RANAGRI – Tradition II (own label)

Tradition IIRanagri are an Anglo-Irish folk band who stretch the boundaries of what folk music is, so it may be surprising that Tradition II is the follow-up to previous album Tradition.  This ten track album takes traditional songs, some more well known than others, but puts the Ranagri stamp onto every one of them for a fresh sound.  Ranagri have gone through a chance in personnel over the last couple of years with Dónal and Eliza being constant whilst Evan Carson and Joe Danks have made way for Jordan Murray on percussion whilst Eleanor Dunsdon has taken over from Eleanor Turner on harp.  It’s been a seamless transition and the band hasn’t changed that core sound as a result; this is very much the Ranagri style.

Opening the album is a driving version of ‘The Wife Of Usher’s Well’ which introduces the band.  Centred around the vocals of Dónal Rogers this traditional British tune is given a treatment more in line with its Appalachian form, where it was later collected, and it fairly flies along. Following this comes ‘Lowlands of Holland’ which has a softer, gentler feel to it and brings in backing vocals and Eliza Marshall’s delicately picked flute as well as the harp.  These two songs represent the theme of the album; love, loss and separation so even though they’re centuries old they still have a resonance today.

Despite describing themselves as Anglo-Irish they don’t restrict themselves to just these countries but explore songs from around the British Isles and beyond and vary both the pace and tempo of songs.  ‘The Northern Lights Of Old Aberdeen’ is beautifully understated, giving it a real sense of longing for home, whilst ‘The Unquiet Grave’ is given a spooky feel suiting the words well. ‘Polly On The Shore’ is a faster song with the flute and harp working well together.

It would be possible to go through every one of the tracks because they all have something to recommend them but I’ll finish on the closing track ‘Bríd Óg Ní Mháille’ (Bridget O’Malley), beautifully presented with Dónal’s fine voice and piano, but every one of the band gets a chance to shine.  That’s something that sums up Ranagri for me; all excellent individual musicians they work so well together and do have a unique sound.  They can get an audience up and dancing, or listening attentively, which is why they are so popular as a live act.  Tradition II makes a great gateway album if you’ve not come across the band before but is also a worthy addition to the collection if you have.  As an example of modern developments in traditional folk it’s one everybody should have in the library.

The album was released in early September 2022 and is available through the band’s website or Bandcamp page.  Ranagri also have an extensive tour coming up in the autumn, supporting Tony Christie which will hopefully bring in the many new fans they deserve to have.

Tony Birch

Artists’ website: http://www.ranagri.com/

‘Courting Is A Pleasure’ – official video: