Saltchuck Serenade


Saltchuck Serenade, after the Chinook word for sea or ocean, is a celebration of rural life and times on the wild and beautiful west coast of Canada.  This CD has perhaps his best known song, the anthemic “When the Tide Goes Out”, performed and recorded by folksingers and choirs all over the North American continent and as far afield as Britain and New Zealand.  Other tracks include songs about life as a commercial fisherman, changing times on the coast and moving pleas for environmental sanity.  Produced and recorded by Juno Award winning Paul Gitlitz, this CD has expert back up by some very fine musicians like Paul on guitar and mandolin, Amy Stephen on backing vocals, flute and accordion, Cam Wilson on fiddle, Lee Oliphant on bass and Phil Belanger on percussion. And a host of other friends on the big choruses.  The CD package contains lyrics and background stories behind the songs.  Here are brief notes for each track along with an audio sample and a link to its lyrics:

  1. The Gillnetter Song A song about commercial salmon fishing, with colourful imagery from personal experiences fishing around the mid-BC coast.  A gillnet, when “set”, forms a barrier net with the top line held up by cork floats and the bottom line weighted with lead.  The refrain about “corks going down” refers to the tell-tale sign of an especially productive set.   Lyrics
  2. When the Tide Goes Out Based on a traditional aboriginal saying, this song is a loving appreciation of the riches of the intertidal zone and the need to protect it.  Lyrics
  3. Billy Goat Smith The story of a misanthropic hermit who became a mythic local figure in his own time.  Lyrics
  4. Union Steam A wistful lament for the demise of the Union Steamship line which transported passengers and cargo efficiently and elegantly, maintaining small communities around the BC coast.  Lyrics
  5. Cut and Run One day I was channelling my late Norwegian grandfather, a salmon fisherman and farmer in the Bella Coola area, and wondering what he’d be thinking about how we treat our environment.  Lyrics
  6. Maui Whales A bit of a subversive parody of the great 19th C. shanty Rolling Down to Old Maui, from the whales point of view, before the whalermen arrived.  The lyrics and rhymes closely mimic the original.  Lyrics
  7. The Damming of the Elwha River A lament for the beautiful Elwha River, home to the world’s largest salmon before industrialists illegally dammed it in the early 1900s.  Since this song was recorded, the political will was found to tear out the two dams and begin the major job of environmental restoration.  And the salmon are returning.  Lyrics
  8. Coming Home My Norwegian grandfather and grandmother were reputed to have a preternatural, almost telepathic communication.  This song refers to his foreboding out on the fishing grounds that something bad had happened to her.  Unfortunately, he was right; she had contracted tuberculosis and died soon after.  Lyrics
  9. The Tofino Herring ShantyA fun cover of Bob Bossin’s rollicking song about the (mostly women) workers “pulling and squeezing” in a roe herring plant on the BC coast, then heading to the local Maquinnah Bar after work. Lyrics
  10. Pull It Down, Jack – For those who fish for the family table, using bait to “trade up the food chain”.  Lyrics
  11. Song for a Troller A lament for those salmon trollers whose livelihoods, and with it their deep knowledge of place, are being eliminated by the government’s fisheries policies.  Lyrics
  12. The Hollis Ferry A wry look at the weird scheduling of the Alaska State Marine Highway [i.e. the ferry] from Ketchikan to Prince of Wales Island.  Lyrics
  13. Shooting Down the Yuclataws A song about salmon seining on the BC coast, and the end of season passage home through the mighty Yuclataw Rapids near the mouth of Bute Inlet.  Lyrics

    This CD, in physical or download form, is available at various online distributors including CDBabyAmazon and Spotify.  CDs also can be ordered directly from Brian by contacting him through e-mail at