Stories From the Northwest (Independent)
The increasing consensus among Vancouver creative types is that this city has lost whatever soul it once had, which explains why Facebook has become an all-purpose forum for folks announcing they’re pulling up stakes and leaving town.
If you’re among those loading up the U-Haul in search of new territory, Saltwater Hank would make a pretty fine neighbour.
Based on the cover art, the singer-songwriter might easily be mistaken for an East Van post-hipster, his horn-rim glasses offset by the kind of mustache that guarantees priority entrance at the Biltmore.
More likely, his look is unironic Prince George legion regular, which makes sense considering the songs on Stories From the Northwest would go over smashingly on meat-draw night.
While his name suggests someone obsessed with sea chanteys, Saltwater Hank’s obsession is old-time country. Hank Williams Sr. received no shortage of play around the house during the singer’s formative years—not only on record, but also performed by his grandfather, dad, and uncles. That gives you a good idea what to expect on Stories From the Northwest, which was recorded in one night on reel-to-reel in the basement of a Prince George church.
Backed by an ace cast of players on fiddle, lap steel, upright bass, and banjo, Saltwater Hank gets high and lonesome on the bare-boned “Coyodel #2” and revs things up for the bluegrass burner “Bog Cranberry Picking”.
The only way “Moose Hunter Blues” would sound more authentic is by coming out of a circa-’32 Randix OTC radio, while “Old Hazelton” smells gorgeously of spilled blood and backyard-still bourbon.
Still not convinced that life’s better in Saltwater Hank’s neck of the woods? Consider that the beautiful album opener, “Ballad of Maud Watt”, is salted with lines like “The pelts are like gold and the rush is on.”
Don’t mind that later on in the tune Saltwater Hank sings “There’s a man standing there at my log-cabin door/He wants to give to the rich and steal from the poor.” Being from modern-day Vancouver, that’s something you’ll be more than familiar with.