Americana Artist Michael Rank Continues His Soulful Turn on 'I Fell in Love with You Tonight'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Michael Rank's I Fell in Love with You Tonight is a hip-swaying, infectious brew of songs from an unlikely source.

I Fell in Love With You Tonight
Michael Rank

Louds Hymns

9 November 2018

In the latest chapter of a prolific career that has taken him from roadhouse punk to heart-worn Americana balladeering, Michael Rank took a radical and unexpected turn in 2017, transforming himself into a sexy soul Lothario on the three-disc Another Love, challenging both fan and critical expectations.

Rank and collaborator Brian Dennis proved themselves passionate students of the genre on that expansive collection, arranging their songs around the Korg SI-120 and similar period keyboards, synths, and electronic drum programs. The album's tinny, pre-programmed percussion and cheesy rhythm loops may have, on the first impression, reminded listeners of the sounds spilling out of every mall organ store in the 1980s, but Rank and Dennis used the limitations of their equipment to their advantage. The deliberate choice of old electronics making old sounds allowed them to pay homage to the soul artists they love while simultaneously preventing them from drifting too far afield. The irony is that their embrace of these dated sounds only amplified the timelessness of the music itself.

This time around, on the sleeker follow up I Fell in Love with You Tonight, the pair pare down their retro-futuristic soul jam to a more accessible ten tracks that demonstrate the lessons learned from their initial experiment in genre jumping. From the opening track "U Got Me Feeling", with its wry come on "We better say goodnight before I lose my mind / You got me feeling so high", the songs are more lushly produced, with both musicians playing multiple instruments to fill out the sound. "Sugar" glides with Marvin Gaye-like seductiveness while "This Love" brings a woke perspective to its sensual pleading: "You don't have to feel like you gotta / Baby but I wanna / Cause love is such a beautiful thing." Meanwhile, "Higher" marries its unrequited desire to a slow jam crescendo.

Start to finish, I Fell in Love with You Tonight is a hip-swaying, infectious brew of songs from an unlikely source. When an artist masters a particular sound or makes a timeless record, it is tempting to keep following that same formula for success, and few fans tend to complain. Rank could have followed that course following 2015's broken-hearted Americana masterpiece Horsehair (featuring Heather McEntire as his duet partner). Instead, 2018 finds Rank on the prowl, his guitar gathering dust in a closet and his dusty boots traded in for dancing shoes. It's a good fit and a party worth staying up late for.

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