Sunday, March 23, 2014

New Music: Jimmy Rankin - Back Road Paradise

Growing up in a family who frequently listened to country music, it formed a part of the soundtrack of my adolescence.  While mainstream country definitely seems to have gone to shit this past decade, if you dig hard enough you can still find something good (check out Rosanne Cash’s recent album for more proof). I still remember the first time I saw the Movin’ On video by The Rankins. Initially it appeared to be a catchy tune with some girls with obvious talent singing, but then came Jimmy Rankin, wearing his leather jacket, singing “cigarettes and coffee, won’t keep a man alive…” with nasty snarl on his face and an aroma of total confidence. It was the first time I realized you could be rocker and still appreciate other genres of music.

April 1st sees the release of Jimmy Rankin’s sixth studio album titled Back Road Paradise. A noticeable difference to prior releases, Jimmy left most of his folk sound behind and hit this one in full out country. The opening track, Cool Car, showcases this with plenty of pedal steel guitar, twangy rhythm, and a very polished sound. Songs: Paris or Rome and Shades continue with this ‘new country Jimmy sound’. Is it a bad new sound? Not at all, it’s just different. Songs: Falling So Hard, Back Road Paradise and Whiskey When the Sun Goes Down had a bit more familiar sound, still very country, but it had more of the ‘Jimmy’ voice that we all know and love. There are also a few guest appearances on this album including a great fast duet with Jim Cuddy on Never Gonna Leave and a beautiful ballad with Allison Krauss on Flames.

This album grew on me more with every listen (played it five times this weekend already!). While at first it blends in with modern country music, Jimmy’s great song writing and Maritime style give it an edge that makes it stand out. The big difference is… well… it’s actually good country. It’s sure to hit the best of both worlds with lots of happy, feel-good party songs for the back road country fans, and plenty of great lyrics and catchy tunes for the more folky listeners. Not a weak song on this album.

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