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After nearly three years, Rawlins Cross ready to return to the stage

The East Coast band released their eleventh studio recording, Sunrise, this past June
Rawlins Cross Live at ECMA 2
Rawlins Cross performing at the East Coast Music Awards

After more than 30 years making records and playing in front of fans worldwide, it would be understandable if East Coast music legends Rawlins Cross decided it was time to hang up their instruments.

Instead, it is just the opposite for the Celtic-rock outfit.

“My body feels great, the fingers are working but the years are certainly substantial when you put them together,” admits co-founder and multi-instrumentalist Ian McKinnon about the band’s longevity in the entertainment industry. “I think the fact that we all get along well as a group of people — we genuinely enjoy each other’s company so that’s a big part of it.”

The truth is, not only is the 33-year old band still performing live, they are about to head out on their first Atlantic Canadian tour since before the COVID-19 pandemic to support their latest album, Sunrise.

“It’s been a long couple years for those of us working in the performing arts,” notes McKinnon about the band’s forced nearly three year hiatus due to the pandemic. “It has been tough being sidelined. Everyone has been doing other things but not being able to step on a stage and connect with our fans has been tough (and) we have really missed it.”

Starting with a sold-out show in New Glasgow on October 21, the Sunrise Tour will make a stop in Halifax at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on October 28. There, the longtime band will play songs stretching back to their 1989 debut, A Turn of the Wheel, along with selections from the latest album.

“At least half or more of these songs were written before we even heard of the term coronavirus,” admits McKinnon of the new seven-track record. “These have been kind of sitting in the writer’s folders (and) we had put our plans together towards recording before the pandemic hit.”

In March of 2020, when the COVID-19 virus found its way to Nova Scotia, Rawlins Cross suddenly had to postpone recording or even playing live – given members of the band reside across the Maritimes.

In fact, it wasn’t until the fall of 2021, when travel restrictions loosened enough that the band could finally reunite in-person to begin recording Sunrise.

“We made the decision to do a self-produced record,” says McKinnon, noting that the band produced and engineered the album in studio, refusing to attempt to record virtually over the course of the pandemic — as many musicians did.

“A big part is for us as a band approaching the recording process is to come together as a group to work the material and to figure out good arrangements and play them through,” continues McKinnon. “There is a lot of consensus building that comes with that.”

Since forming in the late 1980s, Rawlins Cross has been fusing Celtic traditional music with a wide range of genres — from rock to pop and world beat music.

Over the course of its three decade existence, the band has earned multiple Juno Award nominations and won nine East Coast Music Awards, including Best Pop/Rock Recording of the Year for their 1993 album, Reel ‘n’ Roll.

While the band’s most commercially successful album may have been released years ago, McKinnon says Rawlins Cross is seeing a resurgence of sorts today — evident by a new set of enthusiastic fans that turned up at a one-off show they played in Antigonish this past July.

“There were people in their 60s and 70s but also on the dance floor in front of the stage, it was mostly populated by university-aged kids,” laughs McKinnon. “We were playing this one particular set of tunes that we recorded in 1996 and I thought to myself, most of these kids weren’t even born when we recorded these tunes (so) there’s something to be said about the music that we play and Celtic music in general — it’s kind of universal and it doesn’t get dated.”

For more information on Rawlins Cross’ Sunset Tour, visit the band’s website.

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