Now this is big news. One of the true originals in Canadian music has moved from Nashville to Nova Scotia, and is celebrating with music only he could make. Jimmy Rankin's new Moving East is pure East Coast, a homecoming album featuring true stories, tall tales and bittersweet ballads, and the classic folk-rock sound that Rankin helped pioneer.
Just at a time when people are searching out authentic cultural voices, who tell strong stories and write well-crafted songs, Rankin has made an unapologetically East Coast folk-rock record. It’s his take on what it means to live and breathe Maritime tradition, culture and music, but with a raw, unsentimental and current edge. “I’m putting the party back in the kitchen” quips Rankin.
It's called Moving East because that's exactly what Jimmy's done. He's moved back to Nova Scotia after seven years living and working in Nashville. Hooking up with fellow Nova Scotian Joel Plaskett as producer, he's made an album appealing to young and old alike, with songs running the gamut from gritty pub tunes to soulful ballads all featuring great storytelling, and fine songwriting.
This is Rankin's first album in four years, and he's been saving up songs to make this one special. "I've been thinking about making this kind of record for quite a while," he says. “In writing for this record, I took a lot of inspiration from my Cape Breton roots and the music I grew up with. It’s an East Coast folk-rock record complete with a lot of traditional instruments."
It comes at a time when Jimmy’s appeal is at new heights, with old fans and new. His Rankin Family classic “Mull River Shuffle” has become a Cape Breton anthem with an all-ages cult following, jamming dance floors and mosh pits at parties, weddings and raves…the DJ’s choice for last song of the night. Rankin of course is a renowned Canadian songwriter with a long string of hits for The Rankin Family and from his solo albums. He joined the family group as a young teen, and soon became co-lead singer and songwriter of such classics as "North Country," You Feel The Same Way Too," and "Movin’ On." His name is synonymous with the East Coast sound, and was one of the very first writers to bring it to a national and international audience. His 1994 Juno-winning single "Fare Thee Well Love" has taken on a life of it’s own and is sung by choirs around the globe and in 2013, was voted the #1 East Coast song of all time by CBC listeners across Canada.
As a solo artist, he's been ruling the charts since his 2001 debut Song Dog, with such hits as "Followed Her Around," "Morning Bound Train," and "Cool Car." His overcrowded mantle includes five Juno Awards, seven Canadian Country Music Awards, and a whopping 27 East Coast Music Awards.
Says Rankin “With Moving East, I was trying to distil the fabric of Maritime culture into a musical collection replete with life’s highs and lows, and breathe life into stories that capture a feeling, a moment in time, live off the floor and organic.” Settled down in Plasket's New Scotland Yard studio in Dartmouth, N.S., they assembled an all-star team of East Coast talent, including string monster J.P. Cormier, fiddling sensation Ashley MacIsaac, and old-school Cape Breton pianist Hilda Chiasson.
"Growing up we used to have, for lack of a better term, kitchen parties,” says Rankin. “Friends would come to the house and we would entertain them…singing, guitars, fiddles, dancing, stories, good cheer, that kind of thing. Then there were the dance halls, taverns, a lot of back road driving and carousing, so goes life in rural Cape Breton. These songs are an homage to that culture.
The emotional heart of the album is the song "These Roads," a ballad that laments driving by those roadside crosses and flower monuments and knowing there's an all too familiar painful backstory. "I was building the record around this literal and metaphorical story," says Rankin. "There are so many tragedies in this part of the world. Or maybe it’s because I’m from a small town…Everybody knows somebody who's either been hurt or killed on the highway."
Oral tradition and storytelling are a big part of Cape Breton culture, and a major source of entertainment. Jimmy's added to that with several songs on the album. "Haul Away The Whale" is a tongue-in-cheek sea shanty of sorts, about a road trip around Cape Breton. "Down at the Shore" is a dark, humourous folk ballad, complete with murder, drama and intrigue. "Been Away" is a homecoming song, reminiscing about growing up in Nova Scotia and going back to a place in time.
"It’s the kind of record you’d listen to when you’re hanging out in your kitchen or at a pub," says Jimmy, "mixed tempos, some good sing-along drinking songs, a few ballads and ending with a nod to old style, lo-fi Cape Breton fiddle with “Dirt ‘n Potatoes” featuring Ashley MacIsaac, Hilda Chiasson on piano and me on guitar." There's so much to discover and to celebrate on Moving East. There's Jimmy Rankin moving home where he belongs. There's the first-time partnership of Jimmy and Joel Plaskett. There are the all-star performances from some of the East Coast's best musicians. And there's a whole crop of brand-new songs, some of the most inspired music Rankin has ever made, and a flavour he hasn't offered since his Rankin Family days. It’s an album full of classic Cape Breton storytelling, unashamedly celebrating his moving back, and making the music he loves. Now that’s a homecoming.