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Alberta

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 Colonel 41 Signal Regiment, Board Member Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award Foundation, Director Canadian Forces Liaison Council (Alberta) musician, photographer, former VP/GM CTV Edmonton.

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Alberta

Red Deer Doctor critical of Alberta’s COVID response to submit report to Danielle Smith this May

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From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

Leading the task force is Dr. Gary Davidson, who was skeptical of mandates at the time.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith will soon be receiving a little-known report she commissioned which tasked an Alberta doctor who was critical of the previous administration’s handling of COVID to look into how accurate the province’s COVID data collection was, as well as the previous administration’s decision-making process and effectiveness. 

As noted in a recent Globe and Mail report, records it obtained show that just less than one month after becoming Premier of Alberta in November of 2022, Smith tasked then-health minister Jason Copping to create the COVID data task force. 

Documents show that the Alberta government under Smith gave the new task force, led by Dr. Gary Davidson – who used to work as an emergency doctor in Red Deer, Alberta – a sweeping mandate to look at whether the “right data” was obtained during COVID as well as to assess the “integrity, validity, reliability and quality of the data/information used to inform pandemic decisions” by members of Alberta Health Services (AHS).  

As reported by LifeSiteNews in 2021, Davidson said during the height of COVID that the hospital capacity crisis in his province was “created,” was not a new phenomenon, and had nothing to do with COVID.

“We have a crisis, and we have a crisis because we have no staff, because our staff quit, because they’re burned out, they’re not burnt out from COVID,” Davidson said at the time. 

Davidson also claimed that the previous United Conservative Party government under former Premier Jason Kenney had been manipulating COVID statistics.  

In comments sent to the media, Smith said that in her view it was a good idea to have a “contrarian perspective” with Davidson looking at “everything that happened with some fresh eyes.” 

“I needed somebody who was going to look at everything that happened with some fresh eyes and maybe with a little bit of a contrarian perspective because we’ve only ever been given one perspective,” she told reporters Tuesday. 

“I left it to [Davidson] to assemble the panel with the guidance that I would like to have a broad range of perspectives.” 

After assuming her role as premier, Smith promptly fired the province’s top doctor, Deena Hinshaw, and the entire AHS board of directors, all of whom oversaw the implementation of COVID mandates. 

Under Kenney, thousands of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare and government workers lost their jobs for choosing to not get the jabs, leading Smith to say – only minutes after being sworn in – that over the past year the “unvaccinated” were the “most discriminated against” group of people in her lifetime. 

As for AHS, it still is promoting the COVID shots, for babies as young as six months old, as recently reported by LifeSiteNews.  

Task force made up of doctors both for and against COVID mandates  

In addition to COVID skeptic Dr. Gary Davidson, the rather secretive COVID task force includes other health professionals who were critical of COVID mandates and health restrictions, including vaccine mandates.  

The task force was given about $2 million to conduct its review, according to The Globe and Mail, and is completely separate from another task force headed by former Canadian MP Preston Manning, who led the Reform Party for years before it merged with another party to form the modern-day Conservative Party of Canada. 

Manning’s task force, known as the Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel (PHEGRP), released its findings last year. It recommend that many pro-freedom policies be implemented, such as strengthening personal medical freedoms via legislation so that one does not lose their job for refusing a vaccine, as well as concluding that Albertans’ rights were indeed infringed upon. 

The Smith government task force is run through the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) which is a provincial agency involved in healthcare research.  

Last March, Davidson was given a project description and terms of reference and was told to have a final report delivered to Alberta’s Health Minister by December of 2023. 

As of now, the task force’s final report won’t be available until May, as per Andrea Smith, press secretary to Health Minister Adriana LaGrange, who noted that the goal of the task force is to look at Alberta’s COVID response compared to other provinces.  

According to the Globe and Mail report, another person working on the task force is anesthetist Blaine Achen, who was part of a group of doctors that legally challenged AHS’s now-rescinded mandatory COVID jab policy for workers. 

Some doctors on the task force, whom the Globe and Mail noted held “more conventional views regarding the pandemic,” left it only after a few meetings. 

In a seeming attempt to prevent another draconian crackdown on civil liberties, the UCP government under Smith has already taken concrete action.

The Smith government late last year passed a new law, Bill 6, or the Public Health Amendment Act, that holds politicians accountable in times of a health crisis by putting sole decision-making on them for health matters instead of unelected medical officers. 

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Alberta

Alberta’s baby name superstar steals the show again

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Olivia and Noah continue to reign as top baby names in 2023.

Olivia and Noah are once again topping the lists in Alberta, highlighting the enduring appeal of the names. Olivia maintains a record setting streak as the most popular girls name in Alberta for the 11th year in a row, while Noah remains top pick for boys’ names for a fifth consecutive year.

