Last Articles - 2005 (January-June) update on June 22, 2010

01/12/05 - Rankin Family members buy Cape Breton pub

01/13/05 - Rankins buy, plan to reopen Red Shoe Pub

01/13/05 - Rankins to revive music lovers' pub

01/15/05 - Red Shoe Pub in Mabou, N.S., to reopen under new managers, the Rankin Sisters

01/27/05 - ECMA announces TV show lineup

02/02/05 - The Rankin Sisters - Cookie, Raylene and Heather - keep up their harmony on the road

02/17/05 - Sydney welcomes third ECMA's

02/18/05 - The craft of songwriting

03/11/05 - Raylene Rankin breaks out solo

03/16/05 - Journey to celtic roots with Rankin and Fisher (new)

03/18/05 - Simpler sound on solo debut

03/23/05 - Pair share their music roots

03/25/05 - Raylene Rankin rises again

03/29/05 - Fine Arts School: Rankin to sing in Fort theatre

03/30/05 - Fisher joins Rankin for Celtic show

03/31/05 - Full-time mom nurtures Rankin Family tradition

04/01/05 - Rankin Family member performs

04/03/05 - Rankin soars on the old Gaelic tunes

04/07/05 - John Allan Cameron tribute concert planned

05/17/05 - Remembering good times with John Allan Cameron

05/17/05 - Honouring John Allan

05/21/05 - A dram of wee Scotland (new)

06/08/05 - Rita hosts down-home special

Rankin Family members buy Cape Breton pub

January 12, 2005 - National Post

HALIFAX -- A Cape Breton entertainment landmark is getting new life.

The Red Shoe Pub in Mabou has new owners.

The Rankin sisters of Rankin family fame hope to reopen the place this May.

The musical siblings, who hail from Mabou, say they hope to focus on live entertainment and food in a seasonal operation.

The stage at the Red Shoe had seen acts like Ron Sexsmith and Natalie McMaster perform in recent years.

It has been closed since May of last year.

Rankins buy, plan to reopen Red Shoe Pub

January 13, 2005 - Halifax Herald

The Red Shoe Pub, a Cape Breton entertainment landmark that closed its doors last May, is getting a new life.

Members of the Juno-award winning Rankin family announced Wednesday that they've bought the Mabou venue and hope to reopen it by May.

"The pub already has a reputation as being a gathering spot to hear live music," said Heather Rankin.

"We intend to continue the pub tradition of combining great music with great food."

The stage at the Red Shoe has seen acts such as Ron Sexsmith and Natalie MacMaster perform in recent years.

Rankins to revive music lovers' pub

January 13, 2005 - National Post

Cape Breton's Red Shoe

By Graeme Hamilton

Cape Breton's musical Rankin sisters are stepping in to resurrect a pub in their native Mabou that had become a destination for Celtic music lovers across the continent before it closed last year.

Musicians on the island mourned the loss last summer of the Red Shoe Pub, which a transplanted Torontonian had opened five years earlier.

"It's kind of the heartbeat of the village," Raylene Rankin said yesterday in an interview from her home in Halifax.  "It became, in a very short time, a tradition, and a meeting place to hear live music and socialize.  When it closed it was really missed by the locals and also by people who made it a destination."

One of the five siblings who made up the Rankin Family, credited with lifting Nova Scotia's Celtic music onto the world stage, Ms. Rankin said she and her sisters wanted to return something to Mabou, where they began making music as children.

"I don't know what kind of a business venture it's going to be.  It's too early to tell, but I think we're very happy to be able to give back to the community in this way.  I think it's a constructive way to invest in the community," she said.

The property sits on Mabou's main street, just up the way from the mural welcoming people to the "home of the Rankin family" and the museum displaying their gold and platinum records.

Before Rob Willson, who previously worked in advertising Toronto, opened the Red Shoe, the building had long housed Mary Beaton's general store.  "Growing up, I remember it was the place to go get sneakers and clothes," Ms. Rankin recalled.

Kinnon Beaton, a Mabou-raised fiddler whose aunt ran the general store, said the Red Shoe was sorely missed last summer.  "It seemed to be the topic of conversation everywhere you went," he said.  "What's going to happen to the Red Shoe?"  He said it is "great news" that the Rankin sisters plan to reopen the establishment this May.

"We need it back," he said.  "The place was special because of its "small, cozy atmosphere" and the diehards it attracted, he said.  "Everyone who was in there really knew the music."

Designed to hold 70 people, crowds would often spill out on to the sidewalk.  Performers included Ashley MacIsaac, Irish tenor John McDermott and occasionally one of the Rankins would take the stage.

Coming from a family of 12 children, Cookie, John Morris, Raylene, Heather and Jimmy Rankin performed together professionally for 10 years.  Starting out recording independently and selling records from the trunk of their car, they had five platinum albums when they decided to quit in 1999.  In January 2000, John Morris Rankin was killed in a car accident.

Raylene, Heather, Cookie and Genevieve Rankin are the partners in the pub.  Raylene said they plan to build on the Red Shoe's reputation for live music and emphasize good food, enlisting the innovative Halifax chef Craig Flinn to craft a menu.

She laughed when asked whether the owners, who are now spread from Nashville to Halifax, might occasionally sing a tune.  "We're going to be busy slinging hamburgers," she said, before adding: "I think we will be involved in many capacities."

Ms. Rankin said the sisters closed the purchase of the Red Shoe from Mr. Willson last Friday.  She declined to divulge the price paid.

Red Shoe Pub in Mabou, N.S., to reopen under new managers, the Rankin Sisters

January 15, 2005 - National Post

HALIFAX (CP) - The Red Shoe Pub, a Cape Breton entertainment landmark that closed its doors last May, is getting a new life.

Members of the Juno-award winning Rankin family announced Wednesday that they've bought the Mabou, N.S., venue and hope to reopen it by May. "The pub already has a reputation as being a gathering spot to hear live music," said Heather Rankin.

"We intend to continue the pub tradition of combining great music with great food."

The stage at the Red Shoe has seen acts such as Ron Sexsmith and Natalie MacMaster perform in recent years.

ECMA announces TV show lineup
Show to feature special tribute to Rita MacNeil

January 27, 2005 - Halifax Herald

By TERA CAMUS / Cape Breton Bureau

SYDNEY - Get ready to rumble!

That was the rallying cry from CBC executive producer Geoff D'Eon after announcing the lineup of talent to be featured at this year's East Coast Music Awards show Feb. 20, at Sydney's Centre 200.

Pictou County's rising country star George Canyon will host the two-hour nationally televised event that will feature performances by The Trews, MIR, The Joel Plaskett Emergency, Gordie Sampson, Susan Crowe, Barry Canning, The Cottars, Beolach, Vishten, Dave Gunning and Nathan Wiley.

It will begin at 8 p.m.

During the CBC show, a special tribute will be paid to Cape Breton's beloved Rita MacNeil, featuring the sounds of Matt Minglewood - the 2005 Maple Blues Awards entertainer of the year - along with Shaye, and Jimmy Rankin.

"It's the first time on (the nationally televised show)," Minglewood said after playing a sample of his music at the ECMA news conference in Sydney on Wednesday. "I'm part of the tribute and that's good enough for me."

He plans to sing his version of Working Man, one of MacNeil's best known hits about toiling in the coal mines that features the haunting voices of the Men of the Deeps, a local chorus of former Devco miners.

D'Eon said the show promises splendid music, and "guarantees a good time for all.

"I like my kitchen parties with Las Vegas production values," he said with a chuckle.

Event organizer Pat Moore said the $1.65 million week-long conference that begins Feb. 17 will pack local hotels, restaurants and put Cape Breton's talent in the forefront during the finale.

Organizers expect at least 1,500 delegates and their families to register.

"The event is a winner, it's proven to be a winner every year," he said, noting the success of the past 17 previous ECMA events.

Sydney hosted the ECMAs in 2000. "People will come during this coldest week of the year, but we'll fill all these events," he said.

MacNeil, an international star making it big in Australia and Europe, was selected to be singled out in the televised show, because "we're very proud of her," Moore said.

Canyon, who won the Rising Star Award at the Canadian Country Music Awards following his debut of his CD, One Good Friend on Sept. 28, will be host of the televised event, a first for him.

Although never a host on television, he became well known in North America during last year's Nashville Star television series - a country version of the popular American or Canadian Idol.

The Trews, from Antigonish, the first indie rock bands to go No. 1 on Canadian rock charts, will take to the stage, competing in five ECMA award categories.

Big Pond native Sampson, who released his second solo album Sunburn, will also take the stage along with P.E.I. singer-songwriter Wiley, who released High Low, a followup to his debut album Bottom Dollar.

