Last Biography Update on June 22, 2010 .
If you made your way along Route 19 on Cape Breton Island, you would reach the small hamlet of Mabou located in Inverness County. Had you veered just slightly off the main highway, you would have found a small street that was once home to a number of large families. One home in particular, bordered on the Community Hall, the local gathering place for weddings, dances and anniversaries. Live music would regularly fill the air. It was in this close-knit community that Kathleen (Kaye) and Alexander (Buddy) would raise their 12 children – five of whom would eventually become known to the world as The Rankin Family.
While not performers Kathleen and Buddy had keen musical ears and a love and appreciation for music that they fostered in all their children, encouraging them to be involved in the church choir and other musical community festivals and gatherings. The older children formed a singing group, but soon went their separate ways upon graduation. It was the fourth and fifth oldest – John Morris and Raylene, who along with their younger siblings, Heather, Cookie, and Jimmy that would stay the course – getting University educations, singing to pay for the tuition, and finally in 1989 releasing their own independent self-titled recording followed in 1990, by Fare Thee Well Love. A year after the second release, they were signed to Capitol/EMI Music. When the label re-released Fare Thee Well Love in 1992 it went on to become a multi-platinum seller, topped the charts at #1 with the title track soon finding its way to the Disney Movie "Into the West", and the Family, into the hearts and souls of Canadians from coast to coast.
North Country followed in 1993, another #1 multi-platinum success, containing the popular title track in addition to Borders and Time. Grey Dusk of Eve and Endless Seasons were both released in 1995 followed by Heather, Cookie and Raylene's best selling Christmas album Do You Hear What I Hear. 1998 saw the release of their final album together – aptly title Uprooted.
In that 10-year period, the Rankin Family would be honoured with 15 East Coast Music Awards, 6 Juno Awards, 4 SOCAN Awards and 3 Canadian Country Music Awards.
In 1999, the group decided to go their separate ways, each pursuing their own interests and musical projects. In 2000 on an icy winter morning, tragedy struck when John Morris died in a single car accident on a slippery stretch of coastal road, while swerving to avoid a large pile of road salt. With the loss of what was arguably the musical heart of the Rankin's any lingering thoughts of reforming, were also laid to rest. It is no surprise that it took 8 years before a suggestion, put forward to have them reunite on a recording and in concert was met first with caution, and then enthusiasm. Was the magic still there?
REUNION – 2007:
After work shopping material in Nashville it was clear they had more than just a few songs - in fact, they had an entire album! The Reunion CD was released in January of 2007 and the family set out on a cross-Canada tour with niece Molly Rankin (the daughter of the late John Morris) completing the lineup. The tour however got off to a sad and unexpected start.
Just days before it was to begin the family lost their older sister Geraldine, who died of an aneurysm. As much as music can celebrate, so too can it heal, and thus the family opted to honour the tour dates and begin their cross Canada journey.
It was it seemed, as though no time had passed – the Rankin family played to sold out crowds and were welcomed back with standing ovations and amazing reviews:
" The four siblings possess a gift that should be shared with audiences." Saskatoon Star Phoenix
"The stirring anthem 'Rise Again' - with Raylene belting out the lyrics "we rise again in the voices of our song" – may very well be the perfect theme song for a unique family that keeps reinventing itself." - Winnipeg Free Press
"A 'standing O' at the end of last night's barn-burning Rankin Family Reunion tour was to be expected. But a standing-hello?" - Toronto Sun
"Fans whistled and hollered their approval with every new tune, and called out their thanks to band members by name at the end of every solo spot. They sang along on the songs they knew, clapped along on those they'd not heard before. It was a long overdue reunion… - Toronto Star
Night after night, audiences welcomed the Rankin Family back into the fold. The time that had passed only served to strengthen their foundation, renew their spirit and sweeten their sound. Reunion would go on to bring them their 16th East Coast Music Award for Best Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year.
At the close of the tour, CTV offered the family a special, which aired this past December, bringing in ratings just under one million!
In early 2008, musically inspired and renewed, the Rankin Family took another leap of faith, returning to the studio to begin work on their latest album These Are The Moments, now set for a February 2009 release.
THESE ARE THE MOMENTS – 2009:
With the musical footprints of “Rise Again” and “Fare Thee Well Love” anchoring the spirit of the CD, the family added industry veteran Frank Davies as the Executive Producer and Juno award-winning producer Steven MacKinnon behind the console. Together they selected and recorded all the new material (four of which were written or co-written by Jimmy and Heather) then created reworked and remixed versions of two of their biggest hits from the past with noted producer Jeff Dawson augmented the previously existing tracks chosen for the album while renowned mixer Mike Fraser (Norah Jones, AC-DC) who added his magic to them, along with the lead-off single “Breathe (Dream Pray Love)”. Rounding out the album are several other timeless Rankin classics featured in their CTV Reunion special, most of which were also written or co-written by the family.
The end result is a new, fresh, uplifting and inspiring collection of songs. Lyrically and musically it stands as a brilliant body of work that quite coincidentally reflects the hope that is so desperately sought in these uncertain times. The first single, “Breathe Dream Pray Love”, serves to introduce a lush, contemporary variation to their familiar sound and harmonies; there is “Hopeville” with its poignant and relevant lyrics, the wistful, but edgy “Straight Into Love” and the moving “Never Alone”. “My Only Wish” a song for us all and the personal ode to love, “I Would” round out the new selections. The four Rankins trade lead vocals on the CD, adding their signature harmonies throughout.
These are the Moments is set for release on Longview/MapleMusic Recordings on February 3rd along with a national tour that begins on the west coast the next day.
In addition to recording as a family, The Rankins continue to purse their own music and business endeavors. The girls own The Red Shoe Pub in their hometown of Mabou and take on individual singing projects. Raylene records and tours as a solo artist as does Jimmy who has recorded three award winning CD’s. The most recent is the 2007 release, Edge of Day. The singer/songwriter has picked up a CCMA, three SOCAN awards and one ECMA. The Rankin sisters Christmas concert tour is a perennial favourite performing to capacity crowds every year.
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