Michael Rank and Stag – In The Weeds
Michael Rank follows up last year’s excellent KIN with the perfect companion piece In The Weeds (LoudsHymn). If you ever wondered what a Band of Joy project might sound like if it was Keith Richards instead of Robert Plant exploring Americana you’ll want to hear this disc. Backed by the talented and ever growing rock-based but folk and country leaning conglomerate that makes up Stag, Rank continues to ponder the dissolution and painful aftermath of a broken relationship while finding solace in the one thing that remains: “I thank God for our son”. The newest addition to Stag, Emily Frantz of Mandolin Orange, adds gorgeous vocals that contrast and compliment Rank’s weary and raspy but resilient lead. Rank and co-conspirators with fiddle, mandolin, pedal steel, banjo and electric guitar in hand live at the stripped down organic intersection of twang, roots and rock that the then non-ironic Stones faithfully explored in the late 60’s and early 70’s. To use a well-worn cliche, Rank is a rock-n-roll survivor who has created two stellar discs in the past year demonstrating himself to be talented songwriter truly hitting his stride. Highly recommended.
from “‘Round My Head”:
Honey, put on that dress- your friends they aint left yet,
Lord I wish they’d move along…
Honey, don’t pull up that sheet- good Lord you look so sweet,
I could watch you all day long
HB-I went back and listened to some of your Snatches of Pink discs. There’s some continuity but there’s been a definite shift towards Americana (at least to my ears). Has Michael Rank become a singer-songwriter?
MR-I like to think I’ve always been a singer/songwriter. What I think has evolved though is the genuine satisfaction I get from just strumming an acoustic guitar and letting all these other folks, who are far more talented than I am, do their thing. “In the Weeds” is something like the 15th album I’ve written and released and it’s the very first one where I don’t play a single electric guitar and I don’t take a single guitar solo. And that feels really fucking good.
HB-How did you hook up with Emily Franz from Mandolin Orange? The contrast of your vocals really works on the tracks you share especially “Confederates”.
MR– I’ve had so many people respond to the way our vocals sound together. Myself included. But in all honesty I think Emily would make anyone she sang with sound like a million dollars. I had seen her band, Mandolin Orange, several times during the period of my album “Kin” and she just really made an impression on me. So I asked…..very politely!!
I can see it- in a minute…I can hear it- like a wave…
I know you’re going back and forth- not knowing what to say…
I know it’s time for me to go,
I touch your hair- I touch your throat….
look away now- away now,
it’s only the light.
HB-You’re on a roll following up KIN with In The Weeds just a year later. Is that proof that a break-up can spur creativity?
MR– I don’t know, but apparently being exceedingly angry, sad and lonely spurs creativity!!
HB-You’ve written some great raw uncensored songs about love and loss but I have to confess sometimes I’m not sure if you’re trying to win her back or piss her off.
MR– I imagine she feels the same way!! When all’s said and done it’s just a document. An overhead projector flow chart.
HB-Could you talk about the members of Stag?
MR–John Howie Jr: We’ve been friends for an awfully long time and are very similar in very many ways. I think John has as great a feel for my guitar playing and songwriting as anyone does or ever will. And when I listen to the albums I always find myself air drumming his parts. Every single time. And that’s cool as hell.
Emily Frantz: Emily is one of the single most talented people I’ve ever been in the room with. It meant the world to me to have her sing on these songs and I hold high hopes she’ll one day do it again. Soon….please.
Nathan Golub: Nathan plays on this album more than anyone but me. He’s an amazing, amazing talent. Time after time he would come into the studio and repeatedly raise the bar on every single song. Just a breathtaking gift of melody and hook.
John Teer: John Teer is like winning the lottery. I honestly couldn’t be a bigger fan. He is just so fucking good. And I am extremely grateful. Truly.
Alex Iglehart: I am so proud of Alex’s playing on these albums especially on “In the Weeds”. His ability to weave his lines and create space is pure brilliance. I’ve always been a devoted fan of his songwriting and his own musical outfits and i always will be. He is the real deal. He’s also the only person to ever kick me out of a band!! So there’s that!
Billie Feather: Billie is like the spark that lights the stick of dynamite. While smiling! She is the most recent talent that has been kind enough to play on these songs of mine and her instant instant feel and range of pure musical skill is head jarring. And that’s just on day one!!!
Jesse Huebner: These albums wouldn’t exist without Jesse. His perfectly felt recordings of every instrument that I have sent through his studio doors is what has made these albums what they are. I cannot recommend his skills or his person highly enough. Add to that his flawless, literally, musicianship and what he brings to the table is unparalleled.
Marc E. Smith: I don’t think I could tackle Marc in just one or two sentences. Marc is the purest rock and roll soul I have ever met and on the day I eventually die he will be the longest musical collaboration I have ever known. Marc is my brother. And I’d be lost without him.
The members of Stag are (left to right): Golub, Rank, Teer, Frantz, Iglehart, Smith, Huebner, Feather and Howie