way that it’s most obvious is the extensive set of recordings he has amassed. Plaskett has proven himself to be one of Canada’s most reliable songwriters, both in quality and frequency. In 1999 alone, he released Thrush Hermit’s swan song, Clayton Park, the debut album by Neuseiland, his side-project with Super Friendz members Charles Austin and Drew Yamada, and his debut solo album, In Need Of Medical Attention. Subsequently, he has steadily released at least one album of his own every other year, not to mention produced recordings by Two Hours Traffic, Al Tuck, Sarah Slean, Old Man Luedecke, Mo Kenney and Shotgun Jimmie, while running his own label, New Scotland Records. Along the way, he has also rounded up a handful of Juno nominations (including a win in 2010 for Adult Alternative Album of the Year) and a couple of Polaris Music Prize shortlists.

For his latest project, Plaskett has come full circle and teamed up with the man who first introduced him to music: his dad, Bill. The idea to collaborate has been a long time coming. Joel and Bill have been performing together on a regular basis over the last decade and even worked on songs together in the studio. It took a while but they finally realized the inevitable: they should actually sit down and make a record together. Their album, Solidarity, marks the debut album for Bill, who has long made home recordings of folk songs he’s written both before and after he immigrated to Canada from the UK. For Joel, it was not only an opportunity to work with his biggest musical hero, but also explore another side of his roots through the folk music he grew up with. Noisey got both Joel and Bill Plaskett on the phone to talk about their familial collaboration.

Noisey: So whose idea was this record?
Joel Plaskett: I don’t know, it might have been somebody else’s.
Bill Plaskett: Occasionally when we play a show someone will say, “You should record an album together.” That’s one impetus.
Joel: It’s always been in the band of my mind too. Dad played on Three and guested on a few other records, a song or two here and there over the years. And we’ve been doing shows together periodically, back to about 2005. After La De Da came out we did a short tour in Southern Ontario; that was the first time we did some acoustic stuff together. So there is a history of it there, but all of the material was mostly my stuff. And it felt like if we were going to continue to play together it would be nice to showcase what Dad does as well and the shared influences that we have and make a record that was more collaborative. Initially the idea was for my dad to make a record and I would just produce it or play on it. But it turned more into a record that really is the two of us. It’s kind of a folk rock record that merges our two worlds and brings out the folkier side of what I do, but still has some production from my pop and rock world. It was really about us continuing to play shows together and giving my dad a bigger role. He’s been writing songs for years, and he had a cassette of them, from which we picked a few to put on this record.

Who do you think was more excited about making the record?
Bill: Well, I’m pretty excited about it! For me it’s a pretty invigorating thing. The experience of being in the studio and the experience of being involved with the mixing. And now we’re involved with the process of translating it for a live performance.
Joel: I was excited to make it too. Part of the joy for me was that Dad was super excited about it. This felt like a different step where I could indulge my folkier side. My dad brings a deep-seated knowledge of the British folk genre, and a lot of my love for guitar playing comes from learning from him and his influences, which eventually became my influences. Whether that was Richard Thompson or Jimmy Page, Bert Jansch was a hero, and that is all stuff I’ve listened to. It was fun to push it that way. [READ MORE]

Bob Mersereau Reviews Solidarity for Top 100 Canadian Singles

By Bob Mersereau, Top 100 Canadian Singles

I recall sitting on a prize jury a few years back, and one of the company disparagingly referred to Joel Plaskett’s music as “dad rock”. That meant the kind of rock your dad would listen to, if you were in your 30’s I guess, and hipper than that, music from the 60’s-70’s era. I guess this would make him apoplectic, as Plaskett has made his latest with his actual dad.

Fans will be familiar with the senior Plaskett, Bill, as he’s recorded on previous works by his son such as Three, and done the occasional tour with him. A folk performer and songwriter himself, he’s probably been as big an influence as any on his son’s life, natch, but here we find out it’s more than just choice of profession. Bill’s a died-in-the-wool folksinger, where the words mean something, whether personal or for the people. Some of that is political for sure, and Plaskett the younger certainly has chosen to drive on the left side of that road. That’s reflected here in the traditional We Have Fed You All For 1000 Years, and Joel’s Blank Cheque, partially a reaction to the U.S. election campaign.[READ MORE]

Exclaim! reviews Solidarity

By Kyle Mullin, Exclaim!

Solidarity, the new collaborative LP between Joel Plaskett (arguably the East Coast’s biggest-ever indie star) and his father Bill (who has a formidable legacy in his own right as the cofounder of Nova Scotia’s Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival), is a joyous family affair and a must own release for fans of both artists’ genres. By turns playful and melancholy, it merges Celtic folk with indie rock, and showcases the beautifully shared vision between a father and his son.

