Articles
September 2005
FeatureArticle -
by Larry Delany - Country Music News

They said it couldn’t be done… but The Poverty Plainsmen proved them wrong.

In fact, this Saskatchewan-based country band has been bucking the odds for years, and most times have come up smelling like roses.

Their latest ‘surprise’, has been the phenomenal airplay success of their current hit record “Sister Golden Hair”. The Poverty Plainsmen have been toying with the #1 spot on Canadian Hit charts during the summer months with the song, and they’ve achieved the spins without ‘playing the game’. Take for example: …there is no supporting video for Sister Golden Hair, something that many Canadian country radio stations call for in their litany of ‘pre-requisites’ for airplay consideration…
…and the song is a “re-make” of a past hit…something that country radio is not often interested in re-hashing…
…not only is Sister Golden Hair a “re-make”, it’s a re-make of a Pop hit from the 70’s by the group America
…the real kicker here comes in learning that Sister Golden Hair wasn’t even being considered by The Poverty Plainsmen as a single release…the song was a favourite of group leader Mark Smith’s, and was added to their latest album, Lap Of Luxury, more as a filler.

So go figure… !!
“Well…if you think you’re surprised about this, you should see all the head-bobbling we’ve been doing”, chuckled Mark Smith. “But, hey man, hits are hard to come by…so we’ll take ‘em wherever we can get ‘em”.

“The truth is though, that is one of the first guitar riffs I ever learned to play. I think I was 14 or so, back when America had their big hit with the song, and I had just started out playing guitar…and that was on the radio all the time…and I learned it…and it’s stuck with me through all these years. It’s just been a fun tune for me…and for the band”.

Mark goes on to explain how the song was pulled from their Lap Of Luxury album.
“Actually, everyone that we sent the album out to, all zeroed in our cut of Sister Golden Hair, and said…’you gotta make that a single release’. Truthfully, we weren’t convinced that country radio would play it…we were reluctant to do it…we cringed…we waited for the backlash. Boy were we surprised when it started to run up the charts. All of a sudden we all looked like experts… but I think it’s just a matter of a good song, being given another chance to be heard. A lot of country fans have never even heard the original song…so to them, it’s now just a good country song”.

“STANDING UP FOR WHAT YOU STAND FOR”

Mark Smith feels the success of The Plainsmen’s Sister Golden Hair hit, actually makes a ‘statement’ to the Canadian music industry.

“Yeah…you know, I don’t want to get on a soap box or anything like that…but I think this does prove a couple of things that all struggling Canadian artists out there can take some comfort in. First off, you don’t necessarily have to have ‘major label’ support to have a hit…and being an “independent” allows you some degree of flexibility. But more importantly is this thing about having to have a video…what the heck is that all about, when it comes to getting radio airplay. You don’t watch a video while listening to the radio. And it’s been our experience that we’re turned down by CMT more often than not, when we apply for a video spot. I don’t get it. We’ve reached a point where image is more important than substance in the music. I’ve probably shot myself in the foot… but I think you have to stand up for what you believe in”.

The Poverty Plainsmen have had to deal with a more serious situation in recent times. An April 25, 2004 highway accident involving band members returning from a Northern Alberta gig, left group co-founder Sean Smith (brother of Mark), with serious spinal injuries. For several weeks his life was in peril… he remains confined to a wheelchair, and has undergone gruelling rehab.

TRAGEDY TURNED INTO TRIUMPH
“It was very scary stuff”, says Mark… but my brother is one tough dude… and somehow he has come through all of that as a much stronger person. This guy has more energy and get-up-and go than the rest of the band combined.”

Sean has since taken over management of the band, and handles all administrative activities, and is already searching out new avenues to pursue.

“Before the accident happened, we were already looking at other opportunities” says Mark. “For years we had run ourselves ragged with gigs… backing every artist and every event that needed a band…we were at the point of burn-out. We had already started out to diversify – we owned and operated The Pump (a country / rock club) in Regina; and now we’ve expanded with a new venture in The Tap, a brew pub and eatery. We also operate our own TV and Audio sound company…and we run a Booking Agency (Big Dog Entertainment)…so it’s quite exciting…and we don’t have to be on the road and away from home as much”.