Beolach, from Cape Breton, is expected to deliver a big impact on the show with its Celtic blend featuring pipes, whistles, guitar and fiddles while Vishten, a quartet from New Brunswick, will offer a hearty mix of Acadian, Irish and Scottish styles.

Not to be outdone, The Cottars, a young group of Cape Bretoners, will show the nation how Celtic music has put them on the map internationally. The Boston Globe recently called them "one of the hottest acts in the folk world today."

Pictou County singer-songwriter Gunning is nominated for folk recording of the year and is up for male artist, while Barry Canning, a hot act from St. John's is nominated for pop recording.

Other artists who will assist or join the show include Shanklin Road, Paul Lamb, Cory Tetford of Crush and Damhnait Doyle.

All performances will be live.

Other performances will precede the start of the televised show.

Beginning at 6 p.m., those at Centre 200 will get to see Newfoundland funnyman Andrew Younghusband host such acts as two-time nominee Allie Bennett of Cape Breton and Samantha Robichaud of New Brunswick, ECMA nominee and winner of last year's aboriginal recording of the year Forever, double-nominee Madviolet, as well as Matt Anderson and Duane Andrews.

Public voting will soon begin for entertainer of the year, the winner to be announced during the televised event. Up for the award are Crush, George Canyon, Jimmy Rankin, Natalie MacMaster and the Trews.

The Rankin Sisters - Cookie, Raylene and Heather - keep up their harmony on the road

February 2, 2005 - CanWest News Service

By Ted Shaw

WINDSOR, Ont. - The Rankin Sisters went a long way to wind up right back home in Mabou, N.S. They never really left, of course. Not in spirit.

But now Mabou's famous sisters _ Cookie, Raylene and Heather Rankin _ are the proud owners of The Red Shoe Pub in town, and they plan to spend as much time there as their careers allow.

``We're excited about it,'' said 38-year-old Cookie (Carol Jean). ``This is something new for us, but a great challenge.''

Don't expect the Rankin Sisters to be the Red Shoe's house band. But they'll sing there often, said Cookie.

For this native Cape Bretoner, the best news is she's got a solid excuse to go back home. Cookie Rankin has ventured the furthest of the siblings, now residing in Nashville, Tenn.

She moved there three years ago after marrying American producer George Massenburg, whom she met in 1998 when he produced the Rankin family's last studio album, Uprooted.

That was while brothers John Morris and Jimmy were still in the group. In 1999, the five of them called it quits as an act, and a year after that, in January 2000, John Morris was killed in an auto crash in Cape Breton. Change is inevitable, said Cookie. But sometimes those changes happen too quickly.

By the time the family recorded Uprooted, the Rankin Sisters had already started charting a separate career course with a Christmas album and tour in 1997. Since then, Jimmy Rankin has gone on to wide acclaim as a solo artist. Cookie didn't stop to think about her move to the U.S. _ it just sort of happened.

``I'm a Canadian through and through,'' she said. ``I love Canada. But you know, when you love someone, you follow your heart.''

Raylene and Heather Rankin still live in Nova Scotia, along with most of Cookie's family. It's a big family, too _ at last count, there were 17 nieces and nephews.

The sisters enjoy a deep comfort level on their current tour. ``The people there just get us and our music. It's not like an audience that's there today, gone tomorrow.''

But she's not going to rest on her laurels: ``People who know our music will recognize a good bit of the show. But we have some new songs that we're working on that we'll do, too.''

One of them, Lambs in Spring, sung by Raylene, was written by their late brother, John Morris Rankin. His death five years ago last month is still fresh in their minds.

``There's hardly a day goes by we don't think about him,'' said Cookie. ``There's no reason for his being taken from us. But you accept it and move on.''

Plans are also moving ahead on another Rankin Sisters album. Cookie is unlikely to go the way of Raylene and Jimmy, who have each made successful solo albums.

``I've never considered myself as a solo artist,'' she said. ``I think of us as three voices who blend as a single voice. That has been our strength all these years and I think it will continue that way.''

- - -


Selected discography:

- Fare Thee Well Love, The Rankins (1990)

- Endless Seasons, The Rankins (1995)

- Do You Hear...Christmas with Heather, Cookie and Raylene Rankin (1997)

-Song Dog, Jimmy Rankin (2001)

-Lambs in Spring, Raylene Rankin (2003)

EDS: Canadian tour dates for The Rankin Sisters and Friends include: Ottawa (Feb. 12), Winnipeg (Raylene Rankin solo on March 17), Edmonton (Raylene Rankin solo on March 18), Calgary (Raylene Rankin solo on March 19), Victoria (Raylene Rankin solo on April 1) and Vancouver (Raylene Rankin solo on April 3).

Sydney welcomes third ECMA's

1,700 musicians, talent scouts, media arrive for four-day music extravaganza

February 17, 2005 - Halifax Herald

By TERA CAMUS / Cape Breton Bureau

SYDNEY - There were lights, cameras and plenty of action at Centre 200 Wednesday where 150 workers were busy setting the stage to highlight some of the best talent in eastern Canada this weekend.

The annual $1.6 million East Coast Music Awards and conference, which opens today, has packed all hotels within the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

More than 1,700 musicians, technicians, media and talent scouts are expected to register by the end of today from Canada, the United States and even countries like Spain.

George Canyon, a Pictou native who became a household name during last year's Nashville Star series - a country version of American or Canadian Idol - will play host during the live telecast on CBC Sunday, starting at 8 p.m.

"This is the first time I'm going to a live (ECMA) show," he said from his hotel room in Sydney. "Jen (his wife) and I watched it religiously every year and I quietly, no sometimes loudly, wished I could be there, to go on the show and to be nominated," he said. "This is the first time live and the first time I'm nominated."

Canyon, a 14-year independent musician and singer - who has had some "mild" success as he puts it - will also be the first singer to kick off the live telecast and for the first time the show will open with a country act, featuring a song from his new release One Good Friend.

Canyon is up for four awards including male artist, entertainer of the year, rising star and country recording this year.

"I'm hoping I don't fail the show," he said laughing. "I hope I'm not the weakest link, but I'm excited . . . I think it's going to be a pretty laid back show, and the stage looks very exciting."

The stage has more than 100 individual LED screens, the same you'd see watching last week's Brit Awards out of England or the Grammys in the United States.

"People will like the spectacular light show, it's not going to be boring," said Jean Renaud of CBC Montreal, as he measured the streams of light falling from the arena's ceiling as it mixed against the bright blank LED screens on stage that will serve as the backdrop.

During the pre-cast and live show, the screens will be filled with a variety of images, including abstracts.

"We're right on track," said CBC producer Michael Lewis who is helping to organize the event's main gala concert that will feature 12 songs, and a special tribute to Cape Breton's Rita MacNeil by Matt Minglewood, Jimmy Rankin, Shaye, Dutch Robinson and coal-mining chorus Men of the Deep.

Lewis said the whole point of the gala concert is to show a little bit of every type of music coming out of Atlantic Canada.

"We try to get as much a diversity of music (on stage) as we can," he said. "We certainly expect to see a sell-out crowd."

More than 125 artists from the four Atlantic provinces have been nominated for awards in 25 categories.

Besides the main gala concert Sunday, a variety of other shows will be held starting today featuring most genres of music.

The country showcase is set for tonight at 8 p.m. at he Sydney Marine Terminal, while the aboriginal showcase is set for Saturday at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre starting 8 p.m.

The Black Vibes concert will begin 9 p.m. at the Steelworkers Hall and a bluegrass-gospel concert will kick off

at 8 p.m. at the Sydney Marine Terminal.

The 72-Hour Jam will begin at Dooley's today at noon.

Celtic roots music will be featured today at 8 p.m. and Friday at 4 p.m. at the Capri Club, while Smooth Herman's will play host to numerous alternative acts today through Saturday starting at 9:30 p.m. every night.

The craft of songwriting

February 18, 2005 - Halifax Daily News

By Sandy MacDonald

With its rich legacy of song and story-telling, it’s no wonder the East Coast has long been a wellspring for accomplished songwriters. From Hank Snow through Gene MacLellan and Denny Doherty to contemporary writers Rita MacNeil, Bruce Guthro, Gordie Sampson and Lennie Gallant, this region has turned out some of the finest songwriters in the business.

The Daily News talked about the craft with three ECMA nominated songwriters — Nathan Wiley, Susan Crowe and Jimmy Rankin.

On honing the craft of songwriting:

Susan Crowe: “When you are young, there is the urge to express yourself. (But) there are constraints set up by musical instruments — it isn’t like dashing paint against the wall — and I think I responded to that.

“All my life has been about turning the telescope around and sharpening my point.”

Crowe frames her music within conventional song structures, turning beautiful phrases and melodies in a warm jazzy-folk idiom.

