Rawlins Cross in it for the long haul

The holiday season can be a precarious time for travelers no matter where in Canada you might reside. Given the seemingly all too frequent reminders of winter that we have received over the past couple of weeks, chances are that you know or know of someone who has had their travel plans somehow impacted in some way.

After having spent approximately 10 days of the Christmas holidays in his home province of Newfoundland, Rawlins Cross member Ian McKinnon was actually due back in his adopted city of Halifax one day prior to speaking to the Times & Transcript last week.

But due to some nasty and persistent fog on The Rock, McKinnon and his wife saw their travel plans delayed to the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. the next day. In speaking with McKinnon, you’d never know he had been up since the wee hours of the morning though. The Rawlins Cross band member is chatty and cordial in speaking about the Celtic music group’s colourful past, present as well and possible future.

The band performs tomorrow night at the Capitol Theatre.

Formed in Newfoundland in the late 1980s, Rawlins Cross would merely serve as a precursor to the talent that would flow from the province in the decades that followed.

From the time the band formed until the turn of the century, Cross released a handful of records and had the opportunity to perform all over the world.

Then at the turn of the century, the band decided it was time to focus on other endeavours. The hiatus lasted almost seven years.

“There were a few things, artistically and professionally, that each of us were interested in exploring,” McKinnon starts. “Another big factor at the time was that myself and Joey (Kitson) both had young families on the go. Plus my wife had a full-time career herself and the six-week tours of Europe were getting pretty tiresome for the entire family. It really just seemed to be a good time for a bit of a break from Rawlins Cross.”

McKinnon led the charge of getting Rawlins Cross back together in 2008 when the band released Anthology, a collection of some of its best-loved tracks in addition to a few new songs recorded specifically for the compilation.

“Getting together to play music again for the Anthology collection was such a joy to everybody in the band,” he says. “Everyone was completely re-energized about it and just had a blast. It was great to be able to come back together as Rawlins Cross and not have the same pressures with our career that we had in the 1990s.”

Rawlins Cross includes McKinnon (highland pipes, tin whistle, bodhran), Kitson (vocals, harmonica), Dave Panting (guitar, mandolin, banjo, vocals), Geoff Panting (keyboards, accordion), Brian Bourne (bass, Chapman stick, vocals) and Howie Southwood (drums, percussion).

To coincide with the promotion of Anthology, the group played a string of dates where they quickly saw that their fans had not forgotten about them.

Buoyed by that continued success, even after having spent the previous seven years dormant as a band, Rawlins Cross entered a Halifax recording studio to make Heart Head Hands, the group’s eighth record and first in 12 years.

Recorded by Charles Austin, the album revisits familiar territory for the band but still manages to sound fresh and avoids sounding as though the band was somehow coerced into making another record.

Though Austin is perhaps best known in music circles for recording indie-rock bands, McKinnon became a fan of his recording style after hearing Thom Swift’s newest record, which Austin had overseen.

“We knew that we wanted to come into Halifax to make this new record, and knowing Charles and appreciating the work he has been doing over the years, it made sense to take the project there,” McKinnon notes.

Reviews for Heart Head Hands have been overwhelmingly positive to date, something that McKinnon acknowledges is a nice feather in the group’s hat.

“We are looking forward to getting out, performing the new songs and getting out to promote the recording. This tour will see us performing a mix of the old gems with the new material as well.”

Now that the band has been reformed and continues to be well received, does McKinnon see another Rawlins Cross record on the horizon?

“As long as our fans come out and support the music and want to hear more of it, I think it is safe to say that we will continue to make music.”

Fans interested in previewing and downloading three tracks from the new Rawlins Cross record Heart Head Hands free of charge can visit www.rawlinscross.com/moncton

Article published in January 14, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript