The Rankin Twins, Amy and April, are a winning double dose of Texas born and bred country music charm, talent and star potential. Performing and charming folks since they were old enough to stand up and do so, their presence on stage and studio recordings is a natural extension of their infectious personalities and sweet and dynamic sisterly interplay. With an innate gift for heartfelt and magnetic songwriting that captivates listeners, the duo meld deep Lone Star State musical roots with a shimmer of pop savvy into a sound that feels hit-bound from the very first listen.
In just a first listen to the Twins one hears a distinctive and alluring musical signature in how their voices dance together in harmony and unison as well as trade verses back and forth. There’s an obvious organic gift for melodies that enchant the ear in the songs they write as well as lyrics with canny rhymes and wordplay that express genuine emotions that we all have known and felt. It’s a sound that blends real deal country with Southern rock punch and pop friendly hooks into music that simply can’t be denied by anyone who loves music made with heart, soul and brains for all the right reasons.
It’s no surprise that in a mere two or so years of making music together that the Twins have already been nominated for the Female Horizon Award in the 2009 Entertainer Awards at the legendary Grapevine Opry, where stars like LeAnn Rimes and Miranda Lambert — one of the Rankins’ prime musical inspirations — also began their careers, and recently opened a show for Grammy winner Billy Dean. Like many top artists who have made their musical mark, their abilities and enchanting presence are obviously inborn.
The two began entertaining family and friends when they sang together at their annual Christmas Eve family parties and later at weddings and other occasions from an early age in their hometown of Portland, TX on the Gulf Coast. There was also something about the Twins that attracted people’s attention. “I think they were drawn to us because we were twins with this curly and almost white blonde hair,” says April.
By the time they were in elementary school the two were accompanying their parents most every weekend out to country dancehalls, which along with the sounds from the radio weaned them on such Texas staples as Willie Nelson and George Strait and also Nashville superstars like Reba McEntire and the also genetic vocal blend of The Judds as well as pop entertainers like Madonna. Summers spent at the nightly dances at famed Garner State Park on the Frio River in the Hill Country — subject of the 1960s hit song “Garner State Park” by B.J. Thomas and where other Texas artists were touched in their youths by the musical spirit — instilled in the girls a sense of the magic and romance to be found in music.
When they went to concerts, it sparked the first inklings of getting up on a big stage and singing their hearts out. “We’d get this strange feeling from seeing people perform,” Amy recalls. “And we later realized that it was because we wanted to be up there singing the songs.”
Moving around the Lone Star State to Longview (in their junior high years) and Midland (where they graduated high school), Amy and April acquired their “never met a stranger we didn’t like” (or charm) friendliness and warmth. Then while they both were in college at Texas A&M, Amy fell in with some aspiring Texas music movement artists, met stars of the scene like Cory Morrow and Cross Canadian Ragweed, and was given a guitar by a musician friend. The sisters also became fans of the similarly familial Dixie Chicks and fellow Texan singing and songwriting dynamo Lambert, and later fellow sister act Carter’s Chord as well as country-pop sensation Taylor Swift.
After college graduation the Twins moved to Dallas, and the final element that inspired them to make music happened: A tough relationship breakup for Amy that prompted her to write a song and express her feelings about it. “It's funny because I never thought I'd be a songwriter… just didn't think I had the ability to do it,” she reflects. “But that first song just came out.” She moved for a while to be back home with her parents outside Houston, started taking guitar lessons, and then after her first time getting up onstage to sing and play, “I said this is what I want to do and April and I have to do it together.”
More songs kept coming, and after Amy rejoined April in Dallas, the two started collaborating and April’s writing talents also blossomed. They made their first recordings, put together a band, and began playing shows, finding themselves happily enthralled with everything to do with making music. When Amy underwent two operations for a brain tumor in late 2008, it only strengthened the sisters’ determination to live their dream and take their music to its fullest creative and commercial potential.
Among those hearing a bright future in the music made by the Twins is longtime music journalist and critic Rob Patterson, the Austin-based columnist and correspondent for England’s Country Music People who has also written for such magazines as Country Music, New Country, Texas Music, No Depression and CMA Close-Up, among many others, and produced the Indie Award nominated Austin Country Nights compilation album. “One thing we music-loving journalists live for is those all too rare magical moments when you hear an act and immediately say, wow, they’ve got it!” he recently wrote. “And The Rankin Twins have indeed got it all in spades: whip-smart songs that you happily can’t get out of your head, delectable voices that are intertwined in a double helix of harmonic delight, and a charisma as performers and people that is irresistible. I’m confident that someday very soon I’m going to proudly be able to say: I knew they were going very big places from the start.”
Now based in the heart of Texas in Austin, The Rankin Twins are applying their pluck and go for the gusto attitude to quickly rising in the local club scene and expanding their audience across their home state and then as far beyond as it can go. Currently recording their aptly-titled debut album, Headaches and Heartbreaks, for an early 2010 release, The Rankin Twins prove that one plus one can add up to far more than the sum of their identical yet congruent parts, and are creating a new musical equation whose results suggest that notable numbers in music venues and on the record charts are written in the stars for these girls.