Last Articles - 2009 (July-December) update on June 22, 2010

11/21/09 - Christmas Celtic style

11/26/09 - Rankin taking the Marigold stage Saturday

11/30/09 - Rankin Family gets East Coast Music Assocation award

12/01/09 - Rankin Family to receive special ECMA Award

12/03/09 - The sounds of the season

12/09/09 - Rankin Sisters ring in the season

12/22/09 - Family harmony

Christmas Celtic style

November 21, 2009 - Belleville Intelligencer

By Luke Hendry

Christmas takes on a Celtic sound this season at the Empire Theatre.

"We do have a great Christmas season coming up," said Andy Forgie, the Empire's promotions manager.

This year the lineup has an unintentional East Coast focus, he said.

"That kind of act has always done well here."

And several of those acts are now back on the bill.

It begins with John McDermott and Friends' A Family Christmas show Nov. 27.

"John will bring his kind of Celtic balladry that he's famous for doing," said Forgie.

"He always brings a great special guest," said Mark Rashotte. This time it's Russell deCarle, frontman of Prairie Oyster.

"That'll be fun," Rashotte said. "It makes the show very interesting."

Country singer George Canyon arrives Nov. 29 to perform both his hits and Christmas tunes.

The Rankin sisters leave behind the rest of their family for a maritime concert Dec. 10.

"The Rankin sisters are a great bunch of girls -- such great talent," Rashotte said, noting the show will have a Christmas feel but will contain largely of other material.

Another family act is back Dec. 15. The Leahys haven't performed as a group on the Empire stage since its 2003 opening season. Hailing from Lakefield (on the east coast of Peterborough), they'll continue the Celtic theme.

Closing out the season is the Dec. 19 Quinte Ballet School performance of The Nutcracker.

But it isn't just holiday music on stage this month and next. Crooner Matt Dusk is here Nov. 25.

Rock band The Stereos perform Nov. 26 and is aimed at a younger audience.

"It's a different demographic than we normally get at the theatre," said Rashotte. "It's going to be a great night."

He said booking acts that aren't geared toward the theatre's usual crowd is "worth the risk" because it may build an audience for a return show.

One no-brainer, though, is Blue Rodeo. The crossover country-rock band's two shows aren't until March 7 and 8 and already the first level of seats has sold out.

"They're an institution in this country and their fans will travel to see them," Rashotte said. "It's exciting to have those acts here because I know they could be playing two hours from here and all their fans from Belleville would probably get in their cars to see them.

"It's really nice to see that we are very much on their radar screen as a place they want to perform."

Several other early-2010 acts have also been booked.

They include Colin James, guitarist extraordinaire and another reliable ticket seller.

"He always reinvents himself each time -- whether it's his big band, his small band, or in this case his blues band -- it's great fun," said Rashotte.

Other highlights:

* The ballet school will hold a Dirty Dancing fundraiser Nov. 28. They'll both perform their own take on the movie's style and screen the movie itself.

Rock artist and activist Matthew Good and opening act Mother Mother arrive Dec. 8. Comedian Derek Edwards makes his third Empire appearance Dec. 11. (Watch The Intelligencer next week for an interview with Edwards.)

* Country veteran Tommy Hunter comes back Jan. 24 to play for his very faithful audience.

"He's going to have a video component this time," noted Rashotte.

* Comic Jeremy Hotz appears Feb. 27.

* Eclectic musician Matt Andersen and guest act WIL appear Feb. 26.

* Steven Page, recently of Barenaked Ladies, appears March 11 as part of the Art of Time Ensemble concert series which last featured Sarah Slean. He'll be doing a variety of tunes, including those by Leonard Cohen, Jane Siberry, Radiohead and more.

Also coming soon is a better view for fans in the back half of the theatre.

Late this year or early next, Rashotte said, "we'll have video screens so people in the balcony can see people's faces a lot better." The screens will be placed mid-house.

Looking even farther ahead, the Empire's owner said acts for the usual blockbuster summer concert series haven't yet been confirmed, but he's working on it.

"Everything's in high gear," said Rashotte, hinting the dates and formats may get a shuffle.

Many of the theatre acts announced to date, meanwhile, are already on sale. Showtimes vary. Call 613-969-0099 or visit for details.

