Joel Plaskett Three (Maple/Universal)
Joel Plaskett loves vinyl records, old-time country music, ’70s classic rock, ’60s soul, making music with your parents, and songwriter circles on the CBC. He’s not the kind of guy who worries about current trends –nor the collapse of the music industry. This might explain why, in 2009, he’s putting out a three-CD set, with nine songs per disc, the vast majority of them clocking in right around the three-minute mark. No matter what he’s up to with this numerology, Plaskett has been one of Canada’s most consistently reliable songwriters for a decade now — and this album is a prime example — so he can be afforded plenty of slack.
Most artists have trouble filling a single disc with worthy tracks; Plaskett defies all expectations by not only refusing to let any clunkers through, but also avoiding any indulgent experimentation that usually accompanies such a large endeavour. Three touches on all of Plaskett’s strengths, ranging from quiet intimacy to what sound like lo-fi drum machine demos to high gloss. Remarkably, however, Three maintains a consistent tone throughout: there’s little of the power pop that he performs with the Joel Plaskett Emergency (last heard on 2006’s Ashtray Rock), but plenty of female vocals, horn sections, country touches, and more of a Maritime/Celtic influence than ever heard in his music before — all are decorative rather than distracting.
As he embarks on his first headlining theatre tour, Plaskett leaves no doubt that he’s a lifer who’s building a songbook that’s going to help define his generation of Canadian songwriters. At this rate, he’ll be booking a full week at Massey Hall next year — with enough quality songs for different set lists every night.