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Groundswell Music Festival Concert Review

Halifax Bloggers

Supporting local is something we should all strive for whenever possible. This past weekend Groundswell Music Festivaltook local support to another level. Nova Scotia can feel a great deal of pride in the product that was displayed. Food, drinks, and of course, music, all from our beautiful province, thrilled the crowd from March 16-19.


Thursday night kicked off the weekend at the Spatz Theatre with a Celtic show for both young and old. Heather Rankin started things off promoting her new solo album “A Fine Line.” She took the stage and treated the audience to a multitude of songs written for said album, a few old Rankin Family tunes to keep the toes tapping, and in true Cape Breton fashion told a few stories for good measure. Recording her new album in L.A. lead to a few little fish in a big pond stories for the Mabou native. From a room at the extended-stay inn with an unexpected guest, to unanswered early morning knocks on the door from a unbeknownst friendly stranger, every story had a song to coincide. She closed her set out with the Rankins’ classic “Movin On” which had every butt in every seat dancing along.

After a short intermission, a surprise act graced the stage. Mitchell Poirier, from Inverness, won an up and comer’s opportunity to work with Mike Ryan (Town Heroes). He played two songs, one written with Mike Ryan (and his sound was incredibly apparent in the best way possible), and an acoustic instrumental track that left jaws agape. Though maybe not quite as long and moving as John Butler’s “Ocean”, it certainly drew influence from it, and if we’re lucky enough Poirier’s path will lead us down that road. Next up was the headliner Rawlins Cross.

Maybe known as the band your dad loved in the ’90s, these guys haven’t lost a step through the years. Their modernized blend of Celtic rock boomed through the auditorium, with all in attendance digging every note from every Celtic instrument ever made. Ian MacKinnon played every wind instrument imaginable, from bagpipes, to tin whistle, and pan flute alike. Yarns were spun of their highs of sending a video to MuchMusic in ’93 with a quart of dark rum and a couple of lobsters, leading to their video going #1 on the MuchMusic countdown. They closed the night with the help of Heather Rankin on their hit “Reel and Roll.” Night one in the books.

GroundSwell Music Festival: Night One

By John Sandham. Watch Magazine

So… I’m back at it again! Compared to festivals I’ve covered in the past, this one started out a bit differently. The Spatz Theatre at Citadel High School was the venue for night one of this festival whose organizers, GroundSwell Music, are focused on highlighting Nova Scotian talent and helping young, emerging musicians from the province. Mayor Mike Savage was in the house (and I’m pretty sure I saw him grooving in his seat to Rawlins Cross…).

Heather Rankin kicked off the evening. She’s a natural storyteller and joker, and I loved the simplicity of her music and accessibility of her lyrics. One of my favourites was “Down By the Sally Gardens,” which Heather joked was recorded before she went through puberty. Nevertheless, her voice more than held up all these years later. The stand-up bass, keyboard and guitar that accompanied her were the perfect compliment to her voice. Some other terrific numbers she performed: “The Way Life Goes,” and “We Walk as One,” Heather’s tribute to her family.

A digression (I always seem to mention my extended family in my reviews…): while browsing Twitter after her set, I discovered that Heather owns The Red Shoe Pub, a well-known establishment in Mabou, NS. I recognized it immediately, since my aunt has worked there for decades. I pointed this out on Twitter, which Heather responded to with this:

Anyway, like I said, one of the things GroundSwell does is promote young, up-and-coming Nova Scotian musicians. After intermission (which was a bit longer than it should have been, since local food and beer were being served in the lobby…), Mitch Poirier, a young musician from Inverness, took to the stage to play a few songs (one of which was co-written with Mike Ryan of The Town Heroes). He’s got a good voice, and I couldn’t help but notice his hairstyle was classic John Sandham circa late 2016 (EDIT: I’ll admit, he rocks it better than I ever did…). Without a doubt, the most exciting moment of his set was his second song – the microphone was put away and he played his entire guitar as an instrument, strumming, slapping, and picking his way to one heck of an ovation from the audience. I wish I had video of this to show, but alas, I have none.

And then, it was on to Rawlins Cross. My first thought, when I saw their setup? “HELL YES, THERE’S BAGPIPES.” And wow, did Ian McKinnon sure prove bagpipes can rock (although I already knew that). Another highlight? Brian Bourne playing the Chapman Stick, an instrument I had never seen before. Almost three decades after forming, these guys still kick ass, but can still take it down a notch or two when they need to, like on “A Matter of the Heart.”

Yesterday’s performances can be summed up in one word: nostalgic. The average age of the crowd was… much older than me. Although I initially thought the venue was an odd choice, it proved to be ideal for last night’s shows. Heather’s quiet power worked especially well for the Spatz Theatre. All in all, it was a great way to start the festival.

I’m expecting tonight to be a bit different. As one of the organizers of the festival predicted, “It’ll be messier.” After all, it is The Stanfields on St. Patrick’s Day, and Olympic Hall is… different than the Spatz. Should be fun.

