The Rankin Family takes the stage, unplugged

After dazzling East Coast audiences for almost two decades with their familial harmonies and Celtic-influenced songs, Cape Breton’s The Rankin Family is going back to basics for a pair of shows at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre this Saturday and Sunday.

Show time each evening is 7:30 p.m.

The Rankin Family’s Acoustic Tour sees the sibling musical band giving its new songs, as well as its tried, tested and true material, the acoustic treatment, something that Jimmy Rankin says was a completely natural thing for the group.

“I think the initial impetus for this tour was to be selfish and give us something new to learn and look forward to, but then it became about going back to how we started playing music in the first place,” he says.

“When we started making music, it was very acoustic, very bare bones and very intimate. We have been rehearsing and revamping our catalogue specifically for these shows. It has honestly been a lot of fun; the stark nature of these shows allows us to focus on the vocal delivery of these songs, which is primarily what we are about.”

Jimmy notes that some of their songs sound drastically different in the acoustic environment, especially considering some of the tracks are given the full-band instrumentation on record. The process of selecting the songs for performance was an interesting exercise, he says, but that since the bulk of the tracks were originally written on acoustic guitar or piano, it was very natural to bring the songs back to that state in preparation for this tour.

The early part of this decade was largely a quiet one for The Rankins, who had gone their separate ways in 1999.

The band re-grouped for 2007’s Reunion, its first record of new material since the unfortunate passing of sibling John Morris Rankin in an auto accident in 2000. Reunion was followed by a second full-length record, These Are The Moments, in 2009.

As far as Jimmy is concerned, the band is in a much happier place now, with members working on their own terms and schedule as opposed to working on someone else’s agenda.

“There was a time through the ’90s that we were contractually obligated to deliver records. It was a job then, mind you.

“It was a great job and a successful one at that. Then in 1999-2000, we sort of disbanded and I didn’t think we would ever get back together as a touring unit. Then we were approached to do Reunion and surprisingly found that we still had fans out there.”

Jimmy says that he is happy with the pace of life he and his musical siblings are keeping now. By not making The Rankins a full-time priority, returning to the comfortable confines of the group is a more pleasurable, fun experience for all involved.

Further to that, Jimmy admits there is a chemistry between the quartet that has been cemented by years of playing together, likening the experience to “total harmony” and synchronization with one other.

“Just from the experience of having played with each other in the band for so long, we seem to each have this innate ability to know what the other ones are going to do without really having to verbally communicate with each other.”

When all was quiet in the land of the Rankin Family, Jimmy set about developing himself as a solo artist, releasing three critically acclaimed records in addition to an ambitious touring schedule that led him to play “hundreds of shows” right across Canada.

“Embarking on a solo career was a very new process to me,” he admits. “I was always a part of a band in the past so it was a little different to make a record on my own and call all of the creative shots by myself.

“I knew that I was going to be capable of doing it but not having done it before, there were a lot of challenges at the time. It is virtually second nature to me now though.”

With The Rankins tour schedule booked through the end of the month, JImmy anticipates being able to put the finishing touches on his next solo record soon after the tour concludes. At the time of his interview with the Times & Transcript, he was aiming for a release date of April 2011.

Even with no new record to tour behind as a group, Jimmy is more than happy to be keeping company and making music with his siblings once again.

“This acoustic tour is going to be a lot more intimate than shows we have done in the past. I think our fans are really going to enjoy the show.”

Article published in November 11, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript