Saltwater Hank – Gal’uunx wil lu Holtga Liimi
This is something considerably different. Coming out of Canada it qualifies as Americana, once you get passed some of the strange words. I’m not going to go into details about the language, its origins & Saltwater Hank’s push-back against 2-centuries of cultural eradication by the Canadian government. Due to lack of space, I’ll focus on the music.
The songs are performed in the Ts’msyen tradition — an Indigenous language in the British Columbia area. Saltwater Hank (aka Jeremy Pahl) is a member of the Ts’msyen nation. Despite this “foreign” approach, the music is interesting to hear. It proves music is indeed a universal language. It may be a deep dive for some but no stranger than listening to Aboriginal music, or any foreign music from Africa, Europe, Russia, China, Brazil, or Scandinavia.
The 9-cut Gal’uunx wil lu Holtga Liimi (Dropped July 1–Independent) was recorded in collaboration with Danny Bell, Liam Meivor & Saltwater Hank in BC. Listening is all that’s required to appreciate it. It’s World Music & for decades we’ve been embracing such explorations into morsels of alternative melodies, beats & songwriting. On first listen what’s different are the topics. Musically, Hank’s vocals do have a Richard Thompson tint as if he were singing in Celtic, as well as that twisted lead guitar style Thompson made famous.
The band does perform many songs (original & traditional) in a modern manner acclimated to their own culture. It seems the issues these people face are similar to the ones in America. There is a commonality to their voice. The music is country-flavored & makes the songs easier on the average American ear. Patience for interpretation is required but in America, even Italians have had hits in Italian (“Volare,” “Time To Say Goodbye”), the Spanish have had hits in Spanish (Oye Como Va,” “La Bamba,” “Macarena”) the French (“Dominique” & “Love Is Blue”) & Germans (“Danke Schoen” & “Mack the Knife”).
While I didn’t understand the lyrics (“Ba’wis”) the instrumentation & groove laid down is what’s compelling. For a funny reason. It sounds like it’s being sung in English but mumbled like so many rock singers do. I find it accessible. Ears will “translate” the words. The vocals soar & the delivery has lift. The guitars & lap steel are good. Some songs have English words so it’s not entirely elusive. Lots of good music here.
Highlights – “Ba’wis,” “Dm Yooth Stukwliin,” the hot “Ndo’o Yaan,” the warm ballad “Waaba Gwasoo,” “Liimi Mak’ooxs,” is enthusiastic, “’Nii Wila Waalt,” & track 7 – a Hank Williams tune “My Sweet Love Ain’t Around” was translated into Sm’algyax by Velna Nelson & Saltwater Hank into “Akadi K’ul Waal Nsiip’nsgu.”
Musicians – Saltwater Hank (guitar/vocals/fiddle/arrangements), Liam Meivor (lap steel guitar/bass), Cholie Nakahara (fiddle) & Danny Bell (drums).
Color image from Hank’s Facebook. The 21-minute CD @ https://saltwaterhank.bandcamp.com/album/g-alu-u-nx-wil-lu-holtga-liimi