Review – “Stories from the Northwest” – Saltwater Hank

reviewed by Laura Stanley

I have grown weary and wild-eyed and long to escape the city and live in the country. For now though, Saltwater Hank’s Stories from the Northwest provide a refuge from city life and transport me to a place where you can hear a river running, smell the land’s rich soil, and where the stars are so bright that you think you can reach out and touch them.

Stories from the Northwest is a storybook. As Hank’s bio reads, “Born in Prince Rupert, BC and a member of the Gitga’at community, Tsimshian folk artist Saltwater Hank resurrects stories of the land, loss and absurd circumstance and shines them through a sepia lens, witnessing ageless characters with hearts and lives on the line.” We hear about lonely moose hunters (“Moose Hunter Blues”), of someone who is on the run (“Old Hazelton”), the “Ballad of Maud Watt,” a woman’s observations of the changing, cruel world, and many more stories. Hank delivers his stories, much like another Hank, in a classic country style. His guitar and mandolin are warm and can often be found dancing with a fiddle. The all instrumental “Bog Cranberry Picking” is a dazzling display of the lighthearted fun that Saltwater Hank’s instrumentals can get up to.

My two favourite chapters are “Coyodel #1” and “Fish Cannery.” In the former, Saltwater Hank tells the story of the trickster coyote getting up to no good including selling Canada (“the true north strong and free”) for a life time’s supply of chow mein. Hank’s yodelling puts that Walmart yodelling kid to shame with this tune.

“Fish Cannery” is a toe-taping tune about hating your job. While some of us may be stuck behind a desk from 9-5 (what a way to make a living), I guess it could be worse, you could be working at a fish cannery: “This summer no one’s gonna like me cause I smell really gross. My face is all cover in fish slime so don’t you get too close,” sings Hank. By the end of the track, the narrator has had enough of his cruel boss and smacks him in the face with a fish.

Gather round and hear Saltwater Hank’s stories unfold.

Top Tracks: “Coyodel #1”; “Fish Cannery”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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