During the nineties, you couldn’t escape hearing the music of The Rankin Family. I’m sure that, at some point, newborn babies were christened over their Celtic-country-pop fusion. Twenty years later, the family has stopped being a family. We now have Jimmy Rankin following his solo career and releasing his latest album, Back Road Paradise.

Back Road Paradise is a far stretch from The Rankin Family’s traditional music and is firmly in the realm of mainstream pop-country. While nothing on Paradise is groundbreaking, there are plenty of solid songs on the album, even if after the halfway point it starts to go into banal sound territory. What is nice is that Jimmy Rankin got Alison Krauss and Jim Cuddy as guest vocalists. Their presence alone heightens the album’s appeal immensely.

“Flames” hits all the right notes of sappy country songs without being overly sappy — the music along with Alison Krauss’s voice give a sense of sad longing and a mood of desire to the record. “Back Road Paradise,”along with its reprise at the end, is a perfect, feel-good country landscape song with a catchy jangle to it. The Jim Cuddy feature on “Never Gonna Leave”is catchy because of its simple structure and rhythm and the very presence of Cuddy elevates and brings comparison to Blue Rodeo, although this type of song would never be found on one of their albums.

Fans of Jimmy Rankin will like this album and anyone who grew up with country music in the nineties should check out its highlights just to see where the Rankins have gotten to. However, there are too many clunkers and clichés on the album to wholeheartedly recommend Back Road Paradise outright. The front half is loaded with decent country-pop with some of the biggest guest vocalists around, but the last half of the album hits too many of the worst aspects of modern country music.

By Kraig Brachman

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