Hank Cramer
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Hank Cramer

Winthrop, Washington, United States | INDIE

Winthrop, Washington, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Celtic


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"Victory Music Review: Way Out West"

I saw Hank live for the first time last June. I remember thinking, "Wow, this guy is for real!" And indeed he is. His choice of songs on Way Out West is impeccable... his baritone/bass voice is beautifully powerful and evocative. Way Out West is a terrific CD. - Heidi Fosner

"Sing Out! Review: Way Out West"

Let's make one thing clear from the outset: this man can sing. If you like good cowboy songs sung by a great singer, Way Out West by Hank Cramer is just the CD for you. - Tom Druckenmiller

"Feature Article, Victory Music Review-- March 2007"

Trying to capture Hank Cramer on paper is like chasing a dust devil across the prairie with a butterfly net. The man is almost always on the move, just like the soldiers, sailors, and cowboys whose lives and loves populate his music.

There is a larger-than-life quality about Cramer that comes across in his warm but commanding personality and the rich bass-baritone voice his fans know so well. But then his life is a meld of music and extraordinary experiences as a well-traveled soldier with the Army’s Special Forces, as a shantyman aboard a sailing ship, and as a singer of cowboy songs around the campfire in North Central Washington where he lives.

As his inquisitive mind and his life experiences have carried him all over the world, Cramer has seen music as a bridge across diverse cultures. “I look at the happiness that good music and good stories bring to people. To be able to travel around and entertain people I’ve never met… make new friends and tell them a story and sing them songs and see how much they enjoy it… to see their smiles and, in some cases, their tears… to touch someone and make new friends every weekend somewhere… there’s a lot of power in that.”

Indeed there is. And for a man like Cramer – born to the need to ramble, tell stories and sing songs, a complex man who finds pleasure in simple truths – well, you just have to think music is his true home.
- Karen West

"Sing Out! Review: Songs of USS Constellation"

One of the most beautiful and accomplished albums of sea songs I've ever heard. Cramer's voice is a rich, mellifluous bass of superlative beauty - this guy was born to sing folk music. - Dan Gilman

"FAME Review: West By Northwest"

A decade ago, when my wife and I lived in the Hudson River Valley with two small children, we didn't go out often. Instead, on Saturday evenings after putting the kids to bed, we cooked a special meal and listened to the Hudson River Sampler, a radio show hosted by Wanda Fisher, broadcast from Albany. Those evenings were lovely times. We imagined that we were in a small cafe. It was there we met many of the artists, such as Bill Staines, Kate Wolf, Gordon Bok, Claudia Schmidt, Stan Rogers, Nanci Griffith, whom we have come to love.

Time moved on, and so did we. We're now in Ohio with four children. One of the two babies just became a teenager, and we don't often have those quiet Saturday nights anymore. But, every so often, we hear an artist who brings back the memories of those days. Hank Cramer is such an artist, and his music on West by Northwest has that lovely feeling of being directed right to you, as if he were playing in the same room.

I wasn't surprised to learn that Hank is a favorite at many of folk festivals in the Northwest or that he was a resident bard at an Irish pub. His music, a mix of his own songs, traditional tunes, and songs written by others, has that storyteller touch that one expects from poets and songwriters who frequent small pubs and cafes. On this album we hear stories about love, the sea, the open road, and the sacrifices of life. The cassette begins with The Roseville Fair, a Bill Staines song about love in a small town. Performed as a duet between Hank and Tania Opland (whose lovely voice is one of several that accompany Hank's rich bass on the disc), this song presents love in an ideal way. The other love song, Kind of Like You, written by Hank, expresses a reticent, careful love that comes from knowing pain and being shy of opening up again. The man keeps repeating, almost as if he is trying to convince himself that what he feels isn't love, but if it were, the woman would "be kind of like you." The other two Staines' songs Cramer covers, My Sweet Wyoming Home and Wild, Wild Heart, are also well-interpreted with the personal touch and understatement that comes from playing many small taverns. Nothing is overdone, no grand symphonic background or many-layered overdubbing here, just simple harmonies and fiddle, mandolin, and guitar.

