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Moving on

Jennifer Geens
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 25/05) - Over the past 15 years, Raylene Rankin has gone through musical highs and off-stage emotional lows.

But she considers her first solo album, Lambs in Spring, a challenge met and conquered.

"But I like to meet challenges, especially happy challenges," she said.

Raylene Rankin, best known for being part of the band the Rankin Family from Cape Breton, spoke with Yellowknifer on St.Patrick's Day from Winnipeg, as she was getting ready to launch her 20-day Western Canadian Tour.

The Rankin name became synonymous with contemporary and traditional gaelic folk music in Canada in the 1990s.

During their time together, the Rankin Family sold more than two million albums and toured the world.

Raylene Rankin left the band in 1998, to care for her young son, and the Rankins broke up in 1999.

"When I left the Rankin Family, I didn't know what was going to happen with me musically, so I took a year off," she said.

"And then all kinds of stuff happened."

The Rankins' mother died and brother and bandmate John Morris was killed in a car accident in 2000.

Then Raylene faced a battle with breast cancer.

She said surviving these experiences has changed her.

"It wasn't only my illness," she said. "Losing my brother was huge. Huge for my family and huge for his family. I think all of that makes you realize that you live for the day, and to get on with it, even if it's not perfect.

"Get on with it and enjoy it, as much as you can."

The musical style of Lambs in Spring and Rankin's live performances are similar: half contemporary folk, half traditional.

And although she admits to sometimes feeling "exposed," being the lone singer with an acoustic backing band in her solo tours, she also performs with her two sisters occasionally. She said they keep her "cracked."

"I'm enjoying the balance," she said.

Heather, Cookie and Raylene all sang on the Rankins' albums, but it's Raylene's light and clear voice that fans will remember from the Rankins' track Rise Again.

Raylene also wrote their hit Gillis Mountain.

The sisters are excited about their latest venture, the purchase of a pub in their hometown of Mabou on Cape Breton Island. They hope to have it open by May as a seasonal business. Rankin was quick to offer directions.

"Take a left at the causeway and go all the way up 19," she rattled off.

"Or you could go right at the causeway, have tea with Rita (MacNeil) at her tea house, do the Cabot Trail and then come down and have something stronger with us."

Scottish folksinger Archie Fisher joins Rankin on her Western tour. He admitted being wary of Yellowknife's cold, but said that once he starts playing music, everything else falls away and geography becomes irrelevant.

"The only space you really think about is the stage," he said.