Michael Rank has released his sixth record in about four years. Being that prolific can lead to self-indulgence, but not this time. Red Hand contains nine taut songs of what has been called outlaw folk, damaged country and backwoods Americana. Whatever you call it, it comes with duet vocals from Mount Moriah's Heather McEntire on every song.
Rank has been working with female singers including Mandolin Orange's Emily Frantz and Skylar Gudasz on recent project. This is the second time he's teamed up with McEntire.
“Anyone would sound great if Heather’s singing, too,” Rank said with a humble gratitude. “She held my songs with such care.”
On "River Road," the duo sings about optimism. It sounds as though Rank has come through a tough time, an attempt to leave behind the heartbreak of previous albums.
“Apparently, if you put out a half dozen albums of very slow, sad songs, like, people label you,” Rank said. “So, on 'River Road' I’m trying to be a little more hopeful, optimistic. That’s me doing upbeat.”
Rank said he approached Red Hand with a mind to create a marriage of Cat Stevens meets Cold Mountain.
There's melancholy in "The Lord He Take Away," even in the imagery of this lyric: "I’m a black hat nailed to an old dead house." It conjured the idea of an Appalachian Bonnie and Clyde. Rank says with all the "Civil War fiddle" on the record, he doesn't mind that association.
You can hear Michael Rank's music on WUNC's HD-2 channel or stream it online at WUNC Music.