Entering their 33rd year, East Coast Celtic-rock group Rawlins Cross is back on the road following a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus with their new album Sunrise. Their Atlantic Canada tour in support of the recording includes a stop in Halifax on October 28.
“It’s just a constant curiosity that keeps everybody going. It’s an exploration; it’s a grand adventure. And it gets better all the time.” – Brian Bourne
The eleventh studio recording since the band first came onto the scene in 1988, Sunrise marks their first self-produced album, delayed because of COVID-19. “We were ready to start before the pandemic and then had to put it off,” says band member Ian McKinnon.
Eventually finding a window of opportunity to come together between lockdowns, the band recorded the album in Mount Uniacke. It was no easy feat for a group scattered across Atlantic Canada.
“One unique thing about this group is that we live all over the place,” says bandmate Brian Bourne. “We happened to get a great space just outside of Halifax with enough of a quiet, peaceful atmosphere for us to set up and produce ourselves for the first time.”
The seven-track Sunrise, which includes the
lead single Love is Alright, continues a trend for Rawlins Cross, who until recently were more used to producing albums with as many as 17 songs.
“Because we’re not together as much as we once were, we just found that getting into the habit of recording a smaller collection of new songs was easier for us to do,” says McKinnon. “Some of the larger albums were just hard to keep track of, and with a smaller number of songs where we could really focus on these pieces of music.”
“And there was lots of homework before we came together to record,” adds Bourne. “There were 16 or 18 contenders that we had to narrow down to seven. So there was a lot of prep work involved.”
A testament to the band’s three decades together, preparation includes each member coming readied to perform, whether for a recording session or, as is the case now, to begin touring again.
“We played at the Antigonish Highland Games this summer, and while it was so much fun to do, it was the first time in two years that the band had toured or performed together because of COVID,” says McKinnon. “That one performance was reassuring in knowing everyone was still on top of their game.”
Initially calling themselves The Open Road Band when the band first formed over three decades ago, it didn’t take long for the original members to start looking for a new name.
“We found out there were at least a couple of other Open Road Bands performing across Canada, and someone suggested we try and find a more unique sounding name, something less generic,” says McKinnon.
A beer-fuelled brainstorming session would lead them to The Highland Flamingos, a name discarded in the sober light of day. “Through a round of phone calls the next day we realized we couldn’t call ourselves The Highland Flamingos. So we knew we had to find something else,” says McKinnon.
A band friend would suggest Rawlins Cross, an intersection in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where the original members lived.
“The intersection is where five different streets meet, so we thought it was representative of the various musical influences that make up Rawlins Cross; all of us coming from different directions meeting in the centre,” explains McKinnon.
“There are so many other shades and influences for sure,” adds Bourne. “Between jazz and reggae and blues and rock, there is very much a Celtic rock band.”
What keeps Rawlins Cross together after 33 years?
“We still really enjoy performing together and playing music and hanging out,” says McKinnon.
“It’s just a constant curiosity that keeps everybody going,” adds Bourne. “It’s an exploration; it’s a grand adventure. And it gets better all the time.”
A loyal and growing fan base also helps.
“Our fans have stuck with us over the years,” says McKinnon. “If there weren’t an audience for us to perform our music for any longer, then we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing. And now those fans are bringing their grown-up children, and in some cases grandchildren, to our shows.”
“Yeah, there seems to be multi-generational interest, which is fantastic,” says Bourne.
Rawlins Cross performs at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium (6101 University Ave, Halifax) on October 28. Visit rawlinscross.com for more information on their Halifax and other Atlantic Canada shows.