“I think I was a very intuitive songwriter when I was younger. It was only after my first Juno nomination in ’95 that I began to look at my writing and say ‘that was completely a fluke. I really need to learn how to do this.’

“I’m fascinated by how lyrics and melodies fit together and began to look at the craft of songwriting and poetry. But for a number of years, that took me away from emotional writing and into the world of craft ‘work.’ My job over the last couple of years has been to reconnect emotionally with myself and blend those two things — the elegance of craft with the authenticity of human experience. It’s a life work.”

Jimmy Rankin: “I just keep writing. You pick up little tricks of the trade along the way. When I started, I was writing about things that were very regional in Cape Breton, and tried to make them universal. Fare Thee Well Love became a huge hit for us because people could relate to concepts in that song. Now 15 years after I started making records, the things I see as I travel the world slip into my songs.

“I’ve always paid close attention to the lyrics. It’s never been a throw-away thing. I treat them as poetry. I love phrases that slide off your tongue, that just ring.”

On finding the right voice for songs:

Nathan Wiley: “Sometimes I’m not writing about me. I put on a character and write through that character — there may be a bit of me in one verse, and someone I know in another.”

(Wiley will perform his cryptic Set Your Bride On Fire on the ECMA show with his band, bolstered by three additional percussionists.)

“I remember having a dream where I was watching this foreign film with some friends, and a couple got married in the film, and then he lit her on fire as soon as they were married.

“I thought ‘I don’t get this,’ but everyone else was saying, ‘How can you not get this? — it’s so simple.’ And that really stuck with me.

“That was a song I wrote really quickly. I got my uncle Dale DesRoches to lay down a jungle voodoo beat. People really like that song. They don’t question the lyrical content, which I find strange. They just say they like the way the song moves.”

Crowe: “I’m not the greatest songwriter in the world. But my job was never to become that. My life work is to be this versifier who works within a musical framework.”

Raylene Rankin breaks out solo

March 11, 2005 - Courtenay Comox Valley Record

Cape Breton's Raylene Rankin and Scotland's Archie Fisher join together for what should be a beautiful evening of song and music on Thursday, March 31 at 8 p.m. at the Sid Williams Theatre.

For more than 10 years, Rankin's sweet, pure voice was one of the highlights of the internationally-acclaimed group, the Rankin Family. Raylene was "the voice" of the Rankin family's hit song, "Rise Again". Rankin has now recorded a solo album, Lambs In Spring, a beautiful acoustic recording featuring several traditional tunes and two David Francey songs. Rankin's concerts are a mix of new material, Rankin Family favorites and traditional Celtic songs sung in Gaelic.

Fisher is a singer-songwriter of legendary status in the world of folk music. Since the early 1960s, he has been a leading proponent of Scottish traditional music, influencing generations of musicians and taking his songs to stages around the world. From Tommy Makem, Liam Clancy and fellow guitar player Bert Jansch to Robin Williamson, Clive Palmer and Mike Heron to original members of Incredible String Band, Fisher has worked with a veritable who's who of folk musicians. Currently working on two new albums, he has also recorded two albums with Garnet Rogers.

For this concert, Rankin and Fisher will each perform their own set and perhaps grace the audience with a tune or two together.

Tickets for the Rankin/ Fisher concert are $30 regular, $25 for Sid Williams Theatre Society members. This concert is expected to sell fast so visit the SWT Ticket Centre at 442 Cliffe Ave., Courtenay, charge by phone at 338-2420 or order online at <>.

Journey to celtic roots with Rankin and Fisher

March 16, 2005 - Sherwood Park News

By Julie Rice

Sherwood Park News — Scottish folk icon Archie Fisher and Cape Breton’s Raylene Rankin have joined forces for a tour across Western Canada with a stop at Festival Place Friday night.

Rankin is known as the voice behind the internationally acclaimed Rankin Family’s hit song Rise Again. She sang with Rankin Family for over 10 years, then branched out on her own after leaving the family band in 1998. She went on to do some work with her sisters and released her own album, Lambs in Spring, in 2003.

Still, she gets a touch of nervousness when hitting the stage solo.

“I’m a little bit nervous, but I always get nervous before we go out on the road,” she said of the upcoming tour.

“I’m looking forward to it, though, mostly because I think it’s going to be fun to be on the road with Archie Fisher. He’s kind of a legend with his songs, like the Broom O’ the Cowdeknowes, Dark Molly, and Gunsmoke and Whiskey,” she said.

Although Rankin admitted touring with an icon like Fisher is a bit intimidating, she thinks it will work out really well. She noted they have a couple of songs in the works that they might sing together when on stage.

As for her part of the concert, Rankin said she’ll be playing a number of songs from Lambs in Spring as well as some Rankin Family favourites. She also offered the possibility of a couple of new songs that haven’t been released yet.

Going from performing with her family for over a decade to performing on her own was a challenge for Rankin. She made the move to be able to spend more time as a full-time mother to her son, Alexander.

“I was ready for a break. For about a year I hardly did any performing at all. Since then I started to do a little more and a little more -- this past year has been my busiest yet since leaving the Rankin Family,” she said, noting she is busy working on her own music as well as working with her sisters Cookie and Heather. The trio regularly performs a Christmas tour and sing together at different times.

“I like being able to switch back and forth, to be able to do things with other people but then do stuff on my own,” said Rankin.

“I find performing on my own particularly challenging. Every time I perform on my own I always learn something, and I like that. There’s always that bit of nervousness, but I like to be able to know I can rise to the challenge.”

Rankin has faced other challenges in the past few years as well, including the death of her mother, her brother John Morris and her own battle with breast cancer. She said those personal difficulties have changed not only her music but also her lifestyle.

“It’s kind of commanded an overall change for me. I try to put things in perspective a little more, I don’t let the little things get me down, and work wise, I try to do things that make me happier and that I want to do as opposed to doing things because somebody says you should do them,” she said.

The show, A Journey to our Celtic Roots, begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $24 and $22. To get yours, call the Festival Place box office at 449-3378 or contact Ticketmaster.

Simpler sound on solo debut

March 18, 2005 - Chilliwack Times

By Robyn Chambers

Officially it's Raylene Rankin's first extended tour going it alone.

One of the former Rankin Family five who made national and international play lists across the country throughout the 1990s, Rankin is now debuting her own sound, style and album Lambs in Spring and she admits it's a little scary.

"I went through phases where I was really nervous about it then went through phases when it was really exciting," Rankin said of creating her debut solo album, in a phone interview from Halifax.

"I was terrified getting on the plane to go to Toronto to record, but then once I got into the studio and working with Chad Irschick (producer who also produced Rankin Family albums) it was such a nice experience."

In a few days Rankin embarks on her Western Canadian tour which will include Chilliwack. Much of the territory she'll cover will be familiar, but this time she won't have what she calls the, "big machine," of her former band behind her.

It will be only herself and a guitarist. The result, Rankin hopes, is a simpler sound-she describes as contemporary folk anchored by traditional melodies.

"I hope to bring my idea of a simpler sound which allows the songs to really breath for me to the club."

For 10 years Rankin, her two sisters and two brothers, comprised the Rankin Family which toured the world and sold more than two million albums.

In 1998 Rankin left her family band to care for her newborn son. That was followed by a full year off from musical endeavours. After that time she returned to singing lending her voice to performances with her sisters, Cookie and Heather, at festivals and on a Carly Simon album.

Creating a solo album was always in the back of Rankin's mind, but at the height of the popularity of the Family there was little time or inclination to break away.

"When I turned 20 I said by the time I'm 25 I'll have a solo album, and then it became 30, then 35 and I thought I'll get to it. It just seemed to be the right time."

Rankin says being a solo artist means getting used to taking responsibility for musical choices.

"You get used to working with a group for better or for worse where you've got five people giving their opinions," she said of her past experience of collaboration. The challenge, she says, is fewer ideas; the benefits are greater creative licence and less compromise.

What an audience will hear on Rankin's album and live is a representation of where she was personally at the time the album was produced.

"A lot of the songs are more reflective and much more of the folk vein and just kind of a quieter vibe," she offers.

Through time as a group and solo artist what Rankin has learned is whether endeavours succeed or fail they are part of a learning process.

"When you see how life works and how in the moment it can be you just have to go for it and live the best you can while you are living," she said. "Live for the moment as much as you can because there are no guarantees."

Raylene Rankin performs in Chilliwack along with Archie Fisher, Scotland's legendary singer songwriter, March 30 at the UCFV Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $23 and are available at the UCFV theatre box office, Bozzini's or charge by phone at 604-795-2814.

Pair share their music roots

March 23, 2005 - Salmon Arm Observer

Savour another taste of Roots and Blues when Raylene Rankin takes to the Salmar Classic stage next Tuesday, March 29.

