Jimmy Rankin happy to bring slick new album home

Jimmy Rankin

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

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Where: Charlie White Theatre, 2243 Beacon Ave., Sidney

Tickets: Sold out

Almost a quarter century after he wrote Fare Thee Well Love, which earned him a Juno for single of the year in 1994, Jimmy Rankin isn’t resting on his reputation as Can-folk royalty.

If anything, the man behind one of the many Rankin Family songs that defined the East Coast of Canada is working harder than ever.

“A lot of people don’t last this long,” Rankin said from a tour stop in Prince George, where he performed Tuesday. “It can be a very difficult and hard and cold industry, but I’ve stuck to my guns my entire career.”

Rankin considers himself “very fortunate” to have had such success over his career, which began in the late ’80s with his Nova Scotia family members in the Rankins. But now that he’s fully immersed in a solo career (his Rankins duties have subsided for the indefinite future), the journey is now his own.

“[The Rankins] is a whole other career and I still have fans from those days. But I’ve been doing my solo career longer than I did the Rankins. I’m going on 14 years [as a solo artist] but I still feel fresh. I still have a lot to do. And I want to do it.”

Rankin is touring Canada in support of Back Road Paradise, his sixth solo album. His concert on Saturday at the Charlie White Theatre in Sidney is sold out, like many other dates on his tour. He credits that to his supportive fan base, many of whom have been there since the start.

“The great thing is I can go across the country and people know who I am. I have fans that go back 25 years. It’s really wonderful to be able to go to each province and fill a house.”

The curve of his solo career has seen Rankin dabble in a range of styles. For Back Road Paradise, he tried his hand at slick and well-produced. The album’s sonic sheen makes perfect sense. With contributions from a roster of country music artists, including Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, Alison Krauss, Gordie Sampson and Patricia Conroy, the influence of Music City, U.S.A., is embedded in the record.

Rankin spends his winters in Nashville and his summers in Nova Scotia. He moved to Nashville four years ago mostly for the weather, but he was by no means unaware of what goes on in the country music capital. “There is every kind of music there, every kind of songwriter, every kind of player. It’s really the last of the music meccas. It’s a pretty amazing place in that regard and very inspiring.”

To fill out the recording, Rankin wanted Back Road Paradise to have the perfect mix of seasoned pros and longtime friends, which he feels he succeeded in gathering. Even the addition of country music giant Krauss, whom he had met on occasion, proved to be the perfect fit on the duet Flames, Rankin said.

“It keeps it fun for me and it’s always exciting to see what someone is going to add or how it is going to work. You don’t know. It could be the best musician in the world, but if the voices don’t sound well together it may not work. Fortunately, I’ve been very lucky up to this point.”

His hometown of Mabou, N.S., is a place of comfort for Rankin, though it also carries some sadness for the singer. He comes from a large family so death is an oft-recurring fact of life. But the loss of two siblings and bandmates in particular — brother John Morris Rankin, who was killed in a car crash in 2000; and sister Raylene Rankin, who died of cancer in 2012 — hit him especially hard.

He felt their absence when he was making Back Road Paradise. “I didn’t have four other people to bounce ideas off — that kind of support,” he said. “In the end, it came down to me.”

Rankin sees his family members many times over the course of the year and more often when he’s home for the summer. He’s a Canadian through and through, something he never tires of telling folks in Nashville.

“Home is where you are,” he said, a tinge of Nova Scotia still in his voice. “I’m a Canuck at heart. It’s where they will lay me to rest.”


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