THE LEGEND OF THE POVERTY PLAINSMEN
“The Poverty Plainsmen are Canada's answer to Alabama!" -- Fish Griwkowsky, The Edmonton Sun
Mark Smith and his younger brother Sean Smith put together a band for what they believed would be their first and only gig. The place was Tilston, a small town nestled deep in the “Poverty Plains” of southwest Manitoba.
That chilly fall night proved to be only the start of a hot band.
The Poverty Plainsmen quickly became touring favourites. Over the ensuing years they have cemented a reputation as one of Canada's most polished and hardest working acts, with a dedicated following of rabid fans.
Their roadwork and musicianship turned them into a top draw at major festivals, fairs and rodeos including the Big Valley Jamboree, Merritt Mountain Music Festival, Grande Prairie's Bud Fever, Dauphin Countryfest and the Calgary Stampede. They have shared the stage with everyone from Tanya Tucker and Alabama to Trooper and Dr. Hook.
This success wasn’t limited to the road. Both the 1995 debut album "Gotta Be A Believer" and the 2000 sophomore release "There's No Lookin' Back" earned Canadian Country Music Awards, Saskatchewan Country Music Awards, Prairie Country Music Awards and Canadian Indie Music Awards.
By the end of 2003, 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, an extraordinary achievement in the often turbulent life of a working band. But changes were coming – and no one could have imagined how dramatic they would be.
As writing and recording commenced for the Plainsmen’s third album "Lap of Luxury", family responsibilities compelled Kurt Neis to say goodbye to the band and his place was taken by guitarist Johnny “6-Pak” Gasparic.
"Lap of Luxury" would represent a leap forward for The Poverty Plainsmen. They took a more active role in the writing than they ever had in the past. They were co-producing for the first time, alongside hit-maker Steve Fox, who placed his signature on this project. His song writing pen was attached to seven of the songs. The bulk of the lead vocals were superbly handled by Mark Smith, with brother Sean taking lead vocals on three tracks.
On April 23rd, 2004, the record was 99% complete. Then, according to Mark Smith, "Everything changed in a snap."
Just two days later, the road where they had toured so relentlessly to nurture their fan base became the site of a tragedy that was felt through the entire Canadian Music community. On the morning of April 25th, the band’s truck flipped off a northern Alberta highway, injuring many of the band members. Co-founder Sean Smith was airlifted to Edmonton with a severe spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down rendering him a quadriplegic.
What followed was a display of the enormous respect the group has earned among their peers. Other performers banded together and held benefit shows across the prairies and Sean earned bass player honours in the All-Star Band at the CCMA awards.
Through these turbulent times, the band played on and delivered their finest and most adventurous work to date. Lead singer Mark Smith; along with drummer Brad Johnson, keyboardist Don Jorgensen, guitarist Johnny “6-Pack” Gasparic and bass guitarist Brian Kelly form The Poverty Plainsmen today.
The anthem "Everybody Say EH" was voted SCMA Single of the Year. The Poverty Plainsmen were named SCMA Group or Duo of the year in 2005 & 2006. The single "Sister Golden Hair", their faithful homage to the America chart-topper from the 70’s, cracked the Top Ten for eight weeks and was the NUMBER ONE Canadian song for two weeks. September of 2006 the CCMA honoured the act with the Independent Group of the Year award.
Today, Sean Smith continues his road to rehabilitation and remains one of the driving forces behind The Poverty Plainsmen. The band and the album garnered eleven CCMA nominations in 2005, including Group or Duo of the Year, Independent Group or Duo of the Year, Single of the Year for Sister Golden Hair, Album of the Year for Lap of Luxury and nominations to the All-Star Band for Brad, Don and Johnny “6-Pak.”
The group enjoys the perennial nods from all associations but are aware that such recognition can not be taken for granted. "Staying grounded, hard work and perseverance has always been The Secret to Our Success" say the Smith brothers.
The Poverty Plainsmen and the album’s distributor, Royalty Records, have donated $2.00 from the sale of each copy of "Lap Of Luxury" to spinal chord research.