If ever an artist could be said to have the voice of an angel, Raylene would be the one.

The proof of that is in her new CD, Lambs in Spring, a beautiful acoustic recording that features several traditional numbers and two David Francey songs.

"It is a departure from the usual," she says of her CD and current tour. "It's more laid back, traditional and definitely more folk genres."

Raylene's musical heritage began early on as mom (piano), dad (violin) and the eldest Rankin children entertained the neighbours every third weekend as part of a ceilidh (Celtic celebration).

At the tender age of four, Raylene began singing at concerts and festivals and some of the lead vocals with the bands at concerts, dances and weddings.

As a member of the Rankin Family band, which toured the world and sold more than two million albums, Raylene's vocals can be heard in songs like Rise Again (the unofficial Cape Breton anthem) and rollicking tunes like Gillis Mountain, one of her original compositions, which achieved top five status on radio in Canada, and became a hit in the United Kingdom.

In the late 1990s, after touring with the family for 10 years, Raylene says she needed to get away from the routine and spend more time with her new son.

The years following the break-up of the Rankin Family have held personal challenges for the singer. She faced the loss of her mother, her brother, John Morris, and battled breast cancer. "Oddly enough, I think those kinds of things make a person focused on priorities, and one of my priorities was to get my life back," says Raylene of her personal struggles. "When things like that happen, you have no control, and to a large extent that's the way life is, it teaches you to live in the moment."

Now that her son is seven- years-old and more independent, Raylene says she is ready to tour again.

She says she enjoyed touring with her sisters Cookie (Carol Jean) and Heather at Christmas and in February, and is looking forward to her husband and son joining her for a trip to Yellowknife over Easter.

As for her solo work, the past few years have seen Raylene featured at the prestigious Festival D'Ete in Quebec City, as well as Cape Breton's famed festival, Celtic Colors. Her live shows are a mix of new material, Rankin Family favourites and traditional Celtic and Gaelic music. Her move to more folk-based music in her Lambs in Spring CD is not just a response to her personal struggles and motherhood, but also simply a question of age, she says.

"There wasn't a conscious decision to change, but maybe things around me led me in that more contemplative element to the recording."

Raylene is delighted to be touring with Archie Fisher, a man she likes and admires.

"He's so good, so full of stories, wonderful songs," she says. "It just flows out of him."

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, the only son in a family of seven, the seeds for Fisher's life-long passion for music were sewn right at this own kitchen table.

His father John's musical influences spanned an eclectic range of interests including opera, vaudeville and traditional while his mother Marion, a native Gaelic speaker from Vatersay, in the Outer Hebrides, had a strong subliminal influence on the lyrical quality of his work.

He first became interested in folk music through the Skiffle era of the late 1950s under the influences of performers such as Lonnie Donegan and Johnny Duncan.

His first album was recorded in 1968 with the fiddle and mandolin of John McKinnon and whistle player, John Doonan. He has performed as back-up and arranger for the Tommy Maken and Liam Clancy duo and also produced a series of albums with them.

During the 1980s, Fisher turned his attention to freelance radio production. His return to the recording studio in the mid-80s was due to what he describes as his most creative songwriting period, which coincided with a series of North American tours in partnership with Garnet Rogers.

Rankin and Fisher will appear at the Salmar Classic Theatre on Tuesday, March 29 at 8 pm.

Tickets are available at Blue Water Music, Acorn Music and CD Plus, or call 833-4096.

Raylene Rankin rises again

March 25, 2005 - Langley Times

By Brenda Anderson / Times Reporter

Spring is all about new beginnings. And for Canadian Celtic folk singer Raylene Rankin, nature's reawakening after a long winter's nap marks an opportunity to rise again, as she sets out on the next stage of her musical career.

Rankin is currently making her way across Western Canada promoting her new solo album Lambs in Spring, which she released about 18 months ago.

Since then, the singer who grew up on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island and now calls Halifax home, has been touring the country in stops and starts.

After playing concerts throughout Eastern Canada and then taking a break, Rankin is currently making her way around B.C. and Alberta.

On Saturday, April 2, she will perform a spring concert at the Chief Sepass Theatre in Fort Langley.

Touring with her is Scottish singer-songwriter Archie Fisher.

Chatting on a Monday morning from her hotel room in Banff, before continuing on to her next concert in Brooks, Alta., Rankin explains the album's title track, Lambs in Spring, was written by her brother John Morris Rankin, who passed away in January 2000.

When she began putting her album together, Lambs in Spring was one of the first songs that came to mind, Rankin explains. The song hadn't made it onto The Rankins' final album and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to record it.

She began searching through boxes and almost immediately came across an unlabeled cassette. On it, was the song she had been seeking. "I took that as a good sign," she says.

As it turns out, Lambs in Spring was a perfect fit for the album, says Rankin. With its themes of innocence and innocence lost, "it is the song all the other songs orbit around," she says.

Along with the original title track, Lambs in Spring is mainly a compilation of traditional and contemporary folk songs, the singer explains.

There are a couple of traditional Irish tunes in the mix that will be familiar to people who are fans of this type of music, she adds.

After recording and performing for years as one of five members of the Rankin Family (later The Rankins) and, more recently, touring with siblings Heather and Cookie as the Rankin Sisters, Raylene is setting out on her first true solo venture with this disc.

Comparing the experiences, Rankin remarked: "It's a real blast to tour with my sisters. I appreciate it more now than I did as the Rankin Family."

She has also enjoyed the opportunities she's had to collaborate with her sisters and to sing harmonies with them.

However, touring on her own is, as she puts it, "a different ball game. You're on your own out there on stage."

And that's almost literally true. Rankin's pure, lilting vocals, are accompanied by just one acoustic guitar.

"It's a challenge," she admits, "but when it works it's very rewarding."

On the Lambs in Spring tour, Archie Fisher performs the first half of the show and Rankin the latter.

"I'm so pleased to be travelling with him," she says of her guest performer.

"He's the consummate singer, songwriter and storyteller.

"He's funny, he has an amazing knowledge of the world. And he's been at this longer than me, so he has more experiences and better stories."

Growing up in a musical household, Rankin says she and her siblings took it for granted that everybody lived in homes where singing and playing musical instruments was the norm.

But any sense of normality was shattered for the Rankins on Jan. 16, 2000 when their oldest brother was killed after losing control of his truck and plunging over an embankment.

"When John Morris passed away it was such a shock. It was a tragedy for everyone, but especially for his family and his children," says Rankin.

"It takes a long time to move away from that. It's like a link in the chain is gone."

That link is being reforged, in a manner of speaking, by John Morris's daughter Molly.

The 16-year-old, who plays fiddle and guitar, is beginning to write her own song lyrics.

In many ways, Molly "embodies the lyrics of the song We Rise Again," says Rankin.

We look to reincarnation to explain our lives
As if a child could tell us why
That as sure as the sunrise
As sure as the sea
As sure as the wind in the trees
We rise again in the faces of our children

Over time, Rankin's feelings of sadness and loss are giving way to more pleasant thoughts.

"I'm learning to appreciate the time I had together with my brother and music I created with him," says Rankin.

Still, she doesn't see the Rankins ever reforming as a band.

"It wouldn't be quite the same without John Morris."

Following her brother's tragic death, along with the loss of her mother and a battle with breast cancer, Rankin commented: "It was like looking at the rubble of your life and picking what was important from that rubble."

Asked what those important pieces might be, Rankin explains that she discovered a new set of priorities: "To focus on the positive and not the negative. If there is something in life that you want to do," she advises, "do it.

"Even if it's scary."

Tickets for Raylene Rankin's Lambs in Spring concert are $35 each.

They are available at Bellerophon's Equestrian Arts and Antiques, 9203 Glover Rd., call 604-882-6525, from Heritage House 20526 Fraser Hwy., call 604-530-0121, or from the Langley Arts Council Office (Michaud House) 5202 204 St. Call 604-534-0781.

Chief Sepass Theatre is located in Langley Fine Arts School, 9096 Trattle St. in Fort Langley.

Doors open at 7 p.m. The concert begins at 8 p.m.

Fine Arts School: Rankin to sing in Fort theatre

March 29, 2005 - Langley Times

By Matthew Claxton

A member of one of Canada's most well-known musical families is booked for a performance in Fort Langley.

Raylene Rankin, a member of the famous east coast Rankin Family singers, will be performing in Langley for the first time next month.

Rankin, touring to promote her new solo album, Lambs in Spring, will sing at the Chief Sepass Theatre at the Fort Langley Fine Arts School on April 2.

While songs from the new album will be featured in the show, Rankin is expected to sing at least a few of the celtic-influenced songs that catapulted the Rankin Family to fame in the early 1990s.

While with the Rankin Family, Raylene sang the lead vocals on "Rise Again", and wrote the song "Gillis Mountain."