Both Plasketts’ passion and prowess are evident throughout, but one of the album’s most compelling aspects is how it shows the sharp contrasts in their approaches. The Joel-helmed “Up in the Air,” for instance, boasts immersive, full-bodied production, and couldn’t sound more different than Bill’s skeletal acoustic playing on “Jim Jones.” [READ MORE]

Family ‘Solidarity:’ Joel Plaskett melds father’s music with his own on new album

After years of floating the idea, the Nova Scotia father-son duo has collaborated on an album for the first time.

By Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press

Joel Plaskett, Bill Plaskett
Musicians Joel Plaskett, right, and his father Bill pose in Plaskett’s recording studio The New Scotland Yard in Halifax on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. [Photo: Darren Calabrese, The Canadian Press]

HALIFAX — More than 30 years ago in the picturesque fishing town of Lunenburg, N.S., a young Joel Plaskett would sift through his father’s record collection and watch him play guitar with a keen eye.
Bill Plaskett — a British immigrant who plucked strings at Maritime kitchen parties and coffee houses in the 1990s — had an early hand in kindling his son’s musical curiosities, a calling that would thrust him through an enduring career as a celebrated Nova Scotia artist.

After years of floating the idea, the father-son duo have collaborated on an album for the first time —”Solidarity”— a record that’s firmly rooted in Bill’s English folk influences, but still upholds Joel’s signature rock swagger.

“I think the clock was ticking for us to make a record together,” said the younger Plaskett, sitting leg-over-leg on a tufted brown leather sofa in his Dartmouth, N.S., recording studio.
“It was fun to try and make the album work where it sort of told our individual stories in small fragments, and our collective stories together. That to me was the fun of it and also the challenge. It was not as easy as I anticipated it to be.”

The album’s track list is a patchwork of their respective unused songwriting material. But within the vast repertoire is a clear through-line: a vocal and instrumental dance between two generations of Plasketts.

Some of the songs date back decades.

“I found these tapes of dad singing all these original songs and as a teenager I would listen to them,” said Joel, his shoulder-length brown hair tucked behind his ears.
“So I went back to a few of those tapes and would say, ‘Hey, what about this one,’ or ‘Why don’t we sand the edges off that one’.”

The 11-track album opens with the gripping “Dragonfly” — a definite merging of the two Plaskett’s distinct styles.

The song builds from a folk melody with Celtic flair and gritty vocals to a jarring breakdown reminiscent of Joel’s past catalogue. A fiddle and electric guitar take turns being the instrumental interlude’s vanguard.

Joel Plaskett, Bill Plaskett
Musicians Joel Plaskett, right, and his father Bill play music from their new record in Plaskett’s recording studio The New Scotland Yard in Halifax on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. [Photo: Darren Calabrese, The Canadian Press]

The inspiration for the tune came from a paranormal experience. After several unexplainable occurrences at his studio, Joel hired a medium to “clear a ghost out of the place.”

“The day after that, we found a dragonfly on the floor of the lobby in the studio,” said Joel, whose studio New Scotland Yard also houses a storefront with a barber shop, record store and cafe all sharing the space.

“I looked up dragonflies, and in certain cultures, they kind of represent spirits that have moved on… and of course it can all be this long coincidence, but I think I’m just starting to believe much more and I’m feeling it more in my heart, the interconnectiveness of everything.”

On the lively “On Down The River,” Bill sings solo about his childhood in England, sitting on the banks of the River Thames and fantasizing about one day leaving.

“I grew up in a housing estate, with all the houses the same, and I kind of escaped from that by going down to the industrial banks of the Thames, with old rusty freighters leaving the port,” said the older Plaskett in a baritone English accent, clasping a coffee mug next to his son on the couch.

“And so it was the notion of imagining yourself going away, which I eventually did.”

The album was recorded last year during a time Joel found to be “really taxing emotionally with what has been going on in the world,” namely the American election.

“That was sort of there in the background as this pressure, and without sounding too corny, the idea of playing music with your family and the idea of coming together…” he said, trailing off and looking towards his father.

“Right,” Bill affirms, nodding.

Although not overt, Joel said there are political undertones on “Solidarity.” But he hopes the music can exist outside of the issues that divide society and serve as a peacemaker.

“The audience may disagree on a ton of things out there in the world, but when they come together liking music, or just being in the room with music, that kind of can just go away for awhile,” said Joel, who has advocated for local causes, including the fight to save a historic arts centre in downtown Halifax.

“For me, that’s what I want it to do for me this year, to still remain engaged in what I care about and to see if we can be involved in making the world a better place… but having it start on a family level and bringing that into a larger world with friends and family and audience and trying to do something that feels good, even if you’re angry.”[READ MORE]