Rawlins Cross | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Rawlins Cross

Rawlins Cross. Celtic-rock band formed in St. John's, NL, in 1988 with Ian McKinnon (highland pipes, whistles), Dave Panting (guitar, mandolin), and Geoff Panting (accordion, keyboard).

Rawlins Cross

Rawlins Cross. Celtic-rock band formed in St. John's, NL, in 1988 with Ian McKinnon (highland pipes, whistles), Dave Panting (guitar, mandolin), and Geoff Panting (accordion, keyboard). Initially called Open Road, the trio played pub and folk standards and quickly became fixtures in the local folk scene. After adopting their current moniker and joining forces with bassist Lorne Taylor and drummer Pamela Paton, the group began writing original material that fused Celtic folk and contemporary rock music. Rawlins Cross's principal songwriters, the Panting brothers, were well-known performers at the band's inception; Dave had been a member of the popular Newfoundland folk group Figgy Duff, and Geoff had contributed musically and on stage with the St. John's theatre company Sheila's Brush. Rawlins Cross contributed to the revitalization of traditional east coast music in Canada and pioneered the Celtic-rock idiom that has subsequently been adopted by acts such as Great Big Sea.


Rawlins Cross gained a national fan base with the release of their debut album, A Turn of the Wheel (1989, Ground Swell Records RCCD-101), and the success of its hit single, "Colleen." By 1992 the band had recruited drummer Tom Roach and bassist Brian Bourne, and under the direction of McKinnon had founded the distribution company Ground Swell Records. Their second album, Crossing the Border (Ground Swell Records RCC-102), was released later that year and received East Coast Music Awards for best video of the year ("Memory Waltz") and best pop/rock recording of the year. Reel 'n' Roll (Ground Swell Records GSR 66) followed in 1993 and featured Rawlins Cross's newest members, drummer Howie Southwood and singer Joey Kitson (whose lead vocals would come to define the group's signature sound). The album was a commercial success, won an East Coast Music Award for best pop/rock recording of the year, and garnered the band a distribution and marketing deal with Warner Music Canada. Rawlins Cross's 1996 release, Living River (Ground Swell Records CD 13666), earned the band a Juno Award nomination for best roots/traditional group of the year, as well as a licensing deal with Magnetic Music to reach markets in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Performances and Tours

Rawlins Cross has performed to international audiences in Mexico, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and the US. The band has been featured on the CBC Television programs Rita & Friends and The Country Beat, as well as the CBC Radio shows Morningside and Definitely Not the Opera. In 1994 Rawlins Cross headlined a concert on Citadel Hill in Halifax during the G-7 economic summit, and the group performed on Parliament Hill during the 1995 Canada Day celebrations. Rawlins Cross also headlined the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games in 1997, and were featured performers at the Expo Cumbre de las Americas in Santiago, Chile, in 1998.

In 2000 the members of Rawlins Cross announced that they were parting ways to pursue other projects. Their last performance, during which they appeared alongside the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, was held in December of that year. The group reunited in 2008 at the request of Warner Music, who had approached them about amassing a collection of their greatest hits. Twelve of their former hits, along with four new tracks performed by McKinnon, Kitson, Bourne, Southwood, and the Pantings, appeared on Rawlins Cross's 2008 release, Anthology (Ground Swell Records GSR 10500). The group's official return was marked with a performance at Halifax's New Year's Eve celebrations in 2008. Subsequent engagements included the East Coast Music Awards Gala in Corner Brook, NL, and a 2009 tour of Atlantic Canada. The album Heart Head Hands (Ground Swell Records GSR-10505) was released in 2010.

Selected Discography

Celtic Instrumentals. 1997. Ground Swell Records CD 18143

Make It On Time. 1998. Warner Music Canada CD 23101 WEA

Further Reading