Hank Williams fans are everywhere.
Quebec has loads, Bowen Island at least two, and on Haida Gwaii, who knows?
Folk singer Sarah Jane Scouten, who grew up on Bowen singing gospel and bluegrass tunes with her dad, hopes to find a few of the country fans hiding out on this island.
Her latest album, When the Bloom Falls From the Rose, has a few honky-tonk jammers to call them out from the woodwork.
All but two songs on the album are originals, many fuelled by criss-crossing Canada tours — this week, Scouten plays the Trout House in Tow Hill, the Junebug Café in Queen Charlotte, then opens for Chip Taylor, the man who wrote “Wild Thing,” at one of Toronto’s longest-running folk venues, Hugh’s Room.
“If you can write a song like that and put your kids through school, that’s an amazing thing,” Scouten says, laughing. “I would do it. I’m not above selling my songs to pop stars.”
While pop stars may be hard to find on Haida Gwaii, Scouten is actually hoping to meet other musicians.
“Travelling to Haida Gwaii and knowing there’s such a vibrant Haida community, I have also wondered, who am I serving going up there?” she said.
“I’m a descendant of settlers, and I’ve been trying to figure out how I can make my music relevant to more than white or westernized people.”
Scouten’s sound is also a long way, and maybe a long time from the familiar, pop-infused country music of acts like Shania Twain.
One song on her last album, “Where the ghost river flows,” came to her by way of Canadian folklorist John Leeder and an ethnomusicologist, Mike Todd, whose parents and grandparents were Alberta ranchers.
Before they recorded it, the only place to find the song was in a prewar copy of The Western Producer — a farming magazine that’s likely got more John Deere ads today than song lyrics. Like many songs at the early roots of country music, they were new words sung to a tune everyone knew already.
“Writing new words to an original song was completely legitimate, and no one had starry-eyed recording dreams,” Scouten says. “That wasn’t really an avenue in the 1930s and 1940s.”
“As far as I know, this is the first time it’s been on Spotify.”
Catch Sarah Jane Scouten at the Trout House in Tow Hill at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 1, and at the Junebug Café in Queen Charlotte on Saturday, March 3, starting at 7:30 p.m. Local mandolin player and professional crooner Kayla Mcdandy will be opening both shows, which are hosted by the Haida Gwaii Arts Council.