"Gillis Mountain" was a top-five hit in Canada and a hit song in the United Kingdom.

Despite their success, the Rankins broke up in 1997, but Raylene and her siblings never stopped performing, either solo or with each other.

She and her sisters performed on five tracks of a Carly Simon CD, Bedroom Tapes, and have toured with an orchestra.

Raylene has also taken time off to raise her first son.

The Rankins have not always had an easy life since their rise to fame.

In the space of just a few years, their mother died, their brother and bandmate John Morris Rankin was killed in a car accident, and Raylene has battled with breast cancer.

Those experiences influenced her new album.

"It was like looking at the rubble of your life, and picking what was important from that rubble," Raylene said. "It was deciding to move on with a new journey, and just leaving the other things behind."

Raylene's opening act will be Scottish folk singer Archie Fisher. Fisher is a veteran of the UK folk scene, and has been performing since the 1960s. Like Rankin, his show began as a family act, with his sister.

Tickets for the concert are $35 and are available at Bellerophon's Equestrian Art and Antiques on Glover Road in Fort Langley, at Heritage House on Fraser Highway and at the Langley Arts Council Office at 5202 - 204th St.

Fisher joins Rankin for Celtic show

March 30, 2005 - Comox Valley Record

Lovers of traditional folk won't find a prettier package than the Raylene Rankin and Archie Fisher concert that will be at the Sid Williams Theatre this Thursday, March 31.

Fisher will open the show with a full 45-minute set and Rankin will do a full set-unplugged and acoustic-of new material from her debut solo recording, Lambs in Spring, mixed with some of the songs she made famous as a member of The Rankins.

Fisher has not toured western Canada in years, so his set alone is worth the price of the ticket. "Having him on the same bill with Raylene is a special, one-time only treat," theatre spokesperson Laura MacKinnon said.

Fisher is an exceptional Scottish singer and songwriter who seems equally at ease with 200-year-old traditional songs and songs written by today's Scottish authors. He also writes his own songs:speaking about the changes the modern world has had on Scottish life, about the death of small fishing towns and other issues that affect local people.

Fisher writes love songs and sings with a confidence in his material that is usually found in performers many years older.

For more than 10 years, Rankin's sweet, pure voice was one of the highlights of the internationally acclaimed group, the Rankin Family. Raylene Rankin was "the voice" of the Rankin family's hit song, "Rise Again". Lambs In Spring is a beautiful acoustic recording featuring several traditional tunes and two David Francey songs.

"It is through support of local businesses that we are able to present top quality entertainment to the Valley," MacKinnon said. "Yummies & Gyros Cafe and Renaissance Greenhouse and Gardens are proud to be sponsoring this concert."

The concert starts at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $30 regular, $25 for Sid Williams Theatre Society members.

This concert is nearly sold out so visit the SWT Ticket Centre at 442 Cliffe Ave., Courtenay, charge by phone at 338-2420 or order online at

Full-time mom nurtures Rankin Family tradition

March 31, 2005 - Victoria Times Colonist

By Adrian Chamberlain

Raylene Rankin with Archie Fisher
Where: Alix Goolden Performance Hall, 907 Pandora Ave.
When: Friday, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $25, $32
For more info: 386-6121

- - -

Once upon a time, the Rankin Family toured the world and sold millions of albums.

Before breaking up in 1999, they were popular heroes of Canada's Celtic and traditional folk scene. But singer Raylene Rankin -- a former member who's now a solo performer -- always seemed a rather reluctant star.

In 1998, not long before quitting the group, she declared her new baby the most important thing in her life. Today, the 44-year-old continues to put motherhood far ahead of success in the music business.

"Oh God, yes, yes." said Raylene, phoning from a tour stop in Salmon Arm.

Eighteen months ago she released her first solo disc, Lambs in Spring. The former lawyer (Raylene practised only briefly in the late '80s) tours only when she can find time away from her Halifax home, which she shares with seven-year-old Alexander and her husband, Colin Anderson.

"I'm a full-time mom except when I'm travelling. I try to limit my touring so that it's intermittent."

Lambs in Spring finds Raylene exploring pop-tinged folk similar not unlike that of the Rankin Family. The title song was written by John Morris Rankin, who died shortly after the band's break up in a Sydney, N.S.- auto accident. It was originally intended for the band's Uprooted disc, but didn't make the final cut.

When planning her solo disc Raylene immediately thought of the discarded song.  She rummaged through a box of old demo tapes and got lucky immediately.

"I thought I'll never find the rehearsal tape. But literally the first tape I pulled out of this box of unmarked tapes had that song right there," said the singer. She confesses, almost apologetically, that she took it as a sign.

Lambs in Spring is a bittersweet rumination on youth and the belief that companions will never part. Raylene doesn't know exactly what was on her brother's mind when he wrote the song. But she says Lambs in Spring brings back poignant memories. For Raylene, John Morris's passing, the death of her mother and her own (ultimately successful) battle with breast cancer imbue the composition with a sense of innocence lost. Such difficulties made her more determined to release her solo album -- a project put off repeatedly over the years.

"When things happen in your life like that, it really makes you take a new perspective about how you live your life and how you interpret things that happen to you," said Raylene.

In the early stages of recording, she met weekly for a year with a Halifax musician in his makeshift garage studio. Eventually sufficient material was created to make a full demo disc, leading to formal recording sessions in Toronto. Lambs in Spring was ultimately nominated for an East Coast Music Award.

The Rankin Family got its start in the town of Mabou, Cape Breton Island. Throughout the '90s the band was a popular concert attraction, selling more than two million albums. Today, family members have gone their own ways: Jimmy Rankin is a roots solo artist, Cookie lives in Nashville.

Raylene describes her decade with the Rankin Family as a "blur" -- a dizzy merry-go-round of travel, performing and recording.

"Really wonderful things happened to us. But it was really hard to appreciate them. I don't know if we took them for granted, but you were unable to absorb all of that."

Since the split-up of the Rankin Family band, Raylene and sisters Cookie and Heather have gotten together for Christmas-themed concerts. Last month the three met to workshop material for a new collaborative album, although Raylene says their busy lives make a release date uncertain.

Will the remaining Rankins ever reform to become the Rankin Family again? Raylene promptly says it would not be the same without John Morris, a driving creative force whom one record producer described as the group's musical conscience.

Yet the next moment, she doesn't sound quite so sure. "I don't know. Never say never... who knows?"

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005

Rankin Family member performs

April 1, 2005 - North Shore News

By Tyler Hopson

It's nothing like touring with the full family force, but Raylene Rankin is content to be out on the road alone.

Rankin, one part of legendary East Coast group The Rankin Family, released her debut album Lambs of Spring in 2003. She's now bringing the show to North Vancouver this weekend as part of her first solo tour in Western Canada.

"They're two totally different shows," she said of her show and Rankin family concerts in an interview from her hotel room in Salmon Arm this week. "I've done a little bit of work with my sisters and I'm a stay-at-home mom, so it's hard to fit it all in," Rankin said of the delay in going west alone.

On this tour, special guest Archie Fisher does the first half of the show while Rankin rounds out the second set.

Rankin plays a few Rankin Family favourites but sticks mostly to her own material, which she says is "much more acoustic."

Rankin wrote "Alasdair Beag," a lullaby on the album for her young son Alexander.

Rankin fought a battle with breast cancer over the last several years but she says the experience has enriched her music.

"I think when you go through something like that it gives you a new perspective on life. For me it gave me a greater appreciation of what I have," she said. "I also gained a new appreciation for music. In the hustle and bustle of working, you take things for granted. Knowing that every day is a precious gift just gives you more motivation to go out and do those things that make you feel like a whole person."

Rankin performs at the Capilano College Performing Arts Theatre this Sunday night at 8 p.m.

Rankin soars on the old Gaelic tunes

April 3, 2005 - Victoria Times Colonist

By Adrian Chamberlain

What: Raylene Rankin
Where: Alix Goolden Performance Hall
When: April 1

- - -

In the mid-'90s, the Rankins were (along with Leahy) Canada's reigning Celtic/folk heroes.

The family band from Mabou, Cape Breton Island, combined home-spun charm with an accessible folk-pop sensibility. Such a mix struck a chord from coast to coast, making the Rankins a popular concert attraction.

The group stopped performing in 1999. A highway accident took the life of John Morris Rankin shortly after, dashing the hopes of those who hoped for a reunion.

The Rankin sisters -- Raylene, Cookie and Heather -- were the band's secret weapon. They possessed that mysterious ability for sharply resonating harmonies seemingly possessed only by siblings: The Bee Gees, the Everly Brothers et al. Though scoffers found the girls' singing chirpy, they provided a keening edge to the Rankin Family sound -- a hum that sounded both elemental and timeless.