Inverness County’s Heather Rankin chosen as an Ambassador for Canada’s 150th Birthday


A Mabou native has been selected to be a “Canada 150 Anniversary” Ambassador! Heather Rankin will be one of the Ambassador’s that were selected across the country to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada and confederation.

Rankin says she is very excited to have been selected to represent Canada as an Ambassador. On top of a busy schedule this year, that features ECMA and JUNO nominations, Rankin says she is pleased to be a part of this exciting project. So far, she has been highlighting important people through her social media accounts:

Rankin says she encourages people to become involved by following her on her social media platforms. There, she will share information about people that have positively shaped our communities. So far, Rankin has posted about Helen Creighton, Viola Desmond and Tareq Hadhad.

Heather Rankin, Wintersleep among 2017 Juno Awards nominees

Stephen Cooke. Local XPress. February 7, 2017.

Heather Rankin thought she was going to have “a mini heart attack” when she heard her name among the 2017 Juno Award nominees on Tuesday.

The well-known Nova Scotia singer and member of the Rankin Family was among a handful of East Coast artists who are up for the national music awards, which will be handed out in Ottawa during Juno Week, March 27 to April 2.

This is the first time she’s been nominated as a solo artist, for her first release under her own name, A Fine Line, which was named in the adult contemporary album of the year category along with Halifax-born Sarah McLachlan’s latest Wonderland, Celine Dion’s French-language release Encore un soir, Chantal Kreviazuk’s Hard Sail and Beating Heart by Toronto pop crooner Mark Masri.

Rankin found out about the nomination when her husband, James MacInnis, tuned into the live stream of the Tuesday afternoon Junos announcement, apparently with higher hopes than she had.

“I don’t know why (he did), just curious, I suppose, and I was thinking, ‘There’s no way I’m going to be nominated!’ ” she says from her home in Halifax. “Then I heard my name and thought, ‘Wait a second, somebody made a mistake!’ and then I couldn’t breath for a second.

“My heart rate is still up substantially! It’s so nice, you feel like you’ve been beating your head against a wall for how many years, and it’s great to be acknowledged, and know that somebody thinks your work is … special, y’know?”

WintersleepNova Scotia-bred band Wintersleep picked up its third career Juno Award nomination for the Halifax-recorded The Great Detachment on Tuesday, in the adult alternative album category. The band previously won a Juno in 2008, for new group of the year.

Rankin acknowledges that she wasn’t as quick off the mark to pursue a solo music career as her siblings Jimmy and Raylene, opting to continue with the acting career she put on hold when the Rankin Family became an international touring success. She calls making A Fine Line, with a pop sound that stands apart from her work with her brothers and sisters, the result of a long, long journey.


“It took me a few years to be able to believe that I was capable, and that I had something of substance to say, and that I would be worthy of listening to, as a solo artist,” she says. “It was just lining myself up with the right people, having a lot of patience and perseverance, and a lot of hard work. The record took a few years from start to finish, and I’m deeply moved today.”

Now signed with Halifax’s Laughing Heart Music (Ben Caplan, Hillsburn), Rankin spent 2016 focusing on the audience at home in Atlantic Canada, and is just getting ramped up to take her music to the rest of Canada and beyond. Getting a Juno Award nomination is also a welcome boost as she prepared to travel to the Folk Alliance music conference in Kansas City later this month.

“In some ways I feel like I’m still at the bottom of the hill, but here I am with this nomination, and there’s still so much more for me to learn, and so much more growth that’s going to happen as I go forward,” she says, adding with a chuckle, “But here I am, an old gal on a new block.

“Really, I’m just turning a new corner, which makes this all the more special. I’m a woman who is releasing my first solo record relatively late in life, and being acknowledged by the industry is just the greatest feeling in the world. You just want to be recognized for your work.”

Also acknowledged for its latest release is Nova Scotia-bred, Montreal-based band Wintersleep, whose sixth album The Great Detachment is in the adult alternative album of the year category with releases by Basia Bulat, Gord Downie, Andy Shauf and Leonard Cohen.

After working with Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev collaborator Dave Friedman in New York on 2012’s Hello Hum, the band returned to its roots on The Great Detachment, as guitarist Tim D’eon explained to JunoTV host Sam Sutherland immediately following the nomination announcement at Toronto’s Rebel nightclub.

“We had a lot of rehearsals going into it, and a lot of songs, plus we recorded it in Halifax where we recorded the first three records. It felt like we were tapping into that,” D’eon said of the record, which they made largely live-off-the-floor at the Sonic Temple.

“I think we were able to do an organic live recording this time, because we were very well-prepared,” added Wintersleep drummer Loel Campbell. “We had every part worked out, dotted the Is and crossed the Ts on every tune so we had it all worked out.”

Nova Scotia native Mike Murley also added another Juno Award nomination to his resume, with his group Metalwood’s appearance in the jazz album of the year: group category, for its latest album Twenty.