The Poverty Plainsmen, after all these years of constantly playing a supporting role for other acts and events, are now being very selective. “Yeah, we’ll back our buddies like Duane Steele and Steve Fox, when they have show dates; and we’ve still got a pretty busy schedule of performance dates…it’s not like we’ve put our music aside.

With the move of Sean Smith into a managerial capacity, The Poverty Plainsmen have re-aligned their personnel slightly, adding Johnny Gasparic, and Brian Kelly two veterans of the Prairie music scene. They join original band members Mark Smith, Brad Johnson and Don Jorgensen.

‘THE BELLAMY BROTHERS OF CANADIAN COUNTRY MUSIC’

And if anyone thinks The Poverty Plainsmen are going unnoticed …think again. They’ve just chalked-up four nominations in the 2005 CCMA’s including Group and Independent Group Of the Year, Album Of the Year (Lap Of Luxury) and Single Of the Year, for none other than Sister Golden Hair.

Plus… Gasparic (guitars), Johnson (drums) and Jorgensen (keyboards), have all earned nominations in their respective categories for CCMA All-Star Band…Mark Smith’s Big Dog Entertainment is up for Booking Agent Of Year honours, and they are involved in several other award categories, with Steve Fox up for Producer Of the Year for his work on the Lap Of Luxury album; while the album is also nominated in the Album Graphics of Year category.

But award ‘nominations’ are not something new to The Poverty Plainsmen… “man, we’re The Bellamy Brothers of Canadian country music” laughs Mark Smith… “always a bridesmaid, never the bride”.

One can begin to appreciate what Mark Smith speaks of when you run down the list of past CCMA award nominations… there have been 22 nominations from 1996 to 2004. They won Independent Group Of The Year in 2001. (If your counting…that’s a lot of bridesmaids !!)

The Poverty Plainsmen have faired much better on their home turf - winning numerous band and personal awards from the Saskatchewan Country Music Association.

“It’s never been about awards”, says Mark Smith. “Oh sure, you like to be recognized by your peers…but honestly, we all just enjoy performing our music. We write songs, we play our instruments, we make our records. There’s no big ego thing about what we do… it may sound a bit corny, but the best reward comes from our fans when they acknowledge what we do”.

Poverty Plainsmen have had their share of successful moments before Sister Golden Hair entered the picture. In fact, they actually topped the CMN Top 100 Cancountry Chart in May 2002 with their hit record Eternal Love…and have had Top 10 success in 2000 with the single Same Things, and major hits with singles Borderline, Makin’ Up For Doin’ Time, Time Will Tell. There’s No Lookin’ Back, and other releases.

And now the next challenge for the Poverty Plainsmen will be to follow-up Sister Golden Hair with equal success… “we’re likely gonna go with Secret To My Success as the next single from the Lap Of Luxury album. We’re also getting strong reaction to tunes like Good To Go and Rock On Farm Boy.”

Mark adds a touch of humour to his selection of follow-up hits – “and if that don’t work, we’ll check out some of those old hits from the past, and find us another “Sister Golden Hair”.

 

May 2005
Album Review 
- by Larry Delany - Country Music News

Lap Of Luxury
marks the third album outing for Saskatchewan-based group The Poverty Plainsmen. The album’s completion and release was interrupted by a tragic auto accident (April,2004) injuring several band members and leaving group co-founder Sean Smith with serious spinal injuries…as a means of dealing with the situation The Poverty Plainsmen (and the album’s distributor, Royalty Records) will donate $2.00 from the sale of each copy of Lap Of Luxury to spinal chord research.

