Artist: Michael Rank and Stag
Release Date: 07/03/2015
Michael Rank and Stag’s music is so soothing and relaxing that I initially dismissed it too quickly– only to find the sound lingering in my head days later. Thankfully, I went back for several more listens, totally impressed with the gorgeous interplay of the voices of Michael Rank and Heather McIntire.
These artists may be new to my ears, but they are hardly newcomers. Rank is a prolific songwriter, and this represents his fifth solo album after shutting down his modestly successful rock/punk band, Snatches of Pink. McEntire is the lead vocalist for her own band, Mount Moriah. Together, they gathered many of the top roots players in North Carolina, including members of Chatham County Line, Old Ceremony, Two Dollar Pistols, Tres Chicas and more. It’s primarily an acoustic backing, featuring layers of fiddles, pedal steel, mandolin and keyboards – the perfect backdrop for the vocals of Rank and McEntire.
The songs too often meander, and the gorgeous sound seems to, at least for me, overshadow the lyrics, but in the end, that’s okay. Their sound is enveloping, and when you close your eyes, you wish you could be dreaming to music like this – eerie, brooding, romantic and occasionally just a bit unsettling and edgy. If you need further evidence, the opening track, “Frontier,” is available on YouTube. That track and “Trails” are perhaps most indicative of this enduring sound I am struggling to describe. I struggle, because this is just one of those albums you need to hear to understand; even if it cannot be adequately described, it demands your attention in a sneaky, alluring way.
– Jim Hynes