For Heather Rankin, a member of Cape Breton’s celebrated Rankin Family, Christmas has always been a joyous affair. With that foremost in mind, she made Imagine, her first Christmas album, available Dec. 1 on iTunes and through heatherrankin.ca. Imagine mixes well-known Christmas classics with brand new compositions, along with a few unexpected but entirely appropriate selections such as the John Lennon-penned title track.
Overall, the album highlights Rankin’s ethereally sweet and evocative voice, along with her growing confidence as a songwriter with a melodic touch. It’s an album she hopes will become part of the soundtrack of family holiday celebrations through its blend of the timeless and contemporary.
Although the Cape Breton family clan member released a Christmas record with her sisters in 1997, she has now embraced the challenge of writing about Christmas from personal experiences, which results in two of Imagine’s standout tracks, “Olde-Fashioned Christmas” and the album’s first single, “Wrap It Up.”
Another highlight is the lush and melodious “Dark Eyes (Lullaby)” featuring Alex Cuba, who Rankin met while both participated in the Canada C3 Expedition, a Canada 150 initiative to promote diversity, reconciliation, youth engagement and the environment. In highlighting such musical diversity, Rankin has succeeded in her goal of bringing together a collection of songs that embody the spirit of togetherness, warmth, and family.
What made this the right time for you to make a Christmas album?
Since releasing my debut solo record just over a year ago, I’ve been invited by various artists to guest in their Christmas shows. I wanted to include some original material when doing so, and that lit the fire to pen a few of my own Christmas songs. I love Christmas music and writing seasonal songs was a labour of love. Making a solo Christmas record seemed like the obvious next step.
What was your process of choosing the material?
I wanted to include a few old Christmas favourites while creating a few original seasonal songs, the intention always being to create beautiful music, music that would stand the test of time. I wanted to include a song that hadn’t been covered endlessly on other Christmas recordings and “Imagine” was the song, which to me accomplished that and I feel it speaks volumes.
Do you have plans to perform live, and if so, what kind of show will you be doing?
This season I will host three of my solo Christmas concerts as well as guesting on Christmas shows for three other artists: John McDermott, Geordie Brown and Tomato, Tomato. My shows will feature songs from Do You Hear?—the Christmas recording I released in 1997 with my sisters—a few Rankin Family favourites, a couple from my solo debut, A Fine Line, and songs from this new album. It will make for a lively, heartfelt mix of Christmases past and present.
What is your personal favourite Christmas memory?
The first year I was permitted to join the Midnight Mass adult choir is an exceptional memory for me. I was all of 7 years old and determined to join my older siblings that year. Once the choir director permitted me, the challenge was staying awake late enough to make it through the entire mass. It was a sort of a rite of passage. Now I was singing with the big kids in the big choir and knowing that I was able to hang in there was a great feeling. That was a great Christmas.
What song in your catalogue means the most to you and why?
“We Walk As One” on my debut solo release is a tribute to my roots. That song pays homage to humble beginnings and hopefully expresses my gratitude. “Olde-Fashioned Christmas” on this album speaks to how celebrating the season has evolved, but at the very heart of it, we still value being together with our loved ones at that time of the year.
— The video for the new album is not available yet, so we have included "We Walk As One" f. Jimmy Rankin and Cookie Rankin and included her 2016 solo set, entitled A Fine Line. The gal's voice is as clear as a crystal bell, and the song a spiritual tonic for anytime.