Last Reviews - "Collection" update on June 22, 2010
September 6, 2002
Canada's Best Kept Secret
A friend of mine at work knew of my love for good folk music and gave me a copy of this CD for my birthday. All I can say is that I'm glad she did! This is an absolutely lovely compilation of some of the best modern eclectic folk that I've ever heard. Though my tastes in folk music definately run toward the ethnomusicological/authentic, I have to make exceptions for groups as lovely as this.
The Rankin Family hails from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. On of the most far-flung of Gaelic speaking areas, Cape Breton has kept pure the traditions of their Scots ancestors, with a fair mix of North American folk and sea chantey traditions. The Rankin Family is steeped in these traditions, singing ancient songs in Gaelic, with a beautiful choral blend. The men in the group are also excellent instrumentalists...the late John Rankin's fiddle playing is wonderful in an authentic Gaelic style.
But the Rankins are not just traditionalists. They also sing contemporary "celtic revival" songs and some things that have an almost country flair (not a fan of country myself, but this stuff is really good.) The songs reflect their love of Cape Breton and of the sea. I found myself haunted by so many of the tunes on this album.
And the singing is marvelous. The family is blessed with wonderful voices, particularly the women. The harmony is dense and absolutely pure. It reminds me of the best of family groups in the Appalachians and in Ireland. Highlights of the album include the lovely Gillis Mountain and Rise Again, which I can't stop listening to.
This is pure music, filled with love of people and land. There is a sweetness in the music that touches me deeply. If you like Clannad, Mary Black, or the McGarrigle Sisters, you will love this music. I can't recommend this album highly enough!
July 16, 2000
Ever since I passed through Mabou, the delightful little Nova Scotian hometown of the Rankins, I have been dying to buy one of their recordings, and boy am I glad it was this one. The powerful lyrics and harmonies beautifully express the hundreds of years of struggles that Cape Bretoner's experienced. "Roving Gypsy Boy" tells the all-too-familiar tale of an individual searching for his place in life, and "Rise Again" proudly boasts that "we" (Nova Scotians in the case of the Rankins) take back seat to nobody. The tale of a Cape Bretoner then continues with tracks like "Christy Campbell Medley," an arrangement which represents the good old fashion fiddling that many Bretoners use to relieve the stress after a long hard day's of work. The CD then concludes with a highly energized rendition of "The Mull River Shuffle," a piece which leaves the soul feeling refreshed. I am ecstatic to add this recording to my Celtic collection of more than 40 CDs, and I highly recommend it to anyone.
February 16, 2000
What an introduction!
Sadly, I only learned of The Rankins upon hearing of the death of brother John Morris Rankin. I ordered "Collection" the next day and was not disappointed. The incredible sibling harmonies are mesmerizing and terribly addictive. I now wake up most mornings with Rankin melodies in my head.
One important note as yet unmentioned by other reviewers is that "Collection" is also a multimedia CD. Pop it in your PC or Mac and you get video clips, photos, history and sound clips from each song on the band's preceding albums. Very well done and a great bonus! I want all my CDs to be like this.
January 20, 2000
A brilliant group
The Canadian group The Rankin Family is absolutely phenomenal. Singer/songwriter Jim Rankin is an absolute genius, and the rest of the family complement him wonderfully. "Fare Thee Well Love" is a most beautiful song. Too bad only Canada got to hear this amazing group. Also, god bless the late John Morris Rankin. He will be missed.
November 13, 1999
A well produced album with many diverse styles.
The new "Collections" album by the Rankins impressed me from the first track. Well written, produced, and featuring a widely diverse collection of styles from classic folk to folk-rock and celtic it showed that this family has talent to spare and the wisdom to put it on display in a well conceived way. Those who love these musical styles as I do will enjoy the hour of listening brought to you by these talented performers.
November 9, 1999
I'd Give this Album 6 or 7 Stars If I Could
Why have we in the United States heard so little of the Rankins? Although the album was released in the USA this year, I actually bought it in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, over two years ago.
These folks are so talented, it ain't fair to the rest of the world. Get their music while you can. As another reviewer noted, they have decided to quit recording together.
The harmonies are superior in quality, and Raylene's voice will knock you on your backside, guaranteed.
You cannot possibly be disappointed in the Rankins no matter what kind of music you call your favorite. Well, OK, so MAYBE if you have a strong leaning to hip hop, this isn't for you. The rest of you, please, give this album a try.
