-by John Gillis
Jimmy Rankin’s new album Back Road Paradise isn’t even officially released yet, but the Mabou-born and Nashville-based singer-songwriter already has a smash hit on his hands with the opening track, Cool Car.
The single and new video is already climbing the charts in the number two spot on CMT Canada.
Cool Car is typical of many of the songs on Back Road Paradise – soaring vocals, great lyrics, catchy riffs – except perhaps a little more country than Rankin’s previous records. The Cool Car video was shot in Big Sur, California by award-winning director Margaret Malandruccolo.
Back Road Paradise was produced in Toronto last fall with producer Bill Bell (Jason Mraz, Tom Cochrane, Tara MacLean) who has also lent his musical talents to Rankin’s previous efforts, Forget About The World and Tinseltown.
“Bill’s a terrific musician and a very talented producer based in Los Angeles, and I really enjoy working with him,” Rankin told The Oran last week. When he’s not in the studio Bell is often touring as musical director for Jason Mraz.
Expect to hear a little more pedal steel on Rankin’s new recording tastefully played by Burke Carroll and Dan Dugmore.
“For me, going country is a natural progression, and that’s where I am right now,” said Rankin.
The result may be some of Rankin’s best material yet.
The songs are all well-crafted, a Rankin hallmark, and this time he’s done a lot of co-writing, quite often with his Canadian cohorts in Nashville – Patricia Conroy, Gordie Sampson, and Bob and Clint Moffatt. You’ll also hear contributions from his long-time guitar player, Jamie Robinson, and Cape Breton’s Steven MacDougall (Slowcoaster).
It will be no surprise if Rankin has trouble selecting singles to release – there are so many to choose from.
You’ll find Rankin mining some familiar territory: love and loss, tragedy and triumph, but there’s always a new twist. Flames and Shades are two new songs that come to mind that show Rankin pushing the boundaries of his creations. Shades was written on the day that George Jones died, and Rankin said he and co-writer Conroy “did their best to channel the legendary country singer that day.”
There are other greats as well – two of my favourites being Falling So Hard (written with Gordie Sampson and Jamie Robinson) and I’ve Got A Feeling (with Conroy and Jamie Warren). You’ll also find backing vocals on a couple of numbers from Alison Krauss and Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo.
“You’ll hear some Everly Brothers influenced vocals on Never Gonna Leave. The feedback I’ve received on the recording to date has been really good. I think we’ve found a nice mix of country and pop,” said Rankin.
The most country sounding tune is the title track – a lively upbeat number, Back Road Paradise. Fans will also be kicking up their heels and clapping their hands no doubt soon to the closing track, When the Sun Goes Down (echoes of Feel The Same Way Too).
Rankin is looking forward to bringing a full band to his CD release show in Halifax at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on March 28th. The record is set to be released in early April.
Rankin will also be in the Maritimes in early April for appearances at the East Coast Music Awards in Charlottetown prior to heading out on a cross-Canada tour in support of his new recording later next month.
Fans are reminded they can also vote for Jimmy for Entertainer of the Year for the East Coast Music Awards.
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