Jimmy Rankin's cross-Canada World tour
Forget About the World tour, with guest artist Kylee Epp
Summit Theatre, Cascades Casino
Tuesday, May 24, at 8 p.m.
(Doors open at 7 p.m.)
Tickets $25 at www.ticketweb.ca
or Casino Guest Services
Jimmy Rankin is taking a quick break from the road at a service station on a stretch of highway south of Fort McMurray, Alta.
Stepping out of the truck to find a quiet place to talk, Rankin explains there is no bus on this tour, no giant amps and, even if there were, no crew of roadies to haul them in and out of arenas.
No, this time, the singer-songwriter is making his way across Canada, accompanied only by his guitarist and one techie, as he performs in small, intimate venues along the way.
On Tuesday, he’ll be in Langley to play the Summit Lounge inside Cascades Casino.
“I love (small theatres) because you’re very close with your audience,” says the musician who rose to fame as one of the five siblings who made up Cape Breton’s famous Rankin Family.
“You’re not trying to reach the back of an arena with a guitar — although I’ve done that too, and it’s fine.”
He’ll be playing quite a bit from Forget About the World, his first solo album in four years, but Rankin likes to keep his set list open in the second half of the show and take a few audience requests.
If he can remember them, he’ll play them, he said.
It’s flattering, he said, to know that people remember and still enjoy his older pieces.
The show itself, is “a bit of a roller coaster,” said Rankin.
Despite the fact there are only two of them on stage, it occasionally turns into a rock and roll show.
“We can get loud,” he laughed.
Although Rank said it’s been “too long” between solo albums, the musician spent the four years in between touring with his sisters and “constantly collecting ideas and writing.”
His last album was a rootsy, bluesy effort, Rankin said.
“For this record, I wanted to build on the last one — make it more radio friendly.”
While some of the songs are more produced, “others are just me and an acoustic guitar.”
But the nucleus of the album, he said, is a single called Here in My Heart.
And, it has the added cachet of featuring a guitar solo by none other than country music star Keith Urban.
Sometimes, getting something you want is as simple as asking for it.
“I met Keith about 10 years ago at the CCNAs and we ended up jamming together,” said Rankin, describing Urban as “just a gentleman.”
After that, he said, the two artists would “bump into each other, from time to time.”
“We needed a guitar solo for that song, so I got in touch and he very graciously came into the studio in Nashville and played this amazing solo.”
And then, for Walk that Way, Rankin was joined by another well known artist, Ontario singer-songwriter Serena Ryder — best known for her singles Little Bit of Red and Weak in the Knees.
“I wanted to do a duet — I hadn’t done one in 20 years, since Fair Thee Well with (his sister) Cookie,” Rankin explained.
Ryder’s soulful voice was a natural choice, he added.
“I’d only met her once (before) in a bar,” he said.
“Fortunately she agreed, and she’s an amazing singer. Our voices worked well together.”
Once the music is made, there’s the matter of getting the word out about it.
Rankin did his best to avoid Twitter but finally gave in about four or five months ago.
“I rejected it for so long,” he said.
“But it’s a great way to connect with fans.”
In a day when the airwaves and Internet are chock full of music, it’s every artist’s challenge to connect with and keep fans, he said.
So he tweets.
And he’s got profiles on Facebook and MySpace.
“I lead a pretty interesting life. I’m on the road a lot,” he said of what he chooses to share with followers.
If something catches his eye, he’ll snap a pic and tweet it out. And before his new album came out last month he tweeted out little bites ahead of time.
And the artist is happy to get responses, too.
“I’m finding out people are really interested,” he said.