Rawlins Cross: a true Atlantic Canadian band
After a 7 year hiatus, Rawlins Cross is touring once again on the heels of their latest album Anthology (Ground Swell/Warner Music). Band leader Ian McKinnon spoke with ECC over the phone and offered his take on the reinvigorated music, the fans and how a band survives when its members live in 4 separate provinces.
Speaking on his mobile from Halifax Nova Scotia, Ian McKinnon is professional and sincere but his enthusiasm for being back in the music scene is what really shines through the ether. There's a reason he should be pleased: his band Rawlins Cross is back together touring regularly in support of a new record after spending the best part of a decade apart. As well, his independent record label Ground Swell Records is experiencing a new surge of vitality with the release of Anthology plus a solo album of Stan Rogers songs from Rawlins Cross front man Joey Kitson.
One of the most surprising things about the Rawlins Cross reunion is that, according to McKinnon, “It was almost like we’ve stepped off the stage and stepped right back on.” The band’s aptitude and mastery of their craft held true even after seven years apart and was proven by their ability to recapture their old magic without months of Zeppelinesque rehearsing or ostentatious commercial persuasion. In fact the chemistry was not at all planned but merely fell into place as they were recording four new tracks for their latest album.
As Ian recalls “We were approached by Warner about the new Anthology CD which would be a compilation album featuring bonus tracks of new music.” Released in 2008, the album features 12 tracks of old favourites spanning their previous 6 efforts and leads off with four new songs. As the band finished their recording sessions in Great Big Sea’s studio in St. John’s it left them “feeling great and there was really a sense that we were re-energized.”
On first listen the new tunes sound fresh and Joey Kitson’s belting baritone has never sounded more soulful. Howie Southwood’s percussion coupled with Brian Bourne’s Chapman stick continue to solidify the rhythm section while David and Geoff Panting interweave pleasant melodies on accordion and mandolin respectively. Finally Ian McKinnon’s Irish whistle and bagpipes round out their sound which can be experienced in full during the new four song suite “My Eliza/Rawlins' Return/Old Friends/Lt. McGuire's”.
Upon the release of Anthology the band began to ramp up their touring schedule with a charity show for Children’s Wish Foundation and a headlining slot for Halifax’s 2008 New Year’s celebration in Grand Parade which was televised on CTV. Add another TV appearance at the ECMA’s in early 2009 with new tour dates spanning Atlantic Canada and fans really began to sense that the band was back in action.
The overwhelming response led to numerous sold out dates and as McKinnon says “That’s what we were hoping for. Mind you the crowd is a little older, but when the dates were announced the big question was if the fans would be coming back.” And they have very much done so in the last few months populating YouTube with cell phone videos and brining along new faces to the crowd.
When asked what his favourite moments where in the last few months, McKinnon described a scene at a recent gig at the sold out Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival. “We have this [instrumental] tune called Memory Waltz and as we began I looked over to the side of the stage. There was a group 19 year old guys who had linked arms and were singing along!”
McKinnon also spoke about the future plans for the band and said that there will be a concerted effort to appear on US festival stages in the summer of 2010. Until that time the group will continue to play regular shows even though the band members are spread out half way across the country: Dave and Geoff residing in St. John’s, Ian and Brian in Halifax, Joey in Charlottetown and Howie in Elora Ontario.
As far as the band’s geographical spread working against them, McKinnon is quick to state simply that all is really needed for a successful show is arriving a few days prior to the gig to rehearse. Living thousands of kilometres apart could also have its advantages too as the recent tour schedule is bringing Rawlins Cross to all of the cities and towns the band call home.