Rankin taking the Marigold stage Saturday

November 26, 2009 - Truro Daily News

TRURO – Jimmy Rankin is one of four Nova Scotian singers taking the Marigold Cultural Centre stage this weekend.

On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Rankin will participate in a songwriter’s circle in which musicians will discuss their songs and inspirations.

Rankin, from Cape Breton and originally with The Rankins, has accumulated numerous accolades and nominations including East Coast Music Award for Country Artist of the Year in 2002; a Canadian Radio Music Award for Best New Solo Artist – Adult Contemporary, numerous ECMAs and two Juno nominations, to name a few.

The event will also feature Steve MacDougall from SlowCoaster fame. MacDougall’s song Spanish Bay won second place in the national song writing competition in 2005. Since then, MacDougall has spent time between Nashville and Nova Scotia co-writing with other songwriters such as Gordie Sampson and Bruce Guthro.

Also participating is Truro’s Rick (Rock) Johnson.

Johnson, a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, has been part of the East Coast music industry for 18 years, playing original music and performing in cover bands across the Maritimes. Aside from his own solo acoustic show, he is the lead vocalist for original rock act Still In Stereo and cover band Broke On Payday.

Cape Breton’s Carmel Mikol rounds out the songwriter’s circle. Mikol is fresh off a Canadian tour entitled Guess Who’s Driving with fellow singer Kim Wempe.

Tickets for Saturday’s show are $30 and can be purchased at the Marigold’s box office.

Rankin Family gets East Coast Music Association award

The Rankin Family, Scotty Turner and Billy and Cornelia MacLeod are winners of the East Coast Music Association's 2010 Honourary Awards.

November 30, 2009 - CBC Arts

The Rankin Family, Scotty Turner and Billy and Cornelia MacLeod are winners of the East Coast Music Association's 2010 Honourary Awards.

Announced by the association on Monday, the winners have all made substantial contributions to the East Coast music industry.

The Special Director's Award will go to the Rankin Family in recognition of the Cape Breton group's contribution to the music industry on a national and international level. In the 10 years between 1989 and 1999, the Rankins took home 15 East Coast Music Awards, six Juno Awards, four Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada Awards and three Canadian Country Music Awards.

The group took a hiatus in 1999 so members could pursue individual careers. But, in 2007, Jimmy, Cookie, Raylene and Heather reunited for a Canadian comeback tour. This year, the Rankin Family released its new CD, These Are the Moments.

Turner was posthumously awarded the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award for his profound effect on Atlantic Canadian music. He died on Feb. 9 at the age of 77.

Born, Graham Morrison Turnbull in Sydney, N.S., his career as musician, songwriter, producer and publisher spanned more than 50 years. Turner was lead guitarist and writer for Tommy Sands and the Raiders and joined A&M Recorders as writer/producer in 1963. In 1968, he moved to Nashville to take over the country division of Liberty/Imperial/United Artists. He composed more than 350 recorded songs and co-wrote with Buddy Holly, Audie Murphy, Herb Alpert and Tommy Sands, among others.

Cornelia MacLeod and her late husband, Billy, were honoured with the Stompin' Tom Award for their sustained contributions to the East Coast music industry.

The MacLeods met in high school, and became musical fixtures in Cape Breton, known for their country and Acadian sound. They spent 20 years touring, performing in Europe, Africa, South America, Mexico and the U.S., and released five albums and four 45 recordings. In recent years, they lived in Fort McMurray, Alta.

Billy MacLeod died on Dec. 27, 2008, at the age of 57, a year after suffering a massive stroke.

The honourary awards will be presented on March 5, 2010, at the East Coast Music Awards, Festival & Conference in Sydney, N.S.

Rankin Family to receive special ECMA award

Billy and Cornelia MacLeod, Scotty Turner also to be honoured

December 1, 2009 - Halifax Herald

By Andrea Nemetz, Entertainment Reporter

The Rankin Family will receive the Director’s Special Achievement Award at the East Coast Music Association Industry Awards brunch on March 5 at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre in Sydney.

Other honorary awards recipients are the late Scotty Turner, who will be honoured posthumously with the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award, and Billy and Cornelia MacLeod, who will receive the Stompin’ Tom Award.

The Director’s Special Achievement Award is the board of directors’ most prestigious award. It is presented in special circumstances, intended to recognize an organization, individual or group that has demonstrated an exceptional contribution to the music industry on a national and/or international level.

