■ FA­THER AND SON PATCH­WORK

Nova Sco­tia artist melds fa­ther’s mu­sic with his own to pro­duce al­bum Sol­i­dar­ity

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - ALY THOM­SON

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.

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 café 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 to­ward his fa­ther. “Right,” Bill af­firms, nod­ding. Joel said there are po­lit­i­cal un­der­tones on “Sol­i­dar­ity,” al­though they’re not overt. 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.” That sen­ti­ment is re­flected in the al­bum’s ti­tle track. “Sol­i­dar­ity, we stand in sol­i­dar­ity. We’re weary but we’re ready — push­ing boul­ders up the hill. Let them have the tow­ers, the next blue sky is ours. We’re in this fight to win, and we will,” the pair har­mo­nize on the jaunty tune.

Joel ad­mits a few of his fa­ther’s old records he nabbed as a teen are still hid­ing on shelves in his stu­dio’s sit­ting room — an unas­sum­ing space with grey walls, a red cloth pool ta­ble and sev­eral bul­letin boards crowded with Po­laroid pho­tos of mu­si­cians who have passed through.

He laughs and shakes his head af­ter be­ing alerted that both his and his fa­ther’s right shoes were co­in­ci­den­tally un­tied.

Joel and Bill are tak­ing “Sol­i­dar­ity” on a cross-Canada tour fol­low­ing its re­lease on Feb. 17, with open­ing act the May­hem­ing­ways dou­bling as mem­bers of the pair’s backup band.

The pair plays Hamil­ton April 7 in The Stu­dio at Hamil­ton Place. Visit joelplas­kett.com/tour for tick­ets.

"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. JOEL PLASKETT

DAR­REN CALABRESE, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Mu­si­cians Joel Plaskett, right, and his fa­ther Bill in Plaskett’s Hal­i­fax record­ing stu­dio. The pair have col­lab­o­rated on an al­bum for the first time.

“Sol­i­dar­ity,” which was re­leased Fri­day, may be rooted in Bill’s English folk in­flu­ences but Joel’s sig­na­ture rock swag­ger still res­onates.

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