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Ranagri: Playing For Luck

Ranagri: Playing For Luck

Ranagri: Playing For Luck
January 06
04:26 2019

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The four members of the Anglo-Irish folk band Ranagri have thriving side careers, playing with rock stars and on film soundtracks. The risk this poses is that their own albums might suffer from a kind of virtuosic anonymity, but Playing For Luck surmounts this to display its own character.

The band’s way with a swooping melody is apparent from the opening “Strangler”, with a pattering tread of bodhran from Joe Danks sitting underneath heartfelt singing from Dónal Rogers, long notes held over several bars at a time. Eliza Marshall’s flutes and Ellie Turner’s piano figures, and later harp, enliven the song without dominating. The syncopated country strum that introduces “Devil’s Need” sets up another wide-ranging melody, Turner’s harp playing off against Rogers’s vocal.

The toxicity of nostalgia is explored at a rattle on “The Medication Show”, with dandified villains in monocles spying “coronation as the prize”. The journey back to a monochrome world throws up “Waterloo, El Alamein/Flapper dresses and champagne/Penny-farthings in the rain”, spinning from 1969 to 1925 in the space of a few verses. “I told you we’ll be great again”, promise the hucksters and “offshore pirates”, amid hornpipe flourishes on the whistles. “Take me in”, reply the chorus, meaning include me; deceive me.

On “Like My Enemy” the flutes snort and blurt like Jethro Tull channelling Roland Kirk. There is more hurt on “The Thief”, whose melancholy verse explodes into a hard-drumming chorus. But “Sometimes Home” offers relief: “a door once black that’s now painted blue/seems to mean too much to you.” The centrepiece of the album is “Trees”, its pastoral musical setting, with flutes like birdsong and harp and guitar murmuring in the branches, Rogers navigating a wood that alternates between threat and potential.

There is a tick of African percussion and dry bansuri on “Waiting For The Rain To Fall”, amid “grey clouds” with no “drop of water in the sky”. Over and over, Rogers sings “we’re just waiting for the rain to fall”. A jig, “Falling Down”, implores a “Juju woman” to “summon my demons in snake oil trances”. The closer, “Liberty”, is a non-specific anthemic singalong.

★★★☆☆

Playing For Luck’ is released by Stockfisch

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