While the accident has caused some lasting affects, so too will the music contained in this album. The Poverty Plainsmen have risen above the obstacles put in their path and have delivered their finest, and most adventurous work to date. Once again, Steve Fox has placed his signature on this project, with his songwriting pen attached to seven of the songs as well as co-producing the album with members of the band. The bulk of the lead vocal work is again superbly handled by Mark Smith, with brother Sean Smith taking lead vocal credit for three selections, The Secrets To My Success, He’s A Lot Like You, and What Would You Say.

While the album is almost totally a domestic product (Canadian songwriters / production, etc.), it is somewhat ironic that the current single pulled from the package is a re-make of Sister Golden Hair, remembered as a 1975 #1 rock hit by the band America. Ironic, more because Canadian country radio is jumping all over this Poverty Plainsmen single, making it one of their fastest-rising chart hits; while practically ignoring their previous Everybody Say Eh ! release, which is also included here. That one must have been too “Canadian”….eh !!

The album also contains several other familiar tunes. The Miracle Man, a strong story type song, was originally done by the now-all-but-forgotten Nashville recording group The Smokin’ Armadillos; while the message song, God Bless The Farmer, co-written by Canadian songwriters J.K. Gulley and Bryan Way, was originally recorded by Nashville veteran Jimmy Payne, remembered for his hits with The Glaser Brothers. In fact, the album’s title track tune, Lap Of Luxury, penned by Steve Fox, has also been recorded by superstar Kenny Rogers, but his version was never commercially released, leaving the door open for The Poverty Plainsmen to reap the benefits of this surefire hit.

Other selections here that are certain to attract attention include the country/rock flavored winner Rock On Farm Boy (sub titled: ROFB); the energized My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own and the hurtin’ ballad, Good To Go. Listen also for a touching father/son connection song in He’s A Lot Like You – this one co-written by Sean Smith with Duane Steele, and powerfully delivered by Sean Smith.

Lap Of Luxury was recorded largely at Touchwood Studios in Regina with Steve Fox producing. Edmonton’s Louis Sedmak handled production on the Everybody Say Eh ! track. The original Poverty Plainsmen featuring the Smith brothers, Don Jorgensen and Brad Johnson, are now augmented here by Johnny Gasparic and Brian Kelly. The band is further supported on the album by numerous special guest session players including Jeff Bradshaw (steel), Donnie Parenteau (fiddle / mandolin), Bart McKay (keyboards/accordion).

 

March  2005
The Poverty Plainsmen - by Dave Cameron, Edmonton Sun

The road to recovery. It's been that for both Sean Smith and the Poverty Plainsmen. The road came up and bit them hard last April when their truck flipped off a northern Alberta highway, leaving the band in tatters and Smith in a wheelchair. Smith's physical recovery will be long while the band's emotional recovery officially begins now. While a reformed line up has been doing shows for a few months, tonight's CD release party at Cook County Saloon makes it real.

"It's been a lot different," said lead singer Mark Smith about not having his little brother playing bass beside him on the stage. "It's tough not having the turkey around. He's still always there." "Seventeen years," Sean said yesterday of their existence as band brothers. The real brother ship, of course, has lasted a little longer. "When you work together for that long you don't have to think about some things," Mark said. "We're still rebuilding. We're still trying to get the band back to where it was. And we have even had one or two rehearsals!" That's the R-word for many musicians. "I phoned them and they said, 'Oh we're just starting rehearsal,' " Sean added. "I said, 'You bastards would never rehearse when I was there!' "

The core Poverty Plainsmen line up - the Smith brothers, drummer Brad Johnson, guitarist Kurt Neis and keyboardist Don Jorgenson - had been intact for 15 years. A true test of endurance and a testament to their friendships. It made some things easy. "We'd go do a show, and I wouldn't have a set list or anything," said Mark, who often was tending business at home in Regina - as he was last April - while the band would gig backing up other singers. "I'd look at Sean and, 'boom,' we were into that song on the last  chord of the song (we were playing). He'd just read my lips and convey the message to Brad and he counted it in and Kurt knew it was coming just like that! "It was very much second nature." "When it comes apart you realize, 'Hey, there was chemistry there,' " said Sean. And with the tragedy, they realized how many friends they had. "It was a heck of a way to assess that," Mark said. "But I was blown away. I just couldn't believe how much support we got," he said of a series of benefit concerts last spring, including an Edmonton show at Cook.

