The Rankin Family knew all about the audacity of hope long before U.S. President Barack Obama came along.
The latest release from the Cape Breton-based family act, titled These Are The Moments, espouses weathering storms with optimism, pitting six new original tracks with the Juno and East Coast Music Award winners’ lilting Celtic approach (among them Hopeville and single Breathe Dream Pray Love) alongside remixed classics such as Fare Thee Well Love.
The timeliness of the release was unintentional, say Raylene and Jimmy Rankin, adding plans for the disc were in the works long before 2009’s zeitgeist was associated with hope and change amidst tough times.
“We took inspiration from Fare Thee Well Love and Rise Again and made an album that extended that,” says Raylene. “Songs that were about hope and living in the moment and not looking back with regret ... And oddly enough, we started working on this album a good while before all this worldly turmoil had come to the fore. I think this album is very timely.”
The family knows of what they speak. The Rankin Family’s successes have been accented by tragedy.
In early 2000, less than a year after the band members announced they would go their separate ways after a decade in the public eye, brother John Morris Rankin died in a car accident in Cape Breton.
After losing the band patriarch, the Rankins wouldn’t tour or record together until late 2006, when they released Reunion and successfully toured (One show saw the Rankins receive a standing ovation before playing a single note). But early 2007 brought another loss, when sister and group co-founder Geraldine, who had not been part of the regular lineup, died of a brain aneurysm.
“It was awful at the time,” recalls Jimmy of his brother’s death. “You’d constantly be reminded of it in every newspaper you looked at. And it didn’t seem fair, because with the touring done, this was supposed to finally be the time John Morris had for his family. When you lose someone, it’s like you close a door that you can never walk through again. But the support and condolences we got from the fans was overwhelming. They grieved with us. That really meant something.”
But brighter days bring new faces. John Morris’ daughter Molly will join the Rankin roster for selected dates on their current cross-country tour — the beginning, one might speculate, of a new generation of Rankins.
“We take it one day at a time. We don’t think that far ahead,” chuckles Jimmy. “But traditional Celtic music is thriving back where we’re from. There’s a surge of youth who have really embraced it. It’s stronger than ever.”
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