Ranagri take the folk tradition by the scruff of the neck.
Release Date: 2nd September 2022
Label: Goatskin Records / Bandcamp
A follow-up, and let’s face it, there have been longer gaps (cough…cough…Peter Gabriel) to 2014’s Tradition, Tradition II finds Ranagri emerging from a state of flux. Maybe a decision to return to musical root makes perfect sense – and perfect timing – after a time of transition both in the world in general and in closer-to-home musical terms.
On Tradition II, Ranagri alumni Evan Carson, Joe Danks and Eleanor Turner add guest contributions while Jordan Murray (percussion, dulcimer and bvs) and Eleanor Dunsdon (the essential Ranagri harp and bvs) join the core of Eliza Marshall and Donal Rogers on the new set. It’s a set that finds them doing what people do with folk songs; deconstruct and reconstruct, recreate and reimagine. And so it’s a selection of ten carefully chosen songs from the folk canon on the familiar folk themes of love, loss, separation and reunion with a bias towards the more contemporary issues of mental health. Themes to which we can all relate and in which we can draw parallels with the struggle of the characters in these songs.
The musical palette is as varied as ever. Eliza’s distinctive flutes and whistles and Donal’s guitar, bass, bouzouki and piano help manoeuvre these songs into new forms. The opening cut is a prime example; The Wife Of Usher’s Well getting a simply magnificent six-minute recrafting that takes it into brooding and bluesy territory. The pulsing rhythm and rolling guitar accompaniment cast a dense hypnotic spell as the tale plays out.
Emerging from the shadows of Usher’s Well, the whistles are back with a vengeance on the much lighter Lowlands Of Holland, and fair carries the extended instrumental middle of the song. The relaxed mood adds a decent portion of melancholy with wanderers longing for a return home and encounters with dark eyed sailors, broken tokens and associated roving. The whistle and harp interact delicately on Dark Eyed Sailor. The latter combo is instrumental in creating the atmospheres of what’s perhaps the biggie on the set. One of the popular recreations in the genre., the classic tale of The Unquiet Grave gets a winding intro before a most measured and elegant portrayal.
Polly On The Shore takes a leaf from the False Lights book of folk rocking and rocks up with an arrangement that you might swear, in parts or at least on first hearing, is Ian Anderson / Jethro Tull going into the tradition. The acoustic drive and breathy wind filling the sails contrast with the dreamy pastoral scene that’s set on Lowlands Away before proceedings are closed with an a close as dammit lullaby version of Bridget O’Malley. Ranagri prove most adept once more at treating the tradition with respect whilst adding their own unique touches. Be it a sensitive delicacy or something more daring and robust, Tradition II oozes with class and quality. Nothing less than expected.
Here’s Courting Is A Pleasure: