Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Rankin Family - Real Folk, Real Music

If you like North American folk music, you're probably already tuned-in to one of Canada's finest acts: The Rankin Family. Hailing from the rural areas around Mabou on Cape Breton Island, The Rankins are legendary in the Maritimes and all of Canada. They have a sizeable following in the US as well, due to the frequent play their tunes are afforded on local and regional folk shows across the radio dial.

When my partner and I landed in Halifax on our recent trip to Cape Breton for the Celtic Colours festival, the cabbie that took us to town from the airport confided that the only music he really listened to or cared about was produced by the Rankin Family. And that was before we even got to the Island. Check out the group's website here. Download: Sunset and Nothing Like an Ocean for a taste.

Once on Cape Breton, the influence of the family is ubiquitous. The Rankin sisters run one of the Island's best-known pubs, The Red Shoe Pub, in Mabou (pictured above). In addition to great food and drink, the pub features Ceilidhs (Kay-Lees) nightly, with a lot of fiddle playing, during the season. And you're bound to hear some Scots' Gaelic being spoken, and certain to hear some songs in the ancient language of the Celtic Gaels.

Mabou is a center of Gaelic language resurgence. It even has a local government office of "Gaelic Affairs." I admire Canada's commitment to multicultural diversity and to respecting and preserving the languages of its many different citizens. And I admire the Rankin family, for their music and hospitality and for their ability to carry on the tradition after significant family loss. Lovers of folk music everywhere continue to mourn the loss of John Morris Rankin, the group's co-founder and inspiration, killed in a car accident in Cape Breton on January 16, 2000.

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