Following the death of John Morris in 1998, the rest of The Rankin Family was left trying to figure out their idividual career options. The family grew up entertaining friends and neighbours, then broke out with a commercially-acceptable pop/roots slant on their traditional Nova Scotia music that made them an international success. But after six studio albums and countless awards, including six Junos and 27 ECMAs (East Coast Music Awards), they decided to take a break and pursue their own outside interests.
Going down a straight country route for the first time, Jimmy began working on his debut solo album, and in 2001, SONG DOG was released, named after the record label he’d set up. Three singles followed, starting with “Followed Her Around.” The song ended up taking home the single of the year and video of the year honours at the next ECMAs, as well as single of the year at the SOCAN Awards.
“Midnight Angel” and then “Wasted” followed, and by the spring of ’03, Rankin had walked out with a Juno for country album of the year, another two ECMAs, and a pair of CCMA (Canadian Country Music Association) honours. Videos for “Followed Her Around” and “Midnight Angel” also got heavy rotation on CMT over the next year.
He began spending more time in Nashville, and released in September ’03, his next album was HANDMADE, which produced another three singles. On the backs of “Morning Bound Train,” “Butterfly,” and “California Dreamer,” it won the ECMA for both album of the year and root/traditional solo recording. “Morning Bound Train” also picked up single of the year and he was named SOCAN songwriter of the year for the second straight year, which he’d win again in 2005.
By late 2006, rumours of a Rankin Family reunion were abound, but Jimmy released his third solo album, EDGE OF DAY in May ’07. It was an instant roots hit, and along with the singles, “Slipping Away,” “Got To Leave Louisiana” (co-penned by Gordie Sampson), and “Still Lovers Now,” other tracks like “First Time In A Long Time” (co-written with Deric Ruttan) and the homesick lorn of “Drifting Too Far From Shore” made it one of the critics’ top picks of the year. That was reflected in the continuing stream of ECMA, SOCAN, CCMA, and other awards that followed.
The reunion was realized later that year, and sparked by a new album, the family was on the road through to 2009, which included a pair of tours throughout Europe.Getting back to their own individual projects once the bus was parked, Jimmy took some time off before getting back to a solo career, writing material and making the occasional trip to the studios.
Produced by Bill Bell throughout Toronto’s studios, FORGET ABOUT THE WORLD was released in the spring of 2011. It put Rankin back amid the country charts with the singles, “Here In My Heart” (one of three songs co-written with Patricia Conroy), the lead-off “I’m Just Saying,” and the raw emotional drain in “The Hurtin’ Part.” All three made the top 40, and fuelled a cross-Canada tour, including dates opening for Keith Urban, who also guested on the first single.
But the focal point of the album was the maturity in writing, able to straddle the country fence enough to bring in a new fan base that might not have necessarily already been country fans. Other tracks of note included “Walk That Way,” (with Serena Ryder), “Louise,” and the the openly honest “What I Wouldn’t Give.”
His first holiday album came a year later in the form of TINSEL TOWN. Along with the usual mix of standards like “Winter Wonderland,” Silver Bells,” and “White Christmas,” it also included four original songs – the title track, “December,” “Boogie Woogie Christmas,” and “Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye To Christmas.”