The Rankin Family’s musical history began at home in Mabou, Inverness County. During a 10-year period from 1989 to 1999, the Rankins were honoured with 15 East Coast Music Awards, six Juno Awards, four SOCAN Awards and three Canadian Country Music Awards. Among their albums are the multi-platinum Fare Thee Well Love and North Country.

After taking a hiatus to pursue individual careers in 1999, tragedy struck in 2000 when John Morris Rankin was killed in a car accident. Nearly eight years later Jimmy, Cookie, Raylene and Heather reunited with a Canadian tour that received glowing reviews in publications across the county. This year saw the release of These Are The Moments.

The Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has had a profound and lasting effect on the Atlantic Canadian Music Industry. The award was renamed after Creighton when she received the award in 1991.

Turner, from Sydney, was a record producer, musician, songwriter and publisher. He was the lead guitarist and writer for Tommy Sands and the Raiders and joined A&M Records as writer/producer in 1963.

He became executive producer of the country division at Liberty/Imperial Records and in 1968, was transferred to Nashville to take over the country division of Liberty/Imperial/United Artists. He was also an independent producer for Slim Whitman, Del Reeves, and Jimmy Clanton and won gold records on four of Whitman’s LPs.

Turner composed over 350 recorded songs and co-wrote with Audie Murphy, Nilsson, Buddy Holly, Herb Alpert, Mac Davis, John Marascalco, Alex Harvey, Red Lane, Tommy Sands, Diane Lampert, Charlie Williams, Doc Pomus, Guy Mitchell and Cliffie Stone. He died Feb. 9, 2009.

The Stompin’ Tom Award was conceived in 1993 when Stompin’ Tom Connors was presented with the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement award. Instead of accepting the award, he requested that an award be created to honour musicians who have made long-term contributions to the East Coast music industry.

Cornelia (Boucher) MacLeod met Billy MacLeod in high school. They released five albums and four 45 recordings as Cornelia and Billy. They spent 20 years touring, making stops in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Ecuador, Africa, Mexico, Japan and the United States. The two became fixtures in Cape Breton, specifically Richmond County, and appeared on such televisions programs as the Tommy Hunter Show.

The sounds of the season

Christmas-themed concerts across the GTA

December 6-13, 2009 - Corriere Tandem

By Kerry Doole

Let’s face it. Christmas and the weeks leading up to it can be a stressful time, so it’s smart to relieve the pressure by checking out one (or more) of the excellent Christmas-themed concerts on offer throughout the G.T.A. Many of these have now become seasonal traditions, proof of their crowd-pleasing nature.

One we can heartily recommend is the fifth annual Andy Kim Christmas show, at The Mod Club on Dec. 9. Kim is the veteran pop singer/songwriter best known for such huge international hits as “Rock Me Gently,” “Baby I Love You,” and “Sugar Sugar.” Yes, he’ll sing the hits, but you may also get to hear material from his upcoming new album, Happen Again. At press time, the full guest lineup had yet to be announced, but you can be sure of an impressive list (members of Broken Social Scene and Jully Black are set to perform). In past years, such stars as Barenaked Ladies, Serena Ryder, Larry Gowan, Rush’s Alex Lifeson, and Ron Sexsmith have performed on the show. Proceeds will go to a very worthy cause, The Regent Park School of Music. Check out for more info.

Another veteran Canadian vocal star with a popular annual concert is tenor John McDermott. This year, on Dec. 22 and 23, it’s held in the intimate setting of The Glenn Gould Theatre, and McDermott has recruited heavyweight musical pals to participate. These include jazz great Guido Basso, musical comedy troupe The Arrogant Worms, rocker Gowan, Prairie Oyster singer Russell DeCarle, and Erica Goodman.

On the roots rock side, you can’t go wrong checking out The Skydiggers’ Christmas shows at The Horseshoe Tavern, Dec. 18 and 19. Something about the sensual voice of Andy Maize fits the season like a warm glove. For a raucously rockin’ and highly entertaining seasonal spectacle, there’s El Vez at Lee’s Palace on Dec. 8. Yes, the chicano Elvis is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser, and opening the show are American roots-rockers Los Straitjackets.

