Rankin finds his happy place in Music City
HIS name may be synonymous with East Coast Celtic music thanks to the Rankin Family, but Jimmy Rankin is working in a new — but just as rich — musical tradition. For his seventh solo album, the justreleased Back Road Paradise, Rankin decided to go full-on country — a sound he’d only flirted with on his last solo effort, 2011’s Forget About the World. “For that one, I was using more traditional country instruments, like dobro and pedal steel,” he says, on the line from a tour stop in Prince Albert, Sask. “A lot of the songs were calling for that. I grew up listening to a lot of country music; it’s always sort of been there.” Rankin, who calls Nashville home, found a producer, Bill Bell (Jason Mraz, Tom Cochrane), who was excited about his vision. “He was on the same page about going full-tilt and making a produced country record. We didn’t want to make it generic; we wanted to make sure that there was still a lot of me on there. “We were also very conscious about delivering single material, which was new for me,” he says. The result is a tight, CMT-friendly collection of tunes that wouldn’t sound out of place on playlist that included, say, Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts. Back Road Paradise is polished, but not at the expense of personality. And Rankin is a different kind of cowboy; his twang is Nashville via Mabou, N.S. The multi-award winner is a prolific songwriter; he’ll have between 30 and 40 songs heading into an album. “I don’t do really polished demos,” he says. “If a producer can hear the song in that rough form, then I know it’s a good song.”
Rankin, who performs at the WECC tonight, says living in Nashville has energized him.