Rank Outsiders – On the inside track
The Rank Outsiders are a band with plenty of plans, a wealth of good fortune and a satchel full of strong songs that approach the country idiom with Exile-era Stones swagger. Since they copped their name from a line in “Tumbling Dice”, and principal songwriter/part-time singer Bill Noonan’s avowed love for that band, it’s a valid reference point.
But it’s only a reference point, as Noonan’s compositions also touch on early ’80s Southern alterna-pop, Delbert McClinton-esque barroom honky-tonk, and classic country balladry. Much of it is belted out via Gigi Dover’s big and bluesy voice, though Noonan’s warm delivery carries a handful of tracks.
After kicking around the Charlotte club scene for a few years, the Outsiders decided to up the ante and get a bit more serious about their music in 1994. The band felt the time was right to record, but there were all the “how-to’s” of initiating such a proposition.
“We had the material, and the desire to record, but we were trying to figure out what you do to put a CD out,” Noonan recalled. “We got some good advice from different corners (including a fan in the banking biz) about how to raise money and how to pay it back. And we came up with a business plan so potential investors would feel good about where their money was going and how it would be used.”
One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure, the product of those initial investments, was released in January 1995. Recorded with producer Chris Keaton, who offered his services after hearing the band’s five-song demo, the disc was an introductory calling card of sorts, giving the band something to sell at their shows. It was the actual experience of making a record, however, that proved most valuable, allowing the band a bit of a comfort zone while recording last year’s Checkpoint.
They also knew more about marketing a self-released product the second time around. “We had a better idea of what to do with it after it was released,” says Noonan. “We asked ourselves, ‘What would a label do for us?’, and we’ve just tried to put those things in place for ourselves. And one thing we’ve done is really push it to radio.”
Indeed, Checkpoint made it onto the Gavin Americana charts recently. Noonan is the first to admit that this is more a “theoretical accomplishment,” but he understands the increased visibility helps. Like having longtime New York radio personality Vin Scelsa call you with an invite to appear on his program. Ditto the influential and nationally syndicated World Cafe, based in Philadelphia.
“Literally, probably every day since we came home from the studio, we’ve had a call from somebody with some good news,” Dover drawls sweetly. “And just one piece of good news a day has kept us pumped and going.”