"It's hard to believe how many people you've come across over the years," Sean said. "Like the comment page on (our website), there were just so many comments I'd have to get (his wife) Tara to read them all to me." "I was laying there in the hospital (during the shows) and it was emotional from there. I couldn't believe all that was happening. And now we are so fortunate that we had all that." "We finally got to know what it's like to be stars," said Mark, cracking his brother up.

The recording had already begun and guitarist Johnny (6-Pac) Gasparic had replaced Neis, who had left the road. Bryan Kelly has come on board as the full-time bass player, but Sean played as well as wrote for the sessions. "We started writing about January of 2003," said Sean. "The recording end of things was 99% done a couple days before the big crash. "We thought we'd kind of back off and try to go at it right instead of panicking and getting it out." "Our original goal was to have it out in probably July of '04." said Mark. "But it's here now!" As they both are. And neither they nor their band mates will take anything for granted again. "Things can change in a split second," said Sean.

 

May 2, 2005
A REVIEW from DOWN UNDER
- by Raymond Phillips - Country Harvest - countryharvest@optusnet,com

Well, I’ve just listened to the very latest releases from two signed artists from south of the border. The Poverty Plainsmen which I am reviewing are every bit as good if not better.

Independents may not believe it but they are the backbone of the Country Music industry as is the boutique record companies who support them..

The presentation on this release spells quality.

My next visit to Canada is late June - August and ‘am looking forward to seeing this act performing. Just can’t wait to get back to Calgary AB.

After what could be described as a horror year (2004) the Plainsmen have made it. The fellows along with Sean and the assistance of many others have come up with a top quality release. Musicians never live in the “Lap of Luxury” The Poverty Plainsmen” are going to prove that theory wrong.

Being from outside of Canada the first single “Everybody say EH” didn’t impact on me but for Canadians Canada Day means a lot, just as Australia Day is for Australians. It’s a top song to promote national pride.

With the sale of each unit $2 is going to Spinal Research I only hope everyone in Canada get behind this release, medical research is a worthy cause.

“Lap of Luxury” in sound and vocals is as lush as the plains of Alberta. 5 STARS

 

April 20, 2005
An Interesting Email -
by Patrick Duffy, Attention Design

Hey Guys

We sorta, maybe, might kinda know each other, but not really. I know who you are, but you might not really know me except maybe we met at the CCMA's one time. Anyway, I am the CCMA's Art Director and in the middle of putting together the SOURCE newsletter. I just got sent your album cover to include in the newsletter and I gotta say - that cover KICKS ASS! That is a fantastic painting. I absolutely love it and give you high fives all around for using such a piece of art for your album cover and for advancing art in your packaging as much as in your music. This record cover will likely kick my ass out of the running for Album Cover of the Year and I will fully endorse it to do so. It would be an honour to lose to this cover. Bravo... although having said that, I really hope my Road Hammers cover kicks your ass. HA HA HA HA HA HA ha ha!

Respectfully

Patrick Duffy
Attention Design

PS - please pass on my compliments to the artist responsible for your cover.

April 14, 2005
The Poverty Plainsmen -
by GERRY KROCHAK for the Leader-Post

The smile that lights up every room Mark Smith walks into disappeared for a time, but for him and the rest of The Poverty Plainsmen every day gets just a little bit better.

On April 25, the band was involved in a horrific motor vehicle accident in northern Alberta. Sean Smith, one of the band's co-founders and Mark's younger brother, was airlifted to Edmonton where he underwent extensive surgery and rehabilitation for injuries which have left him a quadriplegic.

"Sean and I have been partners ever since . . . forever," Mark says, the pride of an older brother evident in his voice. "I'm five years older than Sean. I showed him how to play hockey. I taught him how to play guitar . . . all of that sort of thing. Because we were the youngest of seven we hung out lots.

