Jim Planck
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Jim Planck

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"A "Creation" for our times"

April 17, 2010
Hudson-Catskill Newspapers reporter Jim Planck crafts an album of issue-oriented folk

By Michael Ryan

The mystery of creating music was once explained, as much as it can be, by Bob Dylan, one of the most prolific songwriters in a long tradition of simple folk singers.

Dylan said that often, as a new song rises within him, he begins to strum favorite old melodies on his guitar, reaching back and touching people who influenced him, such as Woody Guthrie, the Kingston Trio, Odetta and Leadbelly.

His own voice then emerges from others who have come before him, and his voice becomes a part of someone not yet born, and the family of folk singers grows in a way that even Dylan does not pretend to fully comprehend.

Jim Planck can now pull up a rocking chair and set a spell in that ever-growing web of humanity with the recent release of “All Creation,� a CD containing 10 songs composed, arranged, played and harmonized on by him, all by his lonesome.

The neatly packaged and sometimes foot-tapping disc includes “Like Krypton� and “Presidential Briefing,� a pair of tunes true to Planck’s roots that stretch deeply into the folk heritage of social protest, political commentary, observation of the human condition and faith.

He strays briefly from his preferred means of musical expression to warble “Wiccopee,� a reminiscent ramble back to his carefree, rural childhood, and to hunker down on the instrumental “Maplecrest Hoedown,� a tribute to his ancestors who were among the first to settle in the local mountains.

The Planck family has been in the Hudson River region since the early 18th Century, dating back to Johannes Planck who sometime around 1710 staked a claim in the West Camp area, just west and south of what is now the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.

Not long after that, Planck’s distant relatives on the Barnum side came to the hamlet of Maplecrest, in the town of Windham, eventually getting related to the Hitchcocks, who have been in the Catskills practically longer than the trees, and crossing paths with Zadock Pratt, who founded the town of Prattsville.

To make a long story short, although it may be too late for that, Planck doesn’t have to move over for anybody when it comes to talking about being a true country boy and mountaintopper, and “All Creation� lets the rest of the world in on that fact too.

“This is something I’ve been working on for the past two years or so and something I’ve dreamed about since I was a teenager,� says Planck, who is a staff writer for Hudson-Catskill Newspapers.

“Folk songs have always spoken to me, even when I was a little kid and to my way of thinking, the times call for a revival of folk music. A lot of hopes and dreams were aired in the 1960s and then in the ’70s everybody went their separate ways.

“Unfortunately, a lot of good stuff went undone but it’s not too late to pick up the pieces. I’m definitely not trying to compete with mainstream music. I believe if you want to change things, you have to find a base and go from there.�

Planck’s inner journey to “All Creation� is one well-traveled by his kindred spirits. He left school at 16 and was on his way to Parris Island less than a week after his 17th birthday, training to be a United States Marine.

He did a 13-month tour of duty in Viet Nam and afterwards, like many veterans from that ill-fated campaign, he drifted and wandered for awhile, trying to find himself in odd jobs that never seemed to do more than pay the bills.

Planck saw the world, though, reaped priceless experience and ultimately found something meaningful in newspaper work, starting out as a darkroom assistant for Don Conover at the Mountain Eagle, then based in Hunter, before displaying a writing talent that had lain dormant long enough.

He wrote his first story on what is now an antiquated manual typewriter, sitting in the passenger seat of his silver station wagon, not wanting to call attention to himself, which was impossible but also perfectly defines his musical style.

“When I was growing up in Wiccopee, I guess you could say I was a neighborhood singer,� Planck says, smiling. “I don’t remember doing any performances for people but I loved to walk down the road, just singing.�

“I wasn’t organized or anything but then I heard folk music, talking about ideas and concepts and things that maybe weren’t right and should change, like Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,� and it turned my head around.�

A lifetime later, “All Creation� brings a fresh yet strangely familiar sound to the contemporary folk scene, including “The Sons of Abraham,� “The Honey Bee Song,� and “Like the Free,� telling the tale of Revolutionary War soldiers fighting to be free.

Their legacy and ours is connected to and tragically continued with the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Planck believes, writing of that blue sky, September 11 morning, “And they never knew they were never coming home.

“When the sun went down, 3000 souls had gone. They were living lives of freedom, just like you and me. And they died just for living like the free. Say can you hear them calling on the breeze, ‘America forget me not, this thing do for me.’�

“I stick to simple acoustic patterns on the guitar that support the lyrics,� Planck says. “I don’t want to detract from the message. The best way I can put it, trying to explain why I love folk music so much, is that it’s all about Judgement Day.

“When I’m standing in front of the Creator, I don’t want to be rubbing my toes and mumbling ‘hubada hubada’ like Ralph Cramden. I don’t want the Creator saying to me, ‘I gave you the tools. Why didn’t you do something with them?�

Planck will be performing tracks from “All Creation� and songs from a planned second CD during a concert at the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s Doctorow Center for the Arts, in Hunter, on May 22, starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Copies of the compact disc are available at the Village Square Bookstore in Hunter, Van Gorden’s & Company on Main Street in Catskill and online at www.cdbaby.com. For more information visit www.jimplanck.com. - Hudson-Catskill Newspapers


All Creation -- CD



Folk music fan of early '60s, quit school, joined Marine Corps, 4 years, Vietnam, drifted, reporter past 25 years, coming back to folk music because the times require it.