The Rankins,
(Rounder, 1999)

This is my first Rankins album, and I enjoyed it very much indeed! I was delighted by the mix of country and Celtic songs -- roughly half of each -- and by the mix of slow and fast songs in each style.

I know that many people who like Celtic music don't care much for country, and many people who like country a lot aren't aware of Celtic music at all, even though it's among country's roots. This album is a mixture, and would be a wonderful gift to someone who likes country from someone who would like to interest them in Celtic as well. Modern country music contains such a wide range of sounds, from rock through blues to bluegrass, that I think country fans will not be put off by the Celtic tracks and may well be intrigued. I'm not as confident going the other direction, though, as I've noticed many Celtic fans loathe anything country [Editor's note: Does she mean me??] and don't care to expand their tastes that way. (I admit I was like that for many years myself, until I found myself more and more settling on country stations as I cruised the FM bands while driving, after I just couldn't stand top-40 and the like one more second.)

The first song, "Movin' On," is a lively upbeat country song of the type that first got me listening to country, and it's one of my favorites here. "Let It Go," "Maybe You're Right" and "One Day I Walk" are slower country songs with more thoughtful themes and very strong, poetic lyrics. "Maybe You're Right" uses some Celtic vocal style, but it's subtle. The song I liked the least is also a country one, "Long Way to Go," sung by an envious, less successful acquaintance to someone doing better; I didn't care for the theme and the music didn't overcome that.

The strictly Celtic songs are traditional, several in medleys such as the "Greenburg Medley" of jigs and the "Parlour Medley" of Celtic mouth music, where vocalizations take the place of many instruments. Fun stuff! "An Innis Aigh (The Happy Isle)" and "Farewell To Lochaber" have beautifully simple arrangements that set off the melody and the singers' voices.

The real strength of this album, though, lies in the tracks that span styles. "Bells" is a lovely song about unrequited love that fits in no particular style; its arrangement includes rich but understated strings that set off the poetry of the lyrics. "Cold Winds" is Celtic in style and subject matter, with a very contemporary instrumental setting, similar in that way to "O Tha Mo Dhuil Buit (Oh How I Love Thee)," another traditional song and my other favorite here. "Tailor's Daughter" sounds like a country song with Celtic influences, and the words are similar to any number of traditional ballads. The oddest and most interesting piece, "Weddings, Wakes and Funerals," also bends styles; it's a spoken-word piece said over a spare accompaniment in which various traditional tunes intermingle.

The liner notes are excellent, giving all the information one wants about the instruments and players for each track, and including the lyrics -- and translations, where necessary.

I like this album a lot, and recommend it to people who like country, and those who like Celtic who may want to broaden their horizons a bit. And, of course, to those of us who enjoy both!

review by
Amanda Fisher

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new