This weekend, it was just Raylene Rankin at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall, along with her superb accompanist, guitarist Clarence Deveau.

Dressed plainly in a tan jacket and black trousers, Rankin was an affable presence who sang traditional Celtic and modern folk tunes with an engaging earnestness.

Some of the girlish timbre that made the sister's harmonies so affecting was in evidence Friday night, although at times one wished the other sisters would trot on stage for a tune or two.

A few of Raylene's renditions came closer to pleasant than remarkable -- mostly the newer folk material, which included a selection of compositions by David Francey, a Canadian singer/songwriter much admired by Rankin.

Where she mostly soared was on the old Celtic songs, some sung in Gaelic. These included an English translation of Oran Chalum Sgaire (Malcolm McAulay's Song), about a maid pining for her lover sailing the North Sea, and another piece sung a cappella in Gaelic.

The latter, which translates as Dark Eyes, was arguably the evening's highlight. It was a sad, soulful and wistful reading, with Rankin's voice easily filling the high-ceilinged former church.

Raylene Rankin has a good range, is capable of singing with some power (especially when her voice warms up) and displays considerable craft in her phrasing and breath control.

Scottish folk legend Archie Fisher opened the concert. Although less well known in North America, Fisher is famous in the U.K., where he has worked extensively with the BBC and served as director of the Edinburgh Folk Festival.

A relaxed and humourous storyteller who now bears a passing resemblance to Yehudi Menuhin (at least from the side), Fisher charmed the crowd of 200 with his unpretentious singing and understated guitar style.

He sang ancient Scottish love ballads with an easy, burnished baritone -- the sort of singer that eshews show-offy vocal tricks in favour of humbly serving the material.

Notable was The Presence, a song by contemporary Scots folk artist Stewart MacGregor. Examining an unfashionable topic with sensitively and artistry, it's the story of a so-called spinster who reveals she enjoyed a passionate love affair as a young woman -- something still intensely felt.

Also of note was Fisher's own composition, Jamie, about an old codger who was once a moustachioed dandy. As the veteran folkie played his song, two little girls in the front row started to dance quietly together.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005

John Allan Cameron tribute concert planned

April 7, 2005 - Halifax Herald

A tribute concert for the Godfather of Celtic Music, John Allan Cameron, is slated for Halifax's Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on May 19.

Brookes Diamond, John Meir and Dave Gunning are bringing the talent together to pay tribute to the Glencoe Station singer / songwriter, who has been in ill health.

Rita MacNeil, The Barra MacNeils, Jimmy Rankin, Bruce Guthro, fiddler Jerry Holland and a reunion of the Singalong Jubilee gang will be part of the show.

John Allan and his wife, Angela, will be in town from their Ontario home for the tribute.

Some of John Allan's bandmates, Allie Bennett, Dave MacIsaac, Sheumas MacNeil, along with John Allan's son Stuart and fiddler Wendy MacIsaac will form the house band.

Some other musicians who have played with John Allan over the years like Bruce Timmons, Robbie MacNeil, Scott Long, Buddy MacDonald are also on the bill.

Tickets will go on sale soon.

All proceed will help John Allan with his medical expenses.

Remembering good times with John Allan Cameron

May 17, 2005 - Halifax Herald
By Greg Guy / Entertainment Editor

GROWING UP in Cape Breton as a young boy, John Allan Cameron was a superstar and true idol.

My siblings and I wore out copies of his first records Here Comes . . . John Allan Cameron and The Minstrel of Cranberry Lane.

In 1969, at age four, I got to meet John Allan for the first time at a sold-out concert at what was then Sydney Mines High School.

I remember how excited my cousin Brenda Gardner and I were when our cousin Lola Bennett took us to that show. Halfway through it, John Allan called Brenda and me up on stage to help him sing a song. I remember tripping up the stairs over a chord running from the stage and standing before the Godfather of Celtic Music, and helping John Allan sing Gene McLellan's Put Your Hand in the Hand.

Apparently, the audience was in stitches. I still have an autographed photograph of John Allan from that night.

With the two tribute concerts approaching, here are some other memories shared by a few people close to John Allan:


Singer Anne Murray recalls hanging out with John Allan during the days of Singalong Jubilee.

"There was so much different stuff on Singalong. It's amazing when I look back on it, when I think of Edith Butler, and John Allan and Ken Tobias, everybody was so different on that show.

"John Allan definitely stood out with his kilt. He was on a mission to propagate the faith of Celtic music.

"It was so unusal, when I first heard it. It's infectious, because I hadn't spent much time listening to Celtic music.

"I was very much into popular music and into what was being played on the radio as top 10 hits. I actually learned about country music on Singalong too. But Celtic, he really introduced it, we had so much fun singing his songs and songs that he taught us.

"And that unusual sound of the 12-string playing pipe tunes, he played everything on it. He was a virtuoso on that instrument."

Murray also remembers John Allan's incredible ability to speak Latin fluently.

"He used to speak on the set of Singalong and other places too, he would break into fluent Latin and do complete sentences. He had a Latin saying for everything. But in those days they had to speak fluent Latin. It must have come from his days in the seminary.

"John Allan opened for me in Vegas. He opened for me all over Canada too and places in the U.S. I do remember we had a golf tournament in Cleveland with everybody, all my band and his band, bus drivers and everybody. We actually even had shirts made for it. It was the Greater Cleveland Moosehead Open. And we all had Moosehead shirts and John Allan was part of that too."

Halifax impresario Brookes Diamond remembers the first time he heard John Allan play.

"He was doing a TV special in Chester with Madame Benoit and Thomas Raddall in the late 1960s. They were doing a show near the water in Chester and there was a strong west wind blowing across the bay and all of a sudden John Allan began to sing Banks of Sicily. I had never heard that kind of sound before.

"I sat there on the beach with the wind and the waves and hearing this terrific song and I thought, 'This is as close to heaven as you're going to get.' I had just arrived home from Toronto where I was working, but after sitting there and experiencing that moment I thought, 'I'm staying put, this is heaven and I'm never leaving this place.'

John Allan's music and that setting had that much of an effect on me."

Allie Bennett, long-time John Allan bandmate, was in the band when they opened for Anne Murray in Las Vegas in January 1984. "At the first show, he steps on stage and a guy from the audience shouts 'Ciamar a tha sibh, John Allan? (How are you, John Allan? in Gaelic)' We looked out and it was a guy from Port Hood, who happened to be down there on vacation."

Bennett also says John Allan can play music with anyone. "One time he shared a double bill with Chubby Checker in Charlottetown. It worked though," Bennett says laughing.

"Chubby Checker would do a set and then John Allan would do a set. He was on top of his game back then."

Bennett says John Allan was never afraid of hard work.

"It was exactly this time 24 years ago in May of 1981, we were getting ready to go to Scotland. It was my first time over there. That was a trip Stan Rogers was on and Jennifer Whalen, David MacIsaac, piper Barry Shears and George MacInnis, who is now Father George MacInnis.

"It was a show that had just sold out all over Nova Scotia for six days, then we finally arrived in Scotland, we realized that the posters to promote the show were still in the airport. It was the first promotional tour for the International Gathering of the Clans, which began in Nova Scotia in 1983 and this was two years previous to that.

"The idea was to go over and promote Nova Scotia. But whoever was supposed to be promoting the show on the Scotland end didn't do their job, so we all literally had to put posters around Edinburgh, and I remember John Allan and Stan went around all the hotels and put up posters. We all pitched in to let the Scots know about the show.

"I remember that week we did about four or five shows and our biggest crowd was 22 and one night we played for six people. They got the same show that sold out the Cohn and other venues in Nova Scotia just the week before. I remember that trip to Scotland, John Allan and Stan rented a car and decided to spend another week over there."

Max MacDonald, director of the Celtic Colours International Festival of which John Allan is an honourary board member, says one of his favourite memories of his friend happened in Scotland in 2000 during a visit to the Celtic Connections event.

"After a show in which John Allan performed, we all gathered in a hotel room for a jam session. The Rankins were at Celtic Connections that year too, as were Fred Lavery and Gordie Sampson.

"We were in the hotel room and they were passing the guitar around to play. John Allan wasn't that anxious to play for some reason, but we coaxed him to.

"He sat on the edge of the bed with the guitar and began to play.

"There was Jimmy Rankin, Gordie Sampson, Allie Bennett and Fred Lavery sitting on the floor looking up at him with big eyes, like they were kids sitting before Santa Claus. It was such a magic moment."

Honouring John Allan

Musicians, friends get together to help out the Godfather of Celtic Music, who is battling cancer

May 17, 2005 - Halifax Herald
By Greg Guy / Entertainment Editor

JOHN ALLAN CAMERON says he's taking life day by day.