If your tastes lean to the Celtic, then a treat will be The Rankin Sisters (yes, of Rankin Family fame) and their A Maritime Christmas performance in the superb facility that is The Richmond Hill Centre For The Arts, on Dec. 5. The three talented siblings that comprise The Ault Sisters celebrate the season with their third annual matinee at Hugh’s Room on Dec. 13 (noon-4 p.m.). Proceeds from the show go to World Vision.

Rankin Sisters ring in the season

December 9, 2009 - Goderich Signal Star

By Carolyn Parks-Mintz

The audience was abuzz Friday at North Street United Church in Goderich. They knew that they were in for a wonderful night of music—Celtic, pop, East Coast, folk, country—whatever was on the play list was bound to be good.

And they weren't disappointed. The multi-award winning and hugely talented Rankin Sisters launched their annual Christmas tour in Goderich Dec. 4.

"A Maritime Christmas" hit all the high notes—literally and figuratively—as Raylene, Cookie and Heather Rankin filled the lofty sanctuary with unique and matchless sound.

There's no mistaking a Rankin tune—the incomparable blend of voices meant to sing together is distinctly Rankin—their signature sound instantly recognizable.

Hailing from Cape Breton Island and a family of 12, The Rankin's have consistently produced brilliant material, either individually or as a group, since their professional beginning in 1989.

The sisters' "Do You Hear …" Christmas album is no different. And the gals delivered several cuts from it during the concert, much to the delight of the fans packing the hall.

Backed by an excellent six-piece tour band, The Rankin Sisters pure and crystalline soprano voices flowed from one piece to another—interspersed with anecdotes and East Coast humour that absolutely connected performers to audience.

Starting with Cookie's "I Wonder as I Wander", the music wrapped listeners in a blanket of beautiful harmony and soaring solos.

Their angelic voices transported the audience to an otherworldly place, to a place of peace and love—and fun.

Original arrangements of standards such as "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Do You Hear What I Hear" gave fresh energy to these favourites.

The evening wouldn't have been complete without a taste of Rankin hits such as Raylene's marvelous "We Rise Again" and Cookie's "Borders and Time."

Regardless of who was singing lead or who was singing backup harmony, the ethereal wall of sound the group produced was spectacular.

Band members, Wendy MacIsaac and first cousin Maddy Rankin were outstanding on violins (or "fiddles" as they're called out east) that alternately wailed and purred.

Just before the intermission, the audience was treated to East Coast step dancing, first by Maddy and then by The Rankin Sisters themselves.

The Celtic flavour throughout the evening was further accentuated by their flying feet, intricate steps and wonderful rhythms. Multi-talented indeed!

The finale of an incredible musical evening was the breathtakingly beautiful carol "Silent Night." The audience hung on every note of the trio's exquisite rendition of this traditional Christmas favourite. Standing ovation, of course.

A Cape Breton version of "Joy to World" performed as only The Rankin's can, was served up as the encore number, including more of the sisters' great Celtic dancing, and followed, of course, by another standing ovation from a wildly enthusiastic crowd.

Asked following the concert how they kept energy levels up during a long tour, the gifted Rankin Sisters agreed that it's not difficult for them because they love the Christmas music that's part of their family tradition and that playing intimate venues is what they especially enjoy.

Between now and December 22, "A Maritime Christmas" concert will launch the festive season in 16 towns and cities in Ontario and the Maritimes.

Family Harmony

December 22, 2009 - Fredericton Daily Gleaner

By Laverne Stewart

The Rankin Sisters' voices are a lot like eggnog with a splash of rum; sweet and smooth with just a bit of a kick that warms the soul.

The sisters, including Heather, Raylene and Cookie, will appear tonight at The Playhouse. This is their final stop on their Maritime Christmas tour. In a phone interview just before a sound check prior to their concert in St. Catharines, Ont., Heather Rankin says she looks forward to their return to Fredericton where she knows they have some dedicated fans.

"We have always enjoyed going there and I love The Playhouse."

In true Celtic style, you can expect lots of fiddling. Band members Wendy MacIsaac, who is Ashley MacIsaac's first cousin and the Rankin Sisters' first cousin Mairi Rankin, are on the fiddles. There will be lots of step-dancing too. After 20 years of singing and step-dancing on stage, Heather Rankin says this high-energy dancing is still fun to do and not that taxing.

"I think I am in better shape now than when I was in my 20s."

After 20 days on the road and 16 shows on this tour that started in Ontario, the sisters and their band members are, understandably, ready to get off the road after hours of driving each day in a 15-passenger van.