Another thing that makes Cramer's music distinctive is his songs of the sea. He knows the waters because he sailed on the Lady Washington, one of the remaining tall ships which is pictured on the tape's cover. These songs, Pay Me My Money Down, Santy Anno, Liverpool Judies, Snap the Line Tight," and The Ballad of Saint Anne's Reel, all serve to keep a rich tradition of sailors' worksongs alive. The two chanteys (Pay Me My Money Down and Santy Anno), with their rich choruses, are real sing-a-longs. I kept hearing echoes of Schooner Fare and other performers who have worked to keep these traditions vital.

The rest of the tape is a mix of ideas chosen by a man who travels widely across the American West. The already mentioned Wild, Wild Heart and I am Gone, another of Cramer's originals, help us feel the long road and truck drivers' love of traveling. There is also the sense that traveling leaves lots of time to think and to remember. My favorite, perhaps because I was a professional soldier, is Touch a Name, a song of remembrance about the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington, D.C. Hank and Susan Welch, both of whom lost their fathers in the Vietnam War, sing so plaintively that you can almost feel the pain as they reach to touch a name on the wall.
All in all, Hank and his music are hard to classify. Rooted in several traditions, his music seems original. His work may not appeal to everyone, perhaps because he is so eclectic, but the music here is honest, straightforward, and great for a Saturday night at home.
- Jim Dubinsky, Folk Acoustic Music Exchange (FAME)

"Comment By Bob Shane"

"He's got one helluva voice!" - The Kingston Trio

"Comment By Faith Petric"

"He made me laugh. He made me cry. And that's what good music is all about." - San Francisco Folk Club

"Arizona Daily Star Review: West By Northwest"

Cramer turns his multi-hued baritone to wonder-filled folk ballads, lilting Celtic airs, Canadian fishing songs, and brawling-voiced a capella sea shanteys. The seafaring tunes harken to a bygone era. Cramer is one of the leading lights of the Northwest folk scene. - Gene Armstrong

"Victory Music Review: Caledonia"

The great bard of Winthrop has two CD's out this year, the second of which is this lovely collection of songs from the Scottish tradition. As Hank explains, these played a large role in his becoming a musician, as he fell in love with the Clancy Brothers' renditions of several of these songs when he was but a wee bairn. Caledonia is also a nod and a gift to his wife Kit, one of the McLeans of the Isle of Mull. No wonder, then, that the record is effused with the spirit and enthusiasm that would seem to be exclusive to a native. Where Cramer is rightly hailed as the Pacific Northwest's foremost interpreter of folk songs -- see his disc of cowboy songs, or his seafaring songs before that - this disc may be the closest yet to who he really is. He assembled it over many years, carefully mixing well-known favorites with obscurities, plus a couple contemporary songs in the old style. As with all of Hank's records, production is first rate (thanks to Hank's go-to guy, David Lange) and he's supported by the cream of Northwest pickers, with this outing including tenor guitarist Mark Iler, Tom May, and Frontline's Leah Larson. The Kingston Trio's Rick Dougherty is also on hand to sing harmony. This is an outstanding disc from an outstanding performer. - Tom Peterson

"Western Way Review: Way Out West"

Here’s another one of those releases that I saw some write-ups on before receiving it myself. Well, I have to say the raves didn’t rave in vain!

Indeed Hank Cramer can sing. His vocal quality is deep and expressive, and conveys (to me) a sort of Waylon Jennings effect. Solid acoustic support from his fellow players makes the classics here sparkle (“Diamond Joe,” “Colorado Trail,” “Whoopy Ti Yi Yo,” “Bard of Armagh/Streets of Laredo” and others). The newer songs include strong covers of Chuck Pyle’s “Two of A Kind” and “Lay This Old Guitar Down,” K.W. Todd’s haunting “Oregon Trail,” Guy Clark’s “Last Gunfighter Ballad,” two Bill Staines goodies and a couple of good banjo breakdowns, too. Cramer also provides an interesting spin on Ian Tyson’s “Someday Soon” sung from the perspective of the rodeo cowboy who’s driving in to get the rancher’s daughter! I’ve now officially heard that amazing song sung from every character’s viewpoint!!

