Last Reviews - "Handmade" update on June 22, 2010
March 19, 2004 - Toronto Star
The chief songwriter for the multi-award winning Canadian roots band The Rankins has emerged from the ashes of that family outfit's crash with assurance and grace. Produced in Toronto by Rankin and veteran producer Tim Thorney, these 12 strong originals are remarkable for the simplicity with which they're served up - tasteful musicianship and arrangement ideas from the likes of Pepe Francis on guitar and banjo, bassist Scott Alexander on keyboards and Richard Bell on accordion, give them the lustre, rather than studio trickery and sonic effects. More acoustic folk/pop than tradition-based roots music, Rankin's new set will likely set him up as a first-rate concert hall contender.
Handmade Review - Rating: four stars out of five
March 10, 2004 - CanWest News Service
By Greg Kennedy
Rankin's first solo effort, Song Dog (2001), rocked to the gutsy, rootsy disillusionment of Followed Her Around, bounced to the pop-inflected pleas of You & Me, and ached so sweetly with the broken-hearted Stoned Blue. Handmade fuels Rankin's evolution and drives him forward into a sunnier creative light. Here he leaves behind the th shadows that dogged him following the tragic death of his brother John Morris in 2000. The jaunty banjo hook on Morning Bound Train - the first single - carom like sunshine or a sonic pinball off the energy of Rankin's exuberant singing, in this truly addictive tune.
In the rhythmic, acoustic-guitar strum-a-thon that is Dog Out In The Rain, Rankin comes to terms lyrically that a major chapter of his life is behind him, as he embraces a new maturity: "The summer winds have come and gone / They never mean to stay." The title track, Handmade, sees Rankin leap onto the soapbox with a meaty rockabilly vibe to put the lyrical brickbat to our plastic, heartless society. When he snarls, "Give me something handmade," it's clear he means it - or else.
Expect goosebumps and glistening eyes to Colorado. In the aural wash of piano as beautiful and evocative as anything ever played by Sarah McLachlan, Rankin digs bravely to the molten core of a lost love. One can feel the blacktop blurring by as he revels in his love of the road in Sweet Wheels, reminiscent acoustically of Blue Rodeo at its best. Rankin's storytelling turns sweetly wistful in One Last Ride as he reflects on "all the things we'll never do but only talk about."
While not every tune on the album is memorable, all are well-crafted. None stink. To call Rankin a modern-day Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rolled into one artist is probably overstating the case - but the potential is there - in spades. He's musically adept at a variety of styles and genres. He defies category. The best is yet to come for this artist whose songs, so delicately constructed, can tickle the ear like a butterfly's wing while bear-hugging the heart like an old true love.
The album's title says it all: this is not assembly-line, tune-factory knockoff crap. This is lovingly, exquisitely Handmade.
December 10, 2003 - Country Music News
Handmade, Jimmy Rankin’s second solo album, ranks as one of the best “produced” albums in the history of Canadian music…combine that with Jimmy Rankin’s rootsy vocal style and his compelling songwriting, and you’ve got yourself one heckuva record.
The Tim Thorney (Cassandra Vasik / Don Neilson, etc.) production touches, using mostly acoustic instrumentation, proves that you can make a ‘sensational’ album without all the technical trappings that seem to invade many of today’s top-flight Nashville projects. Handmade is just a delight to listen to, and with each listen you hear something new and different – another mark of a great album.
The album’s lead single, Morning Bound Train is already gaining considerable airplay on Canadian radio; but it is truly just a hint of what’s in store here. And, instead of the album losing its intensity as you get deeper into the program, it in fact gets stronger with each selection, with the last four songs all potential major size hits in-the-waiting. One Last Ride, a tune about a truck driver’s last ride, may well be Jimmy Rankin’s best “country” song yet (and he’s given us a bunch of them before); while The Last Time, (one of three songs co-written with Thorney) is probably Rankin’s best-ever vocal work. Truly hypnotizin’ stuff. Then comes California Dreamer (taking a page out of fellow Easterner Denny Doherty’s Mamas & Papas archives) Rankin simply sizzles on this tune; and all of this is just a build-up to the album’s closing track, Running Home (aka "Northern Lights") which brings the Jimmy Rankin voice and song and Thorney’s tasty production to a bubbling boil-over of musical magic.
There are several other remarkable entries here with the title track Handmade (a special message song), the hard-edge Colorado, the scorching Stay; and the Lightfoot-ish Sweet Wheels all excellent efforts.
Handmade was produced in Toronto’s Tattoo studios by Tim Thorney and Jimmy Rankin, and features top session players (Mike ‘Pepe’ Francis’s guitars, dulcimer and banjo work is a key, as is Thorney’s mandolin and bouzouki). The package also sports some of the best graphics seen on a Canadian release in years. Handmade is the ‘breakthrough’ album that could make Jimmy Rankin an international star – something he’s already tasted as a member of the now defunct Rankin Family act.
December 1, 2003 - National Post
Every songwriter wants his work to find that special capsule of time and space that reflects his art. Although Cape Breton native Jimmy Rankin may have his roots in Eastern Canada, his second solo album delivers on the fact that this material flows much wider than the Celtic path he walked with the Rankin Family. Songs like Colorado, the banjo-driven hook of Morning Bound Train and the title track where Rankin belts out "give me something that is real, give something I can taste, give me something handmade" follow an acoustic muse that flows like good red wine. Elsewhere, numbers like Sweet Wheels, One Last Ride and the punchy vibe of The Last Time offer up an ambience that would make Ron Hynes proud. This is pure proof Rankin is a special breed of storyteller.
October 11, 2003
Reviewer: Zhen Stuart, from Toronto, Canada
Jimmy Rankin is one of the few recording artists out there whom I would call a musician. He plays, he sings, he writes some of the most insightful and heartbreakingly earnest songs I have ever heard. On Handmade, his second solo album, something just isn't the same. This album is about getting back to your roots, but feels a bit contrived. It lacks the naivety and flow of Song Dog. Still, some of the songs on this album are fantastic. From the rambling "Morning Bound Train" to the smooth, bluesy "Butterfly" to the sweetly mysterious "Colorado", all the songs are united by an earthy, folky sound unlike any other. Definetly worth buying and enjoying. But what makes this album worth buying is Jimmy Rankin's voice. While listening to his flawless delivery, you can't help but think that this is a man who has something to say.
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