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MacLean’s: Joel Plaskett on the Tragically Hip – ‘Lucky in their presence’

The Halifax singer/songwriter on the Hip in the Canadian landscape — pure and cool and weird

By Michael Barclay, MacLean’s


Joel Plaskett is a Halifax singer/songwriter who is often hailed as one of the true heirs of The Tragically Hip’s legacy, in terms of writing stadium-size, raw rock’n’roll married with the Canadian folk tradition, with explicit lyrical nods to a specific sense of place. He spent the ’90s with his high school friends in Thrush Hermit; in the 2000s he formed the Joel Plaskett Emergency, who opened for the Tragically Hip in 2004; you can hear Gord Downie thanking them on the 2005 live album That Night in Toronto.

What did the Tragically Hip mean to you as a kid?

A. I got Up to Here in Grade 9, when it came out. Then I found the first blue album [the 1987 debut self-titled EP]. I was a big fan of that and Road Apples; those two records got a lot of play from me. Then the whole Halifax thing took off, the Hermit got going, and I was very wrapped up in what was happening locally. When they were touring those early records, I was too young to see them in bars. The first two records—I can sing along to every song. “Little Bones” and the riff-rock stuff like that kicked my ass and continues to do so. There were songs after: “Courage,” that song too stuck with me. He dedicated “Courage” to Hugh McLennan, who is a first cousin of my grandfather. I met Hugh when I was in junior high; I remember him coming over to my grandparents’ house for dinner. [READ MORE]