Two Prince Edward Island artists picked up nominations in the same category, with the East Pointers’ Secret Victory and Ten Strings and a Goat Skin’s Aupres de poele named for traditional roots album of the year. Witty New Brunswick songwriter Lisa LeBlanc saw her album Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen? listed among the contemporary roots album of the year contenders, along with former Halifax resident Jill Barber, who teamed with her brother Matthew for The Family Album.

Besides competing with Heather Rankin in the adult contemporary album of the year category, Sarah McLachlan will also be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, with a special musical tribute on the live Juno Awards Gala, broadcast on CTV on April 2 from Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa.


January 18, 2017. Alex Cook. The East

Halifax is seeing a second run of the GroundSwell Music Festival coming this March. The artist management team will be celebrating music, food, and drink from around Nova Scotia during the St Patrick’s Weekend (seriously, was one day ever enough), and they’ve just announced their festival line-up.

The three-day event will kick off on Thursday, March 16th and run until March 18th. Shows will be held at Spatz Theatre Thursday night, and then move to Olympic Hall for the rest of the weekend.

Focusing on artists from the GroundSwell roster like The Stanfields, Rawlins Cross, and Like A Motorcycle, they’re bringing in some well known Nova Scotian names like Heather Rankin and In-Flight Safetyand emerging talents like Ria Mae, The Royal Volts, and Arsoniste.

Read More

Small Things brings laughter and other gifts to Guysborough

Guysborough Journal 

By Lois Ann Dort


Last week the Mulgrave Road Theatre brought their latest show, Small Things by Daniel MacIvor, home to the Chedabucto Place Performance Centre in Guysborough. Local audiences were not disappointed.

Small Things, a story that focuses on three women from as many generations living in a small town, is a throw-your-head-back in laughter comedy but it also has a serious side. MacIvor’s work, which has been staged by the MRT previously, has a way of making you think after the performance, when the belly laughs have receded, about some of life’s bigger questions. Small Things is no exception.  Read More

Acclaimed Songwriter Heather Rankin Courageously Steps Out with Songs like ‘Titanically’ & ‘We Walk As One’ on Solo Record, ‘A Fine Line’


“Take me to the waters deep” — Haunting image from beautiful ‘Titanically’ video

When I recently re-encountered my songwriter/musician/producer friend David Tyson, his Bosendorfer piano, which he gratefully received as a lifetime gift 30 years ago, was still the centerpiece of his living space overlooking the Pacific.

Tyson, who formerly co-wrote and produced singer Alannah Myles’ debut record that earned her a Grammy award, “loves the sound’ of his fine instrument, although he calls its huge sound “very daunting.” He admits that like any dedicated musician, he has a symbiotic relationship with his main instrument.

So when he told me about a story about another instrument and its musician from thousands of miles away in the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of Canada, I was intrigued. Even moreso, when that amazing “what was once lost has now be found” story is one highlight of A Fine Line, a new record he recently produced and co-wrote with Canadian music icon, Heather Rankin.

Read More

Small Things help women connect in Atlantic premiere of MacIvor play

Local XPress

Heather Rankin, Jenny Munday and Stephanie MacDonald star in the comedy about three women in rural Nova Scotia trying to find common ground in the Mulgrave Road Theatre production opening Thursday on Neptune Theatre’s Scotiabank Stage.

164   by: Andrea Nemetz


Daniel MacIvor has a talent for getting inside people’s heads, says Heather Rankin.

The singer-songwriter and actor starred in the Nova Scotia playwright’s Bingo! at Neptune Theatre in 2012, earning a Merritt nomination for her role as Bitsy, a chatty and very direct woman who stayed at home in Sydney while some of her classmates moved away to pursue their dreams.

Read More

Heather Rankin on Weekend Wrap Up on QCCR Radio 99.3 FM

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.23.03 PM

Heather speaks on QCCR Radio 99.3 FM out of Liverpool, Nova Scotia about headlining at Harmony Bazaar in Lockeport, Nova Scotia, and she and guitarist Jamie Robinson perform her song “We Walk As One.” You can listen here! 

Rankin’s solo flight stays on course
Taking a break from the Rankins, Heather Rankin brings personal pop sound of A Fine Line to Lockeport’s Harmony Bazaar this weekend, with festivals in Malagash and Wolfville on the horizon.

On the title track of her first solo record A Fine Line, Heather Rankin sings about the ever-shrinking barrier between our public and personal lives, the need to maintain a brave face when so much of what you go through is exposed, and finding that desire to keep moving forward, either on your own or with the support of those around you.

It’s a line she’s been walking since she was fresh out of college, and she and her brothers and sisters in the Rankin Family were growing from one of Cape Breton’s best-kept musical secrets into a headlining act around the world.

But now that line has transformed into a high-wire act, as Rankin forges ahead without the onstage safety net of brother Jimmy or sister Cookie — although both appear on We Walk as One, a tribute to the strength of their family — transforming her summer tour into a voyage of discovery. Read More