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Introducing Neil MacDonald’s HOMEGROWN and a feature on Canadian gem Mike Plume

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17 minute read

At Todayville we welcome guests to our platform to help entertain and enlighten our readers on a host of topics. In this article we welcome Neil MacDonald. An accomplished musician in his own right, Neil has been part of Edmonton’s music scene for many years.  He’s also shared the stage with some of our best and most-beloved Canadian artists.  Neil has decided he’d like to use some of his time during isolation to promote artists from the region. Watch for Neil’s articles over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I’m going to kick this off.  Today of course, the music industry is being decimated.  Live venues, concerts, festivals, even busking – they’re the lifeblood of musicians and virtually everything is cancelled for the foreseeable future. While we are in this funk it’s hard to imagine a world with live music venues filled with your favourite artists. But maybe we can use this time to learn more about the great artists that we don’t hear everyday on the radio, but who create amazing music and tell unique Canadian Stories.

So while we are all sitting around in isolation and waiting for Neil to pen some stories, I thought I’d feature an artist that I’ve been familiar with for a long time, but really lost touch with.  While Neil and I were talking about some of the artists that he could feature, he reminded me of his friend Mike Plume and how Mike is the perfect example of the kind of artist Neil feels should get more attention and appreciation.

Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned about Mike Plume.

Mike Plume was born in Moncton, New Brunswick in 1968, or as he says “… in the year of the White Album.”

Mike was born in Moncton, New Brunswick in 1968, or as he says “… in the year of the White Album.”

A fixture around Edmonton for a long time. he’s been living in Nashville and touring for many years.  Now back in our city, he signed a record deal with Edmonton’s Royalty Records last last year and is getting set to release a new 10 track album entitled Lonesome Stretch of Highway. You can stream a couple of tracks from the new album here.

While we wait for the new release, watch a favourite of mine called 8:30 Newfoundland. You’ll like the nod to one of Canada’s most-enduring earworms … the Hinterland Who’s Who.

 

Here is a great rundown of Mike’s career and story from his Facebook page.  Reading through this, you will realize how much you’ve missed if you don’t know who Mike Plume is.

This tribute to Stompin’ Tom Connors was written in mere hours Stompin after Connors’ death in 2013. Mike was invited to perform it at Connors’ funeral.

“Writing a song is like building a chair,” says Mike Plume. “You can build one in about 5 minutes, and you can sit on it, but you might get splinters. I can write a song in 5 minutes, but by the time I think it’s done it could be a year and a half. I just keep running my hand over it, to see where I get the splinters.”

Produced by 6 time Grammy winner, Brent Maher, who has produced numerous multiplatinum artists ranging from The Judds to Johnny Reid (with Elvis, Ike and Tina, Kenny Rogers and more in between) and Grammy winning engineer, Charles Yingling in Nashville’s Blue Room Studios, 8:30 Newfoundland is the Moncton born, Bonnyville bred songwriter’s first record with the Mike Plume Band since 2001. Equal parts down home folk and raw country stomp, 8:30 Newfoundland cover a lot of years and a lot of miles: from ‘Norman Wells to The Rock’ on the title track and lead single; from late winter games of shinny on a frozen Alberta pond, where ‘the season never ended’ on More Than a Game; from the highways out of town where dreams begin, on Free, to back roads leading nowhere, where people who’s dreams have died go to heal in peace.


But no matter how far 8:30 Newfoundland takes you, Plume’s unrelenting optimism and forthright delivery tie it all together with an authenticity that comes from the kind of hard won truths and lyrical details you’d never be able to remember – let alone put on paper – if you hadn’t been there, in the flesh, living every word of every line. Even still, for Plume to come to some of those truths in his own mind, it took distance and time.

The day of their release the Band listened to 9/11 unfold on the BBC while driving to a gig in Bournemouth, UK.

“It took a year and a half to write most of these songs.” Like “This is our Home (8:30 Newfoundland)”, he says, co-written with Road Hammer, Jason McCoy. “I couldn’t have written that song if I was living in Canada. I had to be homesick. I had to get away from everything to realize just how great our home is.”

“We wrote the first verse and chorus in 10 minutes, in 2006. For 16 months, every time I was walking my dogs, I’d visit that melody and come up with more lyrics. I could’ve finished it in an hour, but I’m not sure it would have ended up being the song that it turned into.”

A recent review of the title track by FYI Music contributor Bob Segarini quotes “I love songs like this. The thought that goes into the lyrics alone gives me a headache, they are so well thought out…First of all, the country element is in the lyric…A down-home name-check of just about every well known place in Canada, and an overall homage to our home and native land. Then you’ve got a fairly roots-y reading by the musicians, complete with an Al Kooper-esque Hammond organ part swirling in the background, and finally, a vocal that sounds eerily like John Mellencamp channeling a 20 year old Bob Dylan, with a bit of mid-period, ‘country honk’ Rolling Stones looseness thrown in for good measure. Hear this one enough times, and it’ll cause you to buy a used ‘58 corvette ragtop, grab a map of Canada, and hit the road. It also makes me want to drink beer…”

Truth be told, he didn’t know if it would turn into anything. Then again, when he first formed the Mike Plume Band in the mid ‘90’s he couldn’t be sure that would turn into anything either. In fact, up to that point, he had every reason to think exactly the opposite. “I was fired from every band I’ve ever been in except this one, and if this wasn’t called The Mike Plume Band, I would have been canned years ago.”

In 1994, on the heels of his debut, Songs from a Northern Town, Plume and his band hit the road hard, playing 200-250 one-nighters a year, and releasing two records in one year, in 1997, Song and Dance Man, and Simplify. The former sold more than 10,000 copies offstage along the way through Europe, the US and Canada.

In the end, though, it was Plume, not his band, who pulled the plug. Unlike a song, the road’s rough patches don’t get any smoother, no matter how often you go over them, and Plume has gone over them more often than most. Eventually, inevitably, some of those rough edges began to wear on him

The beginning of the end, Plume says, came four years later, after the release of the band’s last record, Fools for the Radio. “It was originally supposed to come out May 1st. Then we had a big ‘meeting of the minds’ and they said, ‘Know what, May 1st isn’t a good date – we pick September 11, 2001’.”

The day of their release the Band listened to 9/11 unfold on the BBC while driving to a gig in Bournemouth, UK. Rather than pack it in they kept right on driving. But fifteen months later Plume hopped out of the van in Boston to check into their rooms for the night, heard the screech of the tires and realized two things simultaneously. First, that he’d left the van in drive, and second, that it was time he put himself in park for a while. After six records, eight years, and over 1200 shows across Canada, The United States and Europe, Plume decided to put down roots and find out what it was like to live in a town for more than 12 hours at a time.

“It’s a grass is always greener thing,” he says. “After every gig I’d get behind the wheel at 2 AM and drive ‘til 10. At sunrise, when you’re driving through a town, you start seeing the lights in houses coming on. In your head, you picture the guy shuffling around the kitchen, making a pot of coffee, kissing his wife and heading the kids off to school. And I would just think I would give anything to be that guy right now. So now I’m that guy. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Music is what I do, but being married and having a kid is who I am. It took me a long time to figure that out.”

While the band continued to tour and record under the name The Populars, Plume, newly married and living in Nashville, put out two records on his own before putting down his guitar for good, he thought, in 2003, and moved back to Canada.

Three years later, during a visit to Tennessee, Plume picked up right where he’d left off. “While I was gone, everybody I’d written with had #1 songs, and I thought, Jesus, maybe I shouldn’t have left town when I did.” After hooking up with some old friends to pen a few songs while he was in town he landed a publishing deal with Moraine Music and got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, he was missing something.

Relocating to Nashville once again in 2006, Plume soon made up for lost time: writing with the likes of country legend Guy Clark, landing a gig as the voice of the Chevy Silverado, and, recently, turning a small ‘School of Rock’ style music program he originated in Parry Sound, into a national program for Tim Hortons’ Children’s Camps.

Along the way he discovered that he can put down his guitar and his dreams whenever he needs to, and pick them right back up again whenever he wants. And that the good old days, far from being hollow echoes of past glories and fading memories, happen all the time. As he sings on Like a Bullet From a Gun, when you’re ‘looking back at the good old days, ten years from now that’ll be today’. “That’s my favourite line on the record,” Plume says. “When you turn 50, you’re gonna wish that you were turning 40, so why not be envious of your position right now?”

With that spirit in mind, when a European agent called to float the idea of reuniting Plume and his old band for a tour, one thing led to another. Though the tour never happened, once Plume started writing songs again he couldn’t stop. “Before we went in to record 8:30 Newfoundland the guys and I hadn’t played together in four years. They came to Nashville, I counted them in, and we just fell into it.” “Somehow we’d all found our own definition of happiness and making music together again was the common denominator.”

“It’s how you go about your day in the face of the inevitable, you know? It’s all about making a decision in how you want to live your life” Plume says. “To quote Shawshank Redemption… ‘(you gotta) get busy living or get busy dying.’”

“Or another lyric from “Like A Bullet From A Gun”.”These good old days happen all the time. And you know what? They do happen all the time, we just have to remind ourselves that they are and that the cup is half full and it always is.”

Watch for Neil’s articles promoting other amazing musicians and songwriters in the upcoming weeks.

Click to read more stories on Todayville Edmonton.