The Cape Breton-born Godfather of Celtic Music is overjoyed by the outpouring of support from his friends and fellow musicians, who are getting together on Thursday night at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium in Halifax and on May 28 at Glace Bay's Savoy Theatre. The events will raise funds for their pal's medical expenses and to let him know they're here for him.

John Allan, who's 66, learned earlier this year that he has bone marrow cancer and a rare form of leukemia.

"I'm hanging in there," John Allan says over the phone from his home in Pickering, Ont. "I'm staying alive, and as long as I'm alive I'm functioning as best I can and talking as well as I can."

In early January, John Allan learned of his diagnosis.

"He hadn't been really feeling that well for over a year," says his wife, Angela. "His health hasn't been good for a few years. We went to several specialists over the year. And everybody kept saying, 'He's OK, he's OK.' I kept saying, 'There's something wrong here.' And every time we'd go to the doctors, we'd go back to see how the tests went and they would say he's fine."

As the year progressed, he wasn't getting better.

Angela said she and their son Stuart, also a musician, were beside themselves wondering what they were going to do.

"Finally it took a doctor friend, who's a good friend of ours, he was the one when he took one look at John Allan he could see the difference in him. And he said, 'Enough is enough.' He was the one that did all these extra tests and was the one that found the bone cancer.

"It's one in a million exactly what John Allan has, and he just happens to be that one and it's all connected with the cancer."

When he learned of the bone marrow cancer, John Allan says his first reaction was, "Hey, I'm still alive and I'm going to stay alive a long time."

He is not undergoing chemotherapy but is taking a battery of medication.

After his diagnosis, Angela took a month off from teaching dance. She runs a school in Ontario that teaches clogging, a form of step-dance.

On the afternoon of this interview, Angela finds comfort in knowing that her husband hasn't been in pain.

"He's having a pretty good day. I find his balance is really off, and he's not steady on his feet right now, but other than that his spirits and his faith are absolutely wonderful," she says.

What has helped to lift his spirits is the upcoming shows at home.

"It means everything to me because they all mean so much to me," John Allan says.

Thursday's gala tribute, which sold out in Halifax within days, will be hosted by Denis Ryan and Eric MacEwen.

It will feature performances by Rita MacNeil, Jimmy Rankin, The Barra MacNeils, Buddy MacDonald, Jerry Holland, Dave Gunning, Fred Lavery, Scott Long and a Singalong Jubilee Reunion featuring solos from Catherine McKinnon, Audrey Alexander, Penny MacAuley, and Robbie MacNeil.

In the house band will be John Allan's longtime touring buddies Allie Bennett, Dave MacIsaac, his son Stuart, Sheumas MacNeil, Wendy MacIsaac, Bruce Timmons, Robbie MacNeil, David Isner and Ryan and Boyd MacNeil.

In Cape Breton on May 28, the lineup will include hosts Eric MacEwen and Dave Harley, performances by The Barra MacNeils, Lennie Gallant, Ron Hynes, General John Cabot Trail, Jerry Holland, Brenda Stubbert, Dougie MacPhee, Stuart Cameron, Donnie Campbell, Nipper MacLeod, Buddy MacDonald, Fred Lavery, Wally MacAulay, Allie Bennett and Bruce Timmons.

"John Allan has given so much to traditional Cape Breton music and is also a lifetime director of our festival," said Celtic Colours festival director Max MacDonald. "We are so pleased with the response to the Halifax show (May 19 at the Rebecca Cohn, now sold out) and know that the Capers will be out in force at the Savoy on May 28."

Tickets for the Savoy show are $35 and are on sale at 564-6668 or

Looking back over his career, which spans more than 30 years, John Allan fondly recalls some memorable times, and as he speaks there's still that spark of enthusiasm in his voice that we have come to know.

"I was thinking about that today and there are lots of memories, but I loved working with my friend Stan Rogers," he says. "I was the first guy to put him on television. I took him to Scotland and Ireland.

"And I'm still friends with Roger Whittaker and Anne Murray."

John Allan recalls the five years he opened shows for Murray, touring the world, and those "special fun times" on the Las Vegas circuit.

Murray said she remembers how people looked at him as a curiousity, especially in places like Las Vegas. "They'd shake their heads and they'd all go away laughing. Because he always has put on a great show, and he never took himself too seriously," said Murray on Monday from her home in Ontario.

"He puts on a great show and he makes people laugh. And you can't help but clap your hands and stomp your feet. It's undeniable that music and it elicits that kind of response from people. And he got it everywhere, not just in Canada, not just on the East Coast, but everywhere. In Las Vegas he did, which shows you the universal appeal of that kind of music."

Born on Dec. 16, 1938, into a musical family in Glencoe Station, Inverness County, John Allan learned to play the guitar and by age 12 was playing local dances. His early influences included his fiddling uncle Dan Rory (Dan R) MacDonald and his Gaelic-speaking mother Katie Ann and brother John Donald, who both played fiddle.

Between 1957 and 1963 he was in the Order of the Oblate Fathers and had hopes of becoming a priest, and although he took his final vows he received papal dispensation in 1964 in order to step into the entertainment world.

He entered St. Francis Xavier University, where he received an arts degree and performed at coffee houses on campus, and he could be heard often on CJFX Radio in Antigonish. He pursued his education degree at Dalhousie University in 1967. In those early days, he was often credited with keeping the Celtic music and language traditions alive - "playing Celtic music when Celtic wasn't cool."

In 1970, he stunned audiences at the Grand Ole Opry by arriving on stage in a kilt and playing bagpipe tunes on his 12-string guitar.

By the mid-1970s, John Allan Cameron was a household name in Canada. He appeared on CBC Halifax's Singalong Jubilee and Ceilidh, and started his own series, first on CTV in Montreal from 1975 to 1976 and on The John Allan Cameron Show from CBC Halifax, from 1979 to the winter of 1981.

His first recording, Here Comes . . . John Allan Cameron, came out in 1968, and he has recorded 10 albums.

In December 2003, he was awarded the Order of Canada.

The Cohn audience Thursday will be filled with fans, friends and members of John Allan's family.

John Allan says John Prine's manager, Alfred Bunetta, a longtime friend, has expressed interest in coming to the tribute.

The show came about when friends John Meir, Dave Gunning and Brookes Diamond heard of his illness and decided to organize the tribute for their friend. All proceeds will go to John Allan and Angela to help with their medical expenses.

"I'm certainly happy with everybody who is coming by to help me out," John Allan says. "I really appreciate that, and you can be sure I'll be wearing my kilt."

A dram of wee Scotland

The lilting tones of Gaelic are heard across Cape Breton, where song is in the air and beauty is on the land

May 21, 2005 -

By Margo Pfeiff - freelance

We'll catch the fish, and then we'll bitch, we're rolling on the sea...

A couple of lobstermen with fiddle and guitar had the locals on their feet singing along at the Thistledown Pub. Everyone knew the words and sipped frosty mugs of Alexander Keith's lager. Suddenly a teenager with flaming red hair burst into the midst of the dance milieu. As Tracy Cavanaugh stoked his fiddle to a fever pitch, the teenager's legs became a blur of Highland plaid socks.

After sunset most days Larry MacAskill and Tracy Cavanaugh trade their lobster traps for musical instruments; by day they fish the waters off Cape Breton. At night they sing about them.

It was my first evening in Cape Breton, and already I was kilt-deep in the songs, dances and salty romance with the sea that characterize this easternmost corner of Nova Scotia. Like many overseas settlements long marooned from the mother country, Nova Scotia is often more Scottish than Scotland. That's especially true of Cape Breton, where the lilting tones of the Gaelic language are commonly heard and tartans are seen by the acre. Even Tim Horton's serves oatcakes in Nova Scotia.

From 1770 to 1850, Scottish settlers immigrated to Cape Breton, and it's no wonder they stayed in this windswept part of the country with its craggy coastline like the Hebrides and long-fingered lakes and inlets like Scottish lochs. It must have felt sweetly like home. Coal and fish were abundant as were mist and fog.

I planned a weeklong road trip around Cape Breton, an island connected to the Nova Scotia mainland by a causeway. I flew into the town of Sydney and headed for the Cabot Trail, a scenic route that I would roughly - but for a few detours - follow around the western "lobe" of the island. You can drive the jagged 305-kilometre circuit in as little as six hours, but my plan was to putter from one community to the next.

Baddeck, on the shore of Bras d'Or Lake, is the official starting point for the Cabot Trail. Alexander Graham Bell fell for this spot in 1885 and built an estate called Beinn Bhreagh, where he spent many summers.

From the window of the Thistledown Pub, I watched the Elsie, the sailing boat Bell had built for his daughter, skim across the lake, the same waters where he tested his early hydrofoil. The HD-4, of which there is a replica in the Bell Museum at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck, flew across Bras d'Or Lake at 114 km/h, at the time the world's fastest water vehicle.