As soon as tonight's show is over, they'll be making the final push to spend the holiday with their families. Depending on the weather, Heather Rankin says she might encourage everyone to drive right through the last 10 hours on the road because she is anxious to get back to Cape Breton where she has a lot of work to do. She's married to a man who is also from Mabou. They will spend their holiday there. On Christmas Eve she has planned to have 25 people in for a big Christmas Eve feast. She has some of the cooking already prepared and in the freezer but the day of the dinner party there will be vegetables to prepare as well as a delectable pork crown roast. She will not be left on her own. Her husband, she says, is a great help to her in the kitchen and indeed all around the house with the cleaning.

"My great-aunt Susie Wright said 'He's better than most women in the kitchen. He's the bee's knees.'"

While she has lots waiting for her when this tour is finished, tonight her full attention, and indeed that of her sisters and the band, is making sure they give their fans a wonderful Christmas memory. Tonight The Rankin Sisters will sing lots of favourite Christmas music.

"Christmas music has a tendency to bring you back to earlier years when everyone was around and together and healthy. As we get older and we face more challenges, we tend to look back and appreciate those years."

The Rankin Sisters are three of a family of 12 from Mabou, Cape Breton. Their parents are no longer living and their brother, John Morris Rankin, died in January 2000 in a car accident. Even though he is gone, Heather Rankin says her brother's spirit is still very much with them whenever they are making music and singing the songs that meant so much to him.

At tonight's show the audience will also hear some of the music The Rankin Family became famous for with such hits as We Rise Again and Borders and Time.

The sisters' voices have been described as angelic and sweet. Fans will enjoy listening to spiritual songs of the season, such as Do You Hear What I Hear? and their versions of holiday standards like Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree.

"We try to keep it upbeat. It's quite a lively show. There's lots of traditional fiddling, Rankin tunes are thrown in there and there's a smattering of step-dancing and a number of traditional carols done in Rankin arrangements."

The Rankin Sisters love to perform Christmas music. It brings back happy memories of when they sang carols in church and when the family was all together celebrating the season, she recalls. Distance separates many of the Rankins now as some members of the family live in other parts of the world so it is not easy to all get together, she says.

The Rankin Sisters have made their Christmas show an annual tradition. Their beautiful three-part harmonies are the result of singing together since they were barely old enough to hold sheet music and sing in their church choir, Heather Rankin recalls.

No Rankin show would be complete without a few laughs. In true Cape Breton style, these sisters know how to keep the party going with a few laughs and stories of Christmases past and present.

It was 12 years ago while the Rankin Family was on hiatus that the sisters decided to create a holiday album. Do You Hear ... Christmas with Heather, Cookie & Raylene Rankin is still one of the best-selling Christmas recordings in Canada.

"It sells pretty well during our shows. We tend to cover a number of the tunes on the record during the show. I think people leave the show with a good feeling and they want to take a piece of it home so they want to pick up a copy for a gift or to play for themselves."

When The Rankin Family was formed in 1989, Raylene and John Morris Rankin managed the group through its first two years and two albums and did all of the promotional work as well. Now The Rankin Sisters have others managing and promoting their work so when they sing together, she says, they are able to concentrate on the music.

They put out an album with brother Jimmy Rankin in 2007 and did a national tour together at that time too which was a huge success. They are talking about doing an acoustic tour with him, possibly in 2011.

What do the sisters do when they aren't on tour? Cookie Rankin lives in Tennessee where she is married to a music engineer and producer. Raylene Rankin is busy with her family life in Halifax but she still performs as a solo artist and with her family.

Heather Rankin, who also lives in Halifax, has always had a passion for performance and theatre. When she isn't performing with her sisters, she will sometimes audition for live theatre or for movie roles.

The Rankin Sisters are all part-owners of The Red Shoe Pub in Mabou which is open in spring, summer and fall. Heather Rankin says it's a place to come and enjoy a beer, some great food and good music. For the first two years she managed the pub.

"Singing comes a lot more naturally to me. Not to blow my own horn but I did do a good job and we did survive those two years but it is very time-consuming. It's in very good hands there now."

If you see The Rankin Sisters' Maritime Christmas show you will come away filled with Christmas spirit, she says. It is their chance to spend the season together and it is a chance to celebrate the season with their fans.

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