President Todayville Inc., Honorary Lieutenant Colonel 41 Signal Regiment, Board Member Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award Foundation, Board Member Canadian Forces Liaison Council (Alberta) Musician, Photographer, Former VP/GM CTV Edmonton.

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Alberta

Lightning the latest to learn Dallas Stars’ defence can be downright offensive

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EDMONTON — The Tampa Bay Lightning are the latest team in the NHL playoffs to discover how much the Dallas Stars’ defence can be, well, downright offensive.

The Stars scored twice via defenders jumping into the play en route to a 4-1 win over the Lightning in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final.

Dallas head coach Rick Bowness calls it a high-risk, high-reward strategy change born out of necessity in the modern game.

“We had to change the way we were playing with the puck,” Bowness told reporters Sunday on a Zoom call.

“Since we went to (return to play training) camp on July 11 that was the focus, and it continues to be the focus.

“In this league, you better have your fourth guy joining the rush or you’re not going to create enough chances off the rush, and you’re not going to spend enough time in the offensive zone.”

Dallas is three wins from the Stanley Cup in a playoff run powered by the offensive production of defenders like Miro Heiskanen, John Klingberg, and Jamie Oleksiak.

Heiskanen, 21, is the team’s top playoff point-getter, with five goals and 18 assists. Klingberg is tied for third (three goals, 17 points). Oleksiak has five goals in 22 playoff games after never getting more than five in any regular season in his eight-year NHL career.

Bowness said the strategy carries high risk if everyone isn’t in sync. The forwards have to gain the zone and dish the puck and fill the gap when the defence activates. If a player loses the puck or doesn’t rotate, the dominoes can fall on a disastrous odd-man attack headed at high speed the other way.

“Some nights it’s there, it works, and some nights it doesn’t. But they’re coming,” said Bowness.

“We’re after our D all the time to keep coming, and when that happens you’re putting a lot of onus on the puck carrier to make the right decisions.

“We’re here where we are because of the play of our defence and their chipping in offensively when they have to.”

With Dallas, the defence can play offence, but the offence can also hustle back and play defence, as evidenced in the third period of Game 1. Tampa Bay found its legs in the final frame and leveraged three Dallas minor penalties to blitz Anton Khudobin with 22 shots on net in 20 minutes.

Khudobin stopped them all, but credited teammates with clearing out rebounds and stopping pucks at the point of attack. The Stars allowed 35 shots on Khudobin in total but blocked another 26.

Dallas forward Jason Dickinson said they are succeeding in keeping shots to the perimeter and collapsing in on the net when pucks got through.

“We’re all on the same page. We don’t get running (around). When we’re in doubt we pack it in and we’ll expand from there and protect the house first,” said Dickinson.

“When it does open up, we have (Khudobin) there to shut the door for us.”

Khudobin, a journeyman backup in his 11th season, is having a storybook post-season, starting 19 games for an injured Ben Bishop and racking up 13 wins. Against the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference final he allowed just eight goals on 161 shots for a .950 save percentage.

But Bowness said even keeping shots at a long distance is not good news.

“When we’re seeing that, we’re on our heels and that’s not how we play the game. We play the game on our toes going north,” he said.

The Lightning have yet to lose back-to-back games in this post-season, which has seen teams play in so-called isolated bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto to prevent contracting the coronavirus.

Forward Blake Coleman said they’ll be a different team in Game 2 Monday night at Rogers Place.

“Nobody is proud of the way we played, and we have a very proud group,” said Coleman.

“I expect every guy to look in the mirror and bounce back and play better than they did in Game 1.”

Looming over the series is the question of whether former two-time league scoring champion and Lightning team captain Steven Stamkos will return.

Stamkos has been out since March after undergoing surgery for a core muscle injury. He’s skating with the team in practice.

Will he play in Monday’s Game 2? Tampa head coach Jon Cooper was asked.

“I guess there’s always a chance, but as of now I don’t think so,” Cooper replied.

Bowness said they’re planning for him: “We’re expecting Steven to play at some point.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2020.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

RCMP in Alberta say man dead after he called 911 and told police he wanted shootout

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CALLING LAKE, Alta. — RCMP in Alberta say a man is dead after he’d called them multiple times, telling them he wanted a gunfight with police.

Police say officers in Athabasca, Alta. received multiple 911 calls from a 51-year-old man who asked police to come to his home in nearby Calling Lake.

They say during those calls he made comments that he wanted to engage RCMP members in a shootout.

Police allege the man exited the residence multiple times before ultimately confronting RCMP members on the street.

They say that confrontation led to an RCMP member discharging a service firearm.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene, and no other injuries were reported.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, the province’s police oversight agency, says it has been directed to investigate the officer-involved shooting and will provide more details later.

RCMP, meanwhile, say they will continue to investigate the actions of the man and the events leading up to the confrontation.

The Canadian Press

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