With a total of eighteen songs, this is one of the CDs I’ll be nominating for “Traditional Western Album” categories.
- Rick Huff


The Captain & The Outlaw (LP-1982)
Victory Sings At Sea (cassette & CD - 1989)
West By Northwest (cassette & CD - 1995)
The Curse of the Somers (CD & Movie Soundtrack - 1997)
The Cutters: Live Aboard the Wawona (cassette & CD - 1997)
Days Gone By (CD - 1999)
The Cutters: Sail Away (CD - 1999)
The Rounders: Brave Boys! (CD - 2001)
Letters To The Wall (Movie Soundtrack - 2001)
The Road Rolls On (CD - 2002)
Songs of USS Constellation (CD - 2003)
If There's One More Song (CD - 2004)
A Soldier's Songs (CD/DVD combo - 2005)
The Shantyman (CD-2005)
Back To Sea (CD/DVD combo - 2006)
Songs From Maurie's Porch (CD - 2006)
Soundtrack to USS Constellation Visitor Center video (2007)
Pine Stump Symphony (DVD Music Video - 2007)
Way Out West (CD - 2007)
Miners' Songs (CD-2007)
Horses (DVD Music Video - 2007)
Caledonia (CD- 2008)
Open Range (CD-2008)
An Old Striped Shirt (CD - 2008)
With Respect To Farming (Movie soundtrack - 2009)
Loosely Celtic (CD - 2009)
The Witch of the Westmorland (YouTube Video -2010)
You Just Can't See Him From The Road (YouTube Video-2010)
My Side Of The Mountains (CD - June 2012)



Hank Cramer is one of the best-loved folksingers in the American West. He is widely known for his booming bass voice, smooth picking on a vintage flat-top guitar, and his wry sense of humor. He has a repertoire of over a thousand modern and traditional songs, spanning the genres of celtic, Appalachian, maritime, cowboy, and plain old folk music. He is more than simply a performer, however. He is a historian and educator who weaves music and history into presentations which bring to life the rich story of Americas westward movement, and give his audiences insight into the folk process by which traditional songs evolve and change to describe new events.

Hank was born in North Carolina. His father was an Army Green Beret, his mother an elementary schoolteacher. Hanks father, Captain Harry G. Cramer, was killed in Vietnam in 1957, the first American soldier lost in that conflict. Hanks mother never remarried, but raised her three children as a single mom. Hank inherited a gift of music from his father, and by high school was a prominent performer in glee club, choir, and school musicals. He earned a history degree at the University of Arizona, paying his way by working nights and weekends as a radio dee-jay and coffeehouse folksinger.

After graduation, Hank pursued a unique life journey involving adventure, hardship, travel, and public service. He has been an underground miner, an Army officer and paratrooper, a 9-1-1 emergency communicator, a deepwater sailor, and a wrangler for a high-country outfitter. These life experiences make Hanks songs ring with the special authenticity of someone who has been there and done that. A fulltime touring musician for over ten years, Hank now has twenty CDs and several movie soundtracks and music videos to his credit. While he performs a regular concert series like most musicians, Hank is strongly drawn to performances in educational settings which enable him to delve into his dual loves of history and music.

Hank has performed for the National Historic Oregon Trail Center for thirteen years now; for ElderHostel, he has taught Northwest History In Story & Song three times a year for over a decade. Other long-term clients include Humanities Washington; Buffalo Bill Historic Center (Cody, WY); the High Desert Museum (Bend, OR); the National Maritime Historic Park (San Francisco); the Maritime Museum of British Columbia; the USS Constellation (Baltimore); Grays Harbor Historic Seaport (Aberdeen, WA); and the Tall Ships Challenge Series (Pacific Coast and Great Lakes). He founded and directs two specialized music education programs: Sea Shanty Camp and Cowboy Song & Poetry Camp. Hank has also performed for veterans groups and events around the country.

Hanks music has garnered professional recognition in the music industry. He has been selected to receive the Humanities Washington Award for 2011. Heartland Public Radio named his recording of My Sweet Wyoming Home to the Top Five Cowboy Songs of 2007. Texas Public Radio Random Routes listed two of Hanks songs in their Top Twenty of 2007, while Northwest Public Radios Inland Folk chose his CD Songs From Mauries Porch as one of the Top Ten Folk Albums of 2006.

After 9/11, Hank interrupted his music career to resume military service. He taught Army ROTC at the University of Washington, then volunteered to deploy as an adviser and trainer to the Afghan National Army. He was injured during this tour of duty, medevaced back to the US, and is now retired from the Army Reserve.

Hank married Kit McLean of Winthrop, Washington in 2000. She is a high-country wrangler in one of Americas most scenic mountain ranges. She is also a photographer, a local historian, and published author. The Cramers live on a small ranch in Washingtons Methow Valley with their many critters.