Rawlins Cross,
Make It On Time
(self-produced, 1998)

Playing in the background, Make It On Time would probably come across as a straight rock album. But Celtic-Canadian rockers Rawlins Cross aren't so easy to place in a slot, blending enough elements of their Scots-Irish and Maritimes heritage to make the music stand out in your memory.

The band is well-staffed, employing the musical talents of Dave Panting (guitars, mandolin, harmonica, backing vocals), Geoff Panting (accordions, keyboards, backing vocals), Ian McKinnon (Highland bagpipes, whistles, bodhran, percussion, jaw harp), Joey Kitson (lead and backing vocals, harmonica), Howie Southwood (drums, percussion) and Brian Bourne (Chapman stick, acoustic and electric bass guitars, tabla, 12-string electric guitar, backing vocals). If that's not enough, there are also guest musicians Gail Tapper (harp), Christina Smith (cello) and Chris Corrigan (backing vocals).

It's certainly a full sound. And while gritty vocals and plugged-in instrumentation does give the overall impression of modern rock, the extra touches provided by whistles, pipes, harmonica and other Celtic/folk traditions are a vital part of the complete sound. Several songs in particular, such as "Boogieland," "Crossroad," "Some People," "Where Would I Be," "The Deep Blue" and the heavy-piping "Rockaway," are so infectiously upbeat the album is almost possible to ignore or forget. "You Will Always Have My Love" and "Two Islands" are good examples of slow-paced rock ballads, and the band loses none of its polish when the tempo slows to a lazy crawl.

A pair of instrumental tracks are also musical powerhouses, and it's here where the Celtic influences really shine through. The album ends with "A Winter's Tale," a lovely Geoff Panting original tune written for a Shakespeare production in Newfoundland. One might expect so mellow a melody to seem out of place at the end of such a high-energy album, but on the contrary, it's a beautiful, soothing way to end the Rawlins Cross experience, and the addition of harp and cello to the lineup for this track was brilliant.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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