East Coast country singer Jimmy Rankin is back on Cape Breton Island after spending most of the past 10 years in Nashville and on his latest album he reminisces about his Nova Scotia home.
Rankin – a multiple Juno, Canadian Country Music and East Coast Music Award winner and past member of the Rankin Family – had been visiting Nashville since the mid-’90s before moving there with his wife and children around 2009 looking for “a change of scenery and some place that was full of music.” He said moving back to Nova Scotia was a tough choice.
“We were at a point where were either staying there for good because our kids were getting older and we were really dug in or we were going to move back to Nova Scotia and so we decided to move back,” Rankin said. “It was a hard decision to make but election night (2016) about 11 p.m. we made the decision. So anyway we came back and upon my arrival I’d been thinking about making this roots record.”
Last year Rankin released Moving East, his first full album recorded in Nova Scotia with provincial musicians including producer Joel Plaskett and fiddler Ashley MacIsaac. The accompanying Songs from Route 19 Tour, named after the highway that runs through his part of Cape Breton, comes to Nanaimo’s Port Theatre on Oct. 16.
Rainkin said the record dips into his back catalogue and includes songs he wrote for the Rankin family as well as songs recorded by other people. The record features pub songs, sea chanteys, murder ballads, love songs, barrelhouse blues and traditional Cape Breton fiddle.
He said the songs are about the small communities along that stretch of Cape Breton’s west coast, the people who live in them and what it’s been like to return after so many years. Other songs, like These Roads, are about Route 19 itself.
“There were a lot of accidents on those roads,” Rankin said. “It’s sort of the heart and soul of the record, the nucleus, and it’s about travel and tragedy.”
The record concludes with a nod to Rankin’s childhood: a group of traditional Celtic fiddle tunes featuring Ranking, MacIsaac and pianist Hilda Chiasson.
“It’s recorded lo-fi and that’s very much inspired by the music that i grew up listening to,” he said. “Celtic Cape Breton fiddle music.”
While Rankin has already toured the album through parts of Canada, he’s going “coast to coast on tea and toast” to make sure he doesn’t miss anyone.
“I’m touring it again because I was out for five or six weeks and I just couldn’t get to every place,” he said. “So here I am again hitting the road.”
WHAT’S ON … Jimmy Rankin performs at the Port Theatre, 125 Front St., on Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. All seats $42.50.