The Upshot: Erstwhile Snatches of Pink frontman continues on an impressive solo roll, this time teaming with Mount Moriah’s Heather McEntire for a Gram-and-Emmylou-inspired gem of roots, rock ‘n’ twang.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
The ever-prolific Michael Rank begins Horsehair, his second album of 2015 and fifth since assembling the free-floating Stag, with a tempered ode to the search for meaning. Accompanied by mandolinist Ron Bartholomew and Mount Moriah leader Heather McEntire, the ex-Snatches of Pink/Clarissa frontman/guitarist brings quiet certitude and back porch soul to “Frontiers,” gently letting 30 years of musical experience speak louder than a Marshall stack.
But matters of the heart rarely stray far from Rank’s worldview, as he colors the rest of these outlaw folk tunes with nods to ex-wives, current flames and, of course, son Bowie Ryder, his most consistent muse. The bitterness suffusing “Bluebird” contrasts with the hope winding through “Mexico,” the same way the easygoing country rock of “Husk” leavens the somber chamber folk of “Fire Walkers.” MVP status pins on McEntire, the Emmylou to Rank’s Gram – her country harmonies blend so well with Rank’s low-key twang that one hopes this partnership continues.
Rank’s vision reaches complete fruition, fittingly, on the final track “This Side of Texas,” which puts the “Helpless” chord changes through his distinctive roots rock ringer for an elegiac mini-anthem of love, regret and defiance. It’s a perfect balance of grit and beauty, a noble goal that Rank has successfully pursued for his entire career, up to and including the elegant, expressive Horsehair.
DOWNLOAD: “This Side of Texas,” “Bluebird,” “Husk”