Joel Plaskett’s latest album, The Park Avenue Sobriety Test, plays out like the biopic of a guy who’s a bit down on his luck. Its acronym, PAST, is suggestive: with the Halifax singer-songwriter at a critical point in his life — he’s just about to turn 40 — it’s an album about looking back.
With that in mind, you might think the album is a bit of a bummer, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The songs on The Park Avenue Sobriety Test are funny, heartwarming, fun and often rocking. If this is Plaskett looking back, then he is looking back at the best of his long musical career because this new record is top-notch — perhaps one of his best.
For his First Play Live session, Plaskett came to CBC Music’s Studio 211 with only two guitars and his pianist, John Boudreau, in tow. Together they performed the entire record front to back for the intimate audience in a stripped-down manner, with Plaskett mostly playing solo guitar and Boudreau pitching in only when absolutely needed. This type of performance gave the songs from The Park Avenue Sobriety Test an urgency and intimacy that you just don’t get with a full-blown rock band.
Check out the performances below from this very special edition of First Play Live.