"It was really a tough pill to swallow because everything changed in a snap."

Ironically, the band had finished recording its third album just two days before the accident. For most of last spring Mark could barely bring himself to get out of bed, let alone work on a new album.

But by the fall, as Sean became stronger and stronger, he was the one who saw fit to give his older brother a kick in the pants.

"I couldn't even pick up a guitar or sing a note after April 25 until about the first of July," Mark says. "I couldn't bring myself to do just about anything.

"After Sean got feeling a little better and said, 'You've gotta keep her going! We've got an album to promote!' did I feel like I really needed to get back in the saddle. I got the finishing touches put on the record, I got the artwork done and I just got fired up again when he started feeling better."

The brothers had to stick even closer as their father grew ill and passed away on New Year's Eve. Somehow, some way the brothers made it through the worst year of their lives with the resolve to move forward and embrace 2005.

Which brings us to . . . right now. One year after recording had been completed, "Lap Of Luxury" will see the light of day when the album is launched at a special CD release party and concert at The Pump Roadhouse on Saturday night.

It follows a pair of award-winning albums, "Gotta Be A Believer" and "There's No Lookin' Back", which produced four singles, all receiving steady rotation on CMT Canada.

For a lot of reasons album No. 3 is even more satisfying for Mark Smith.

"This album is pretty special to us because we had more of a hand in the writing and producing," he says. "In the past we never felt we had the knowledge or know-how or expertise or experience.

"This is just a lot more confident recording."

On the band's most personal and dynamic release to date, the Smith brothers collaborated with Canadian country veterans Steve Fox and Duane Steele as well as fellow Plainsmen Brad Johnson, Johnny Gasparic, Don Jorgensen and Brian Kelly.

"Sean was the driving force behind the album," Mark says. "It was really his baby. He really took it under his wing more than I did. It turns out to be a very good representation of where we are at this point in our lives.

"I mean, we're not getting any younger," he adds, laughing. "In the meantime, we all have young families, we're involved in other business ventures and we're not really your quote, unquote quintessential band.

"We know where we are in our lives and we're not aspiring to be the next big thing. We want to maintain a strong radio presence, keep the gigs coming and maintain the band for a lot of years to come."

Keeping all of that in mind, Saturday evening's CD release launch (with $2 of every copy of "Lap Of Luxury" sold going to spinal cord research) will be a celebration of what The Poverty Plainsmen have always been about.

"We're never going to forget what people come and see the Plainsmen for," Mark says. "It's for a party and we're going to give them one!

"We're going to promote the album, sign some CDs, plays some songs, raise some awareness and have a great time. We want to invite all of our fans, all of our regulars at The Pump and, hopefully, meet some new friends as well.

"The time has come to celebrate and that's what we're going to do."

 

  April 11, 2005
From Canada - Poverty Plainsmen - "Lap Of Luxury" -
by Dave Schmidt's Top 10 Super Country Hits

How good are these guys? REAL GOOD! Every time I get a CD from them they seem to get better and better. The first single to be released from the CD will be "Sister Golden Hair" a song released by "America", but the boys put there own mark on it and it is good. 8 of the songs were co-written by the band members and some very good friends Duane Steele and Steve Fox. Fox and Steele are some of the best performers and songwriters from "up-north". It may be a time before you get another CD from these guys, they might be able to release all 12 songs as singles, the CD is that good It provides a smooth country sound that only a group can make happen, well done vocals, good instruments, great songs that give the CD the final quality touch. The Poverty Plainsmen have made there mark in Canada, with the right push they could be a hit in the States...Australia will love them as well. $2 from each CD sale will go to spinal cord research, which stems from some tragic events the group has faced in the past several years. We say it again...if you can write-it and sing-it you can make it. These guys don't need me to tell you how good they are, you can hear it on the CD, if they ever quit as a group they can still write quality songs like these they will continue to make a big impact on country music.