Live Review | Roots Music Club, Doncaster | Review and Photos by Allan Wilkinson

I first became aware of the Anglo/Irish quartet Ranagri, when they were squashed into a tiny garden shed just outside Barnsley way back in 2015. I knew immediately that there was something special about them, something highly musical and something bold and creative at the same time. Since then, there’s been one or two changes, notably the arrival of harpist Eleanor Turner and multi-instrumentalist Joe Danks, who seem to have effortlessly slotted into the band, which already included the highly gifted flautist Eliza Marshall and Ranagri helmsman Dónal Rogers. It’s not all about great musicianship and warm personalities though, Ranagri have a strong repertoire of highly melodic and well crafted songs at their disposal and tonight the audience at the Ukrainian Centre in Doncaster was privy to some of the band’s very best.

The Medication Song was a good place to start, an instantly accessible melody with a variety of characters to behold; offshore pirates, various dandies, Burt and Ernie with a bit of hanky panky at the Ritz and ‘two fat ladies off their tits’, it was a completely burlesque start to the evening and the healthily attended room was on their side from the get go. Donald Trump got his obligatory mention during Eliza’s introduction to “The Bogeyman” (what else?) whilst the B word was thankfully not mentioned at all. The first set was in fact dominated by “The Hare”, an invigorating instrumental piece loaded with tension and release, which turned out to be one of the finest performances I’ve ever seen on this stage, which was respectfully rewarded by complete silence from both the audience and those at the bar with not a single clink of a glass.   

All four musicians were on top form tonight, with some delicate interplay between Eliza’s bass flute and Eleanor’s harp, whilst the highly animated Joe Danks ebbed and flowed throughout with some highly intuitive beats from his bodhran. Of the more sensitive fare, Colder stands out as a heartfelt ode to homelessness, beautifully sung by Dónal. No slouches when it comes to musical arrangement, Ranagri take traditional songs and rework them to the point of total transformation, which in turn makes listening to such well worn songs as “The House Carpenter” and “High Germany” almost a brand new experience. 

If the first set was rounded off with a touch of Gaelic during “The Boatman”, it was very much back to English at the end when the band returned to the stage for the unanimous demand for one more song, leaving a very satisfied audience with an uplifting “You Can Do Better.” A great start to the new season at the Roots Music Club.