Bittersweet reunion

By Marilyn Smulders - December 19, 2006

Molly Rankin (Pearce photo)
Dalhousie arts student Molly Rankin is taking her education on the road as the newest member of one of the Atlantic region's most successful bands.

Molly adds her voice, guitar and fiddle-playing to the reunion of The Rankin Family, seven years after the Rankin siblings decided to go their separate ways, and six years after the death of John Morris Rankin, Molly's father.

"It's not so much that I'm stepping into his shoes Ñ I don't think anyone could Ñ but I definitely would like to go in the direction he did," says Molly, 19, who is taking a hiatus from her studies in music and theatre to go on tour. The 22-city tour begins in Nanaimo, B.C. on Jan. 14 and ends in St. John's on Feb. 15. The stop at the Halifax Metro Centre is set for Feb. 10.

One of her songs, Sunset, has also been recorded on Rankin Family Reunion, due out Jan. 9.

Molly grew up in Mabou, Cape Breton, surrounded by her famous musical family. When she was a little kid, the Rankins rocketed to fame with their second CD, Fare Thee Well Love. Released independently in 1989, Fare Thee Well Love was re-released in 1992 after the band was signed to Capitol/EMI and went on to sell more than 500,000 copies.

With their radio-friendly, unique Celtic-country sound, the Rankins won 15 East Coast Music Awards, six Junos, four SOCAN Awards and three Canadian Country Music Awards. Their albums were all big sellers, including North Country (1993), Endless Seasons (1995), Grey Dusk of Eve (1995), Collection (1996) and Uprooted (1998).

But despite all that, "Dad was just Dad," says Molly, who was 12 at the time of John Morris's death. He died in a wintry car accident in Cape Breton while driving his son Michael to a hockey game.

"He was the most normal Dad ever," she adds, her fiddle case on her knees during an interview at the Dalhousie Arts Centre. "He chopped the wood and coached my brother's baseball team. You would have never known he was a very successful musician."

John Morris Rankin passed on his love of music to his only daughter, who picked up the fiddle when she was 10. She took lessons, "but my dad was pretty much my mentor." Molly also writes songs and plays guitar and piano.

Hanging out with Uncle Jimmy and "the girls" Ñ that's Aunt Cookie, Aunt Raylene and Aunt Heather Ñ to record the new CD and rehearse for the tour has been "very comfortable," says Molly.

"These are people I know and love. Gosh, these people changed my diapers."

There's a touch of sadness too, she acknowledges.

"It's a bittersweet thing, but I prefer to see it as a celebration. Celebrating the thing he loved so much Ñ music Ñ brings great happiness to me and my family."

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