However, I did not stay to watch The Levon Helm Band performance in their entirety. I saw the opening number, “The Shape I’m In”, as much for curiosity as anything. I did have a plan to watch Jimmy Rankin. He was playing on a separate stage at the same time as Levon Helm. The one thing I noticed about Levon Helm and everyone else was that everyone else performing at the festival packed pretty light. No roadies, just the performers taking their own guitars, drums, various string instruments off the stage themselves. Not so with Levon. These guys were a 13 member band with every instrument imaginable out on that stage. The sound was great, but holy mackerel, what a contrast to the other performers I had seen to that point, as well as Jimmy Rankin.
Jimmy Rankin has been a mainstay in Canadian country/folk/Canadiana/Americana music for over 20 years now. Originally the male voice and driving songwriter for the well known family band The Rankin Family, Jimmy has carved out a very respectable career as a solo artist in Canada. Having recently made the move to Nashville from his native Inverness County, Nova Scotia (on Cape Breton Island), Jimmy Rankin has recently released a new album titled Forget About the World that has received rave reviews and spawned a huge hit at radio, “Here in My Heart.” Jimmy Rankin has to be one of my favorite performers. The last time I saw him perform live was also in Ottawa, as he opened for Great Big Sea as part of the 2004 Grey Cup festivities (the Grey Cup is the championship of the Canadian Football League). This time around, Jimmy performed with just one player accompanying him on guitar. Rolling through a long line of hits such as “Midnight Angel”, “Follow Her Around” the aforementioned “Here in My Heart”, Jimmy introduced a fantastic new song based on a legendary figure from Cape Breton. “Colorado Dave” is the story of a young man who leaves Cape Breton to explore and find himself out west in the 1800’s. What Dave found was his way to the Jesse James gang. The song carefully and creatively tells the story of Dave, complete with his trials and tribulations, as well as his return home to his family in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Jimmy also has the foresight to know that his show would not be complete without a nod to the act that brought him to the international stage, as the show included a few hits by the Rankin Family. Jimmy did a fantastic job of dusting off Rankin Family classics such as “Orangedale Whistle” and “You Feel the Same Way Too.” Jimmy’s show brought back great memories for me personally, as The Rankin Family played the one and only country music festival that took place in Minden, Ontario many, many years ago. My grandmother, who has since passed away, and I attended that day long show that was capped off by the Rankin’s. I have a lot of great memories from that day with my grandmother, and I certainly treasure them.
One last point on Jimmy’s show. I would say that Jimmy Rankin wins the Trooper of the Weekend award, if such an award were to be issued. Jimmy had the tough task of playing on a neighbouring stage at the same time as The Levon Helm Band. Let’s just say that the added gear from Levon was enough to win any sound competition that may have existed between the two stages. Jimmy, to his credit, took it all in stride. He exhibited great professionalism and the truly wonderful sense of humour that exists with a great many people who are from the East Coast of Canada.