Jimmy Rankin,
Song Dog
(EMI Music Canada, 2001)

According to legend ... when the world was being born the coyotes were howling at the universe, and they were called "song dogs." Jimmy Rankin felt it was a good analogy to artists and songwriters, who are basically just storytellers telling their stories to the world, and chose to use this as the title of his CD. Jimmy's a Song Dog for sure! Combining 12 songs with very strong, well-written lyrics, this is a CD that is going to put Jimmy Rankin on the Canadian Songwriters Map, more so than he already is!

Many of you will recognize Jimmy Rankin as the lead singer and songwriter for the Rankin Family (later The Rankins) from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. They were one of the groups who paved the way for the popularity of Celtic music from the east coast, especially with the younger generation these days.

After 10 years of success and touring around the world, the band decided to call it quits in late 1999. Jimmy says "we'd all reached a time in our lives where we were working on different projects already and it just seemed like the best time to stop." Raylene had a young family, Heather was focusing on an acting career, Cookie was settling down and John Morris wanted to spend time at home with his family. Sadly, John Morris's plans were made all too short when he was killed in a car accident in January 2000. This is still a topic that is too close to heart for any of the members to discuss publicly. However, as a tribute, Jimmy has dedicated Song Dog to the memory of his older brother.

Jimmy has always been the primary songwriter for the Rankins, and it's like the words just pour out of life's happenings and onto paper and the stage. That's the case with this album. The songs all paint such vivid imagery that a listener is sure to find a song on there that they can relate to ... either the tragedy of losing someone, a romance, the hardships of dealing with substance-abuse or many of life's general happenings.

"Followed Her Around," the first track and single from the CD, starts the music off with a bang and is sure to peak your interest from the start. It talks about an obsessive relationship with someone that is more fantasy than reality! Already the single is climbing up the radio charts in Canada, both country and pop, and the video is receiving plenty of airplay on CMT Canada and MuchMoreMusic.

Fans of the Rankins are sure to recognize "Tripper," a tune that Jimmy has performed on occasion in the past, either at solo engagements or on tour. Based on a true story, this song recalls the loss of a friend at a young age and the time dealing with it. The song has a "rambler" feel to it, which is evident in many of Jimmy's compositions. It reminds me of "The Ballad of Malcolm Murray" from the Rankins limited edition CD "Grey Dusk of Eve."

"Tripper" falls in the midst of four tunes in the middle of the album that Rankin calls his "Maritime moment" -- an acoustic section that pays homage to his roots and speaks of troubled times, destitution and our legendary resilience.

With only a couple of paragraphs to it, "Lighthouse Heart" is a short tune but very poignant ... the piano interlude, reminiscent of John Morris's style, connects the song. "Lighthouse Heart" is a beacon of tenderness, a beautiful love song that makes no apology for its warmth or its sentiment.

"This Is The Hour," a story about Maritimers who headed west on the "Harvest Trains" to find work, is just Jimmy and his guitar ... you don't really need anything else to hear the message and the words of the song stand out. Everyone should be able to relate to this song ... having to leave your hometown to move away to find work.

Don't think Jimmy has abandoned his family though ... sister Cookie Rankin appears throughout the CD singing back-up vocals on several tracks. Other singers featured on the CD include Cassandra Vasik, Joel Feeney and Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor.

For those fans of the Rankins who have missed hearing anything new in a few years, this CD is sure to be a must-have in your collection. And for those new to the music, this is a great collection of songs to listen to and really make you think. And I'd recommend going out and purchasing some of the Rankins previous albums and hear some more of Jimmy's fine songwriting skills.

[ by Kimberley Marie ]
Rambles: 25 August 2001

Buy it from Amazon.com.

Visit Jimmy's website and the Rankin Family's website to learn more.