Mike Plume's denim rock
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., May 31, 2002) – “My folks bought me a guitar/And it’ll be the death of me,” sang Mike Plume on Thursday night at Club Helsinki, in a love song to his instrument and his muse. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”

Hailing from Edmonton, Alberta, Plume played acoustic guitar in front of his muscular band, including electric guitarist Dave Klym, bass guitarist Meck Myers, and drummer Ernie Basiliadis. Plume kicked off his show with “My Baby Loves Me,” a heartland-style, minor-key rocker, warming up his rich, deep voice around which Klym jumped with bits of distorted notes and chords.

“It Ain’t Nothin’ But a Broken Heart” was a straightforward country-rocker that Klym salted with some twangy lead guitar. “Something to Say” punched up the energy level with some Replacements-like pop-punk, with Plume unleashing his full-throttle rock voice. “She’s Still Everything to Me” was raved-up country-punk, and highlighted Plume’s vocal resemblance to Roger McGuinn, with his talk-sing quality and pitch phrasing that always wants to rise to a higher level.

“It’s Just One of Those Days” was a Rolling Stones-ish rocker, with Klym playing the Keith Richards role to the hilt. Plume acknowledged his debt to Springsteen on “Simplify” by interpolating a verse from the Boss’s “Atlantic City.” Another tune was in the vein of Rockpile’s “skinny-tie rock,” as Plume labeled it, and he acknowledged his fellow Canadian Fred Eaglesmith, another frequent Helsinki performer, with a version of the latter’s “Rodeo Boy.”

Plume’s enthusiasm for his work – playing blue-collar, denim rock -- was as infectious as it was innocent. His brand of straight-ahead, unaffected rock connected the dots from Elvis Presley to Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones to Bruce Springsteen. The most surprising thing about it is how rare it is these days to see a young musician mine this rich tradition, which now seems like an antiquarian genre or a quaint style of folk music.

What remains to be seen is how or if Plume intends to update this tradition and make it something of his own. His self-assurance and sincerity went far in winning over the crowd on a weekday night, but if he wants to make a more lasting impression, he needs to come up with a move, a twist or a hook entirely his own.

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on June 1, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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