“Congratulations to those who welcomed a new addition to their family in 2023. Bringing a child into the world is a truly momentous occasion. Whether the name you chose was in the top 10 or one of a kind, these names are only the beginning of the endless possibilities that lie ahead for each child. I look forward to supporting this generation by ensuring Alberta remains a place where they can thrive.”

Dale Nally, Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction

In choosing names for their new arrivals, parents appear to have found inspiration in a variety of places. Some parents may have been inspired by plants like Ivy, Rose, Juniper, Poppy, Azalea or in nature like Wren, River, Meadow and Flora.

Others may have taken a literary approach with names like Bennett, Sawyer, Juliet and Atticus or been inspired by notable names from religious texts like Eve, Noah, Mohammed and Gabriel.

As always, popular culture may have had an influence through famous musicians (Aretha, Lennon, Presley, Hendrix), athletes (Beckham, Crosby, Evander), and even fairytale princesses (Tiana, Jasmine, Aurora, Ariel, Belle).

Quick facts

  • A total of 47,263 births were registered in Alberta in 2023
  • Notable changes to the early 2020s lists:
  • Evelyn rose to seventh place on the girls’ names list after tying for 19th place in 2022.
  • Emily returned to the top 10 list for girls after taking a short break in 2021 and 2022 after a 10-year stretch in the top 10 that started in 2010.
  • Violet has cracked the top 10 list for the first time in at least four decades, tying with Ava and Emily in ninth place.
  • The top 10 boys’ names remain the same as last year but with a slight change in order.
  • Historically, girls’ names that held the No. 1 spot for the longest consecutive time period include:
  • Olivia: 11 years (2013-2023)
  • Jessica: six years (1990-1995)
  • Emily: five years (1998-2002)
  • Historically, boys’ names that held the No. 1 spot for the longest consecutive time period include:
  • Ethan: nine years (2001-2009)
  • Liam: seven years (2010-2016)
  • Matthew: five years (1995-1999)
  • Noah: five years (2019-2023)
  • Parents have up to one year to register their child’s birth. As a result, the list of 2023 baby names and birth statistics may change slightly.

Boys’ names and frequency – top 10 names 2018-23

(In brackets is the number of babies with each name)

Place Boy Names (2023) Boy Names

(2022)

Boy Names (2021) Boy Names (2020) Boy Names (2019) Boy Names (2018)
1 Noah (276) Noah (229) Noah (274) Noah (239) Noah (275) Liam (225)
2 Liam (181) Liam (176) Jack (220) Oliver (229) Liam (234) Oliver (212)
3 Oliver (178) Theodore (173) Oliver (208) Liam (206) Oliver (225) Noah (199)
4 Theodore (173) Oliver (172) Liam (198) Benjamin (182) Ethan (213) Ethan (188)
5 Jack (153) Jack (159) Theodore (191) William (178) Jack (198) Logan (182)

Lucas (182)

6 Henry (146) William (146) William (174) Jack (169) William (185) Jacob (181)
7 Lucas (140) Benjamin (138) Ethan (162) Lucas (163) Lucas (174) William (178)

Girls’ names and frequency – top 10 names 2018-2023

(In brackets is the number of babies with each name)

Place Girl Names (2023) Girl Names

(2022)

Girl Names (2021) Girl Names (2020) Girl Names (2019) Girl Names (2018)
1 Olivia (210) Olivia (192) Olivia (210) Olivia (236) Olivia (229) Olivia (235)
2 Amelia (145) Sophia (152) Charlotte (166) Emma (184) Charlotte (188) Emma (230)
3 Sophia

(138)

Emma (149) Ava (165) Charlotte (161) Sophia (181) Charlotte (175)
4 Charlotte

(135)

Amelia (133) Emma (164) Ava (159) Emma (178) Emily (164)
5 Emma (133) Harper (125) Amelia (161) Sophia (151) Ava (161) Ava (161)
6 Isla (120) Charlotte (117) Sophia (137) Amelia (145) Amelia (159) Abigail (153)
7 Evelyn (114) Ava (115) Isla (135) Isla (133) Emily (150) Harper (150)
8 Chloe (101)

Violet

(101)

Isla (101) Abigail (120)

Chloe (120)

Emily (127) Abigail (141) Sophia (146)
9 Ava (99)
Emily (99)
Lily (100) Evelyn (119) Lily (123) Hannah (137) Amelia (145)
10 Hannah (98)

Hazel

(98)

Chloe (92) Aria (112) Abigail (114) Elizabeth (124) Elizabeth (130)

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