Jack Mercer and the Whiskey Bandits will play the Royal on Baker this Saturday at 9 p.m.

Jack Mercer and the Whiskey Bandits will play the Royal on Baker this Saturday at 9 p.m.

The Royal set to host saloon folk bash

Jack Mercer and the Whiskey Bandits are coming to the Kootenays as part of their cross-country tour on Saturday.

In Jack Mercer’s five-minute folk ballad “The Salt”, the bearded Vancouver musician recounts the story of a doomed fishing vessel that plummets under the waves during a storm. He describes murderous swells and malevolent ocean winds that engulf the ship as six of the eight crew members are consumed by the tempest.

Finally, as the water settles, the narrator is left stranded with one other survivor, bobbing in the waves. And though they’re ultimately rescued and safely returned home, the story doesn’t have a happy conclusion.

“Six months later that young man couldn’t cope, he wore a noose like a necklace and he finally tied off the rope,” Mercer wails in a live recording available on YouTube, his face sweat-misted and pink as the band builds towards a manic, emotionally potent crescendo.

“I’m doing better, I guess, I’m better than being dead. That salt it boils in my veins and that memory’s in my head,” he sings.

“The Salt” is the latest release from Mercer’s album Lonesome Dreams & Wild Things, which he’s currently touring cross-country to promote. The Star caught up with him in Edmonton a few days before he was scheduled to play three live sets at the Royal on Baker on March 14.

Mercer said the narrative element of his song-writing comes from his experiences working on the ocean.

“I’ve worked on tugboats as my day job and I grew up fishing, so I’ve had a marine aspect to my life all along. I’ve been in storms, I’ve known people who have been on vessels that have gone down, I’ve known people gravely injured on the job. I’ve even known people who have passed away, and I draw from all those experiences to create this fictional story,” he said.

Having cut his teeth as a solo performer, as well as recording an EP with an earlier incarnation of the Whiskey Bandits, Mercer is excited about the latest incarnation of the act. Currently the band consists of Mercer, Nate Campbell, Ian Cromwell and Tom Kuzma.

And they’ve come up with a genre label they feel captures their sound: saloon folk.

“From a song-writing perspective we’re folk, but for our energy we draw from that bar-room, foot-stomping saloon energy,” he said.

“Versatility is our key. We cover a lot of different genres, from country to blues to folk and bluegrass and rock. The people who come out to see us can expect a whirlwind of genres.”

Mercer said he’s excited to visit the Kootenays for the first time, particularly because he has friends and relatives in town. The band plans to busk downtown in the days leading up to the concert, as a way to introduce themselves to the community.

“We love to get out there busking. We were doing it in Calgary the other day and everyone was super-gracious. We got great feedback. We figure it’s a good way to introduce ourselves in a place we’ve never been.”

The show at the Royal on Baker will start at approximately 9 p.m. Cover is $6 and albums will be available for sale.

For more information, visit Jack Mercer on Facebook.