October 15, 1999
A "must have" for any Rankin fan.
Even though my collection of CD's contains all of the music the Rankins have produced, this is the "must have". The new mix of Rovin' Gypsy Boy and the lovely "Down by the Sally Garden" (which is not on any of their previous albums) make this a fresh approach to music I've often heard before. Since the recent announcement of the dis-banding of the Rankins the opportunity to own new Rankin music will be gone. If you do not have any of their other CD's this collection will give you a nice broad view of what we will all be missing when they are no longer performing and recording together.
September 21, 1999
Rankins blend Celtic, Canadian and Country influences
Linda Ronstadt once said that singing harmony could be done by any good singer, but that there is something very special, almost spiritual, when siblings sing harmony. It's not only in the talent and spirit, it's in the genetics.
She was speaking about the Everly Brothers but she might have been talking about The Rankins. They are special, indeed.
This family band from Mabou, Nova Scotia shows great virtuosity vocally and instrumentally in this album which blends some traditional Maritime music with Celtic and Country influences.
Jimmy Rankin is a great singer/songwriter and plays hot licks on guitar. Brother John Morris Rankin provides outstanding melody lines on piano and the occasional fiddle, too. And the family is augmented with a bunch of first rate players.
But, for the uninitiated, it is the three sisters - Cookie, Heather and the now-retired Raylene Rankin - with their bright, clear harmonies that will bring tears to the eyes. If you don't feel chills when you hear tunes like "Rise Again," "Roving Gypsy Boy," and the seminal "Gillis Mountain," then nothing is going to get to you. And "You Feel The Same Way Too" is as good a Saturday night kick-up-your-heals country rocker as you'll ever hear.
As if the music is not enough to sell this CD, it is offered as an extended CD loaded with a wealth of information, videos and the like.
If you like Celtic, roots music or Country, this one is a no-brainer. Buy this album.
September 1996 - Budgie Bludgeon
By Julie Smith
The Rankin Family's latest contribution to the folk industry is indeed a rather likeable one. The album opens with a vastly improved remix of "Roving Gypsy Boy", which originally featured on their debut album "The Rankin Family". "Borders and Time" is up next, and in my opinion sums up the key to a good Rankin Family song, written by Jimmy and sung by Cookie, with Heather and Raylene harmonizing beautifully in the background. Having said this, Heather has a certain charm, and is very popular in her own right. Songs such as "North Country", and "Dawn by the Sally Gardens" would not have worked had Cookie or Raylene attempted them.
The album has many high points, but there are also a couple of disaster stories. These would not occur if someone would keep Raylene away from lead vocal. Her depth of voice is essential to balance the vocal harmonies of the singing trio, but putting her up front is a recipe for disaster. And if it's not torturous enough, she's only gone and found a pen as well. Yes indeed, we have Raylene's contribution to world music - "Gillis Mountain" - which should have been allowed nowhere near what is essentially a "Greatest Hits" album. Don't expect to find yourself singing along. I suppose, being a family, they want to spread the fame around a little, but some things are beyond comprehension.
Keeping in tough with their Celtic roots, there are two Gaelic songs on the album. Well - one and a half, really. "Faill-ill é" (a song which opens their live show) displays a great deal of vocal talent between the girls, but is very repetitious in places. The other is an absolute gem called "Grey Dusk of Eve". This has never appeared on any of their previous albums, although it was once released as a single, which is, at present, very hard to come by. This track combines the delicate tones of "Leis An Lurgainn" (which appeared on "North Country"), with haunting poetry written by David Field. It is sung by Cookie and Liam O'Maonlai of The Hothouse Flowers, and is altogether enchanting, with both voices suited perfectly to the song.
Now, in all fairness, without Jimmy and John Morris there would be no Rankin Family. Jimmy writes all the best songs, and an example of this has to be "Fair Thee Well Love". This is a classic track, and appears on three of their five releases, including this one. It is a shining example of great songwriting and vocal melody. Jimmy's voice is not to be sneered at either. He carries it off beautifully, alongside the sensational Cookie, to create a song which could be an anthem in it's own right.
Last, but not least, John Morris Rankin - pianist, violinist, backing vocalist, etc. Happy to stay in the background most of the time, this multitalented musician has more than a few moments of glory throughout this album. The boys seem to be the energy of the band. This can be witnessed during the live version of "Mull River Shuffle", the final track on the album. Full of a certain excitement that's missing from the original, this makes a superb finale to an altogether enjoyable album.
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