From Baddeck I veered off the Cabot Trail and headed farther south, then crossed the island via tiny Aberdeen and Skye Glen to the west coast and the village of Mabou - "Home of the Rankins," as the welcome sign put it. I had arrived smack in the heart of the Cape Breton music scene and immediately found its epicentre, the Red Shoe Pub.

The pub is a Cape Breton institution, and on this Sunday, as usual, it was standing room only for the afternoon jam session. I squeezed my way to the back, ordered a beer and leaned against the bar. The floor shuddered with couples dancing reels in time to the fiddle and piano tunes of husband and wife duo Kinnon and Betty-Lou Beaton. It was a wicked, toe-tapping whirl that soon steamed up the windows of the Red Shoe.

(Cape Breton's fiddling revival was spurred by a 1972 CBC documentary about old time fiddling dying out in Nova Scotia. The film jolted locals out of complacency. Young people picked up bows, began learning under the legends, and the music has now infected a whole new generation. One of the biggest venues is the Celtic Colours International Festival, an annual October series of concerts that coincides with the foliage season.)

The skies had cleared and the stars were out by the time I reached Glenville and my accommodations for the night. Glenora Inn and Distillery produces North America's only single malt whisky. It also offers lodgings in the distillery building and in cottages set amid the wooded hills where 22 springs feed McClellan's Brook, the soul of Glenora's golden liquid. In 2000, Glenora launched its first product, an 8-year-old Glen Breton Rare Canadian Single Malt, which is exported to Japan, New York, Chicago, Iceland, and Bermuda. The operation is small, producing only 50,000 litres - 2,000 cases of 12 bottles. "We wanted to produce traditional Scottish whisky in a Scottish setting," said vice-president Bob Scott.

From Glenville the road curves towards the coast and the town of Inverness, a beach community still quiet this early in spring as it awaited summer crowds that would fill the white sand beach and some of the warmest waters north of the Carolinas. In the Coal Miner's Cafe on a main street lined with pickup trucks, I had what constitutes fusion cuisine in Cape Breton - lobster quesadillas.

Dodging in and out from the coast, the road finally meets back up with the Cabot Trail near the tranquil country lodge called Normaway Inn. Owner David MacDonald is a fierce defender and promoter of all things Cape Breton, especially music. En route to my cabin, he pointed out the barn. "Ashley MacIsaac danced there when he was this tall," he said of the controversial violinist as he held his hand to his waist. He finger ticked a roll call of Cape Breton talent that still shakes the rafters of the Normaway barn on summer weekends.

At the fishing village of Margaree Harbour, a two-lighthouse town, I followed the shoreline north and soon noticed a shift in the linguistic terrain; I'd left behind Rear Dunvegan and Chimney Corner and was heading for Terre Noire, Cap Le Moine and Belle Cote, communities settled by French in the 16th and 17th centuries when they established a maritime territory called Acadia. But after Nova Scotia was handed to the British by the Treaty of Utrecht, many Acadians were expelled.

The French coast's main town is Cheticamp, a waterfront collection of brightly painted houses and boats. Folk art is a booming cottage industry along this stretch of coast, and I stopped at many roadside shops including that of Jean-Marc Poirier where brightly painted stickmen and polka-dotted fish vied for my attention.

Cheticamp is the gateway to Cape Breton Highlands National Park - 950 square kilometres of hiking, biking and camping terrain - and the start of the roller-coaster ride that makes the Cabot Trail famous.

The road wound up onto the highland plateau. The sun shone on banks of sea fog swirling and shifting in the pleasant breeze as I climbed hairpin curves - until suddenly I came face to face with a great bull moose standing in the centre of the road. I screeched to a halt. He glared. I blinked first and inched slowly around him, trying to still my racing heart.

Continuing along the trail, I neared St. Ann's, where I had first hooked up with the Cabot Trail. Amid a hive of potters, glass blowers and ironwork artists is the Indian Brook workshop of leather-worker John Roberts. Beside belts and wallets, he fashions leather buckets for the Fortress of Louisbourg, on the east coast of Cape Breton and my last stop. Louisbourg was a fortified town where the French ran a trading empire based on the lucrative Grand Bank cod fishery in the 18th century. These days Louisbourg is "inhabited" from June to September by authentically clad Cape Bretoners living a typical day in the life of Louisbourg in 1744, the year before the first British siege.

Throughout the fortress, houses were being cleaned, clothes mended, cannons fired, bread baked. Children played 300-year-old games, workmen continued reconstruction with primitive wheelbarrows, and I ate simple stew on the same patterned porcelain from the same factory in Jingdezhen, China, as had the Louisbourg French. Not one detail - from eyeglasses to flintlock muskets to the glass-laced mortar to keep out rats - revealed the existence of a century past the 18th.

It seemed a fitting place and time to finish a trip around an island where there is un petit peu de France and a dram of wee Scotland.


Getting there: I flew to Halifax and on to Sydney, the main town in Cape Breton.

Where to stay:

Glenora Inn & Distillery in Glenville, 1-(800)-839-0491, online. Rooms overlooking the distillery courtyard and cottages on a nearby hillside. Rooms starting at $120. Good hiking nearby.

Normaway Inn in Margaree Valley 1-(800)-565-9463, online. Quiet country lodge with inn rooms and rustic cottages. Rates from $99. Canoeing, bicycling and hiking nearby.

Louisbourg Harbour Inn in Louisbourg, 1-(888)-8888-466, online. Charming century-old, harbour-side sea captain's house furnished with antiques. Rooms start at $110, full breakfast included.

Where to eat: Restaurants at the Glenora Distillery, Normaway Inn and the Markland Coastal Resort are all certified "Taste of Nova Scotia" and the quality is good. Seafood, local lamb and pork are the regional specialties. Reservations are recommended.

For more information: Nova Scotia Tourism, 1-(800)-565-0000, or Cape Breton Tourism,

The Celtic Colours Festival takes place across Cape Breton Oct. 7 to 15. 1-(877)-285-2321, core.php online.

Fortress of Louisbourg, Louisbourg, (902) 733-2280, louisbourg/natcul/natcul2_e.asp, is open daily until October, animation and services June to September. Admission fees range from $13.25 for an adult to $6.75 for 6- to 16-years-old.

Rita hosts down-home special

Scenery, talent spotlighted in Cape Breton

June 8, 2005 - Halifax Herald

Rita MacNeil is taping a new television special in Cape Breton and fans are invited to attend.

Leopard Productions Inc. and CTV have announced that the all-new special Rita MacNeil's Cape Breton will be shot this month on the island.

The list of guest performers includes Jimmy Rankin, Aselin Debison, Ashley MacIsaac, the Men of the Deeps, Canadian Idol finalist Gary Beals and U.S. gospel singer Mavis Staples.

Scenic locations to be highlighted include Iona, Mabou, Big Pond, the Cabot Trail and Neil's Harbour.

Admission is free, but those interested in attending are asked to note that reserving a spot in the audience does not guarantee admission.

Audience members will be admitted into the tapings on a first come basis, but everyone must have a ticket reservation placed in order to secure a spot in line.

Producers suggest lining up at least 30-minutes before showtime.

Tickets may be booked for more than one taping session, but no more than four tickets may be booked at a time.

Once at the taping, audience members should be prepared for several stops and starts throughout the session. The audience is requested to stay for the duration of the taping.

When booking tickets, state full name, contact information (telephone and / or e-mail) and the number of tickets requested (up to four) for each taping.

Guests will appear only on specific dates. The schedule is subject to change without notice.

Thursday, June 9, 6-8 p.m., Savoy Theatre, Glace Bay.

The concert portion of the special will be shot in front of 600 fans and will feature MacNeil, the Men of the Deeps, Debison and more.

Friday, June 10, 1-7 p.m., Neil's Harbour.

This segment will feature fiddler MacIsaac and his band in the open air. About 300 people will be able to watch this segment. Seating will not be provided, but the audience will be welcome to sit along the docks.

Tuesday, June 14, 8:30 - 11 p.m., Red Shoe Pub, Mabou.

Rankin and his band perform with MacNeil in a taping outside the pub. About 400 fans will get to stand around the stage, which will be erected on Route 19 especially for this event. There will be no seating available.

Thursday, June 16, 6:30 - 9:30 p.m., Our Lady of Assumption Church, Arichat, Isle Madame.

About 400 fans will be admitted to watch MacNeil, Staples and Beals perform a spiritual concert segment backed by a gospel choir.

For free tickets, contact the Savoy Theatre at 842-1577 or by e-mail at Requests may also be made to the Toronto production office at 416-214-9900, extension 231 or by e-mail at

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