Ranky Tanky Deliver a 'Good Time'

Photo: Frank Edwards / Shore Fire Media

Ranky Tanky honor the Gullah culture of their South Carolina ancestors, even as they update that culture for the 21st century on Good Time.

Good Time
Ranky Tanky

Resilience Records

12 July 2019

Anyone alive and old enough to remember 1979 will probably tell you that it was a strange year. An extended hostage situation, an energy crisis, crazed and drunken folks smashing up disco records during a baseball game in Chicago. 1979 was just plain weird. During the summer of '79, Chic had one of the biggest hits of the year, "Good Times", in which they noted amid all the weirdness that, "these are the good times". The lesson: when times are strange or bad, you still need to find and celebrate the good times, even if you need to create the good times on your own.

Fast forward 40 years. 2019 has been, to many people, a strange and disconcerting year. Now, in the middle of the year, South Carolina band Ranky Tanky have graced us with their second album, Good Time. As Ranky Tanky advises on the new album's killer title track, "Good time, a good time / We gonna have a time."

The South Carolina Lowcountry soul of Ranky Tanky's "Good Time" is musically light-years away from Chic's urbane dance floor soul, but the message is essentially the same. Life can be rough, but it is essential to create your own good times. Even if Ranky Tanky's "Good Time" doesn't climb the charts as Chic's "Good Times" did, it is every bit as successful at delivering the message. And, in 2019, every bit as necessary.

The ostensible roots of Ranky Tanky can be traced back to the College of Charleston, South Carolina, where Quentin E. Baxter (drums/album producer), Kevin Hamilton (bass), Clay Ross (guitar/vocals), and Charlton Singleton (trumpet/vocals) met while studying music in the 1990s. During their school years, the friends formed a jazz quartet called Gradual Lean but split to pursue individual careers. The college friends reunited in 2016 and brought in vocalist Quiana Parler to form Ranky Tanky. From the beginning, the purpose of the band has been to draw on the Gullah culture that originated among the descendants of enslaved Africans in South Carolina's Lowcountry. Four of Ranky Tanky's band members have deep family roots in Gullah culture. The band's name is a Gullah expression that roughly means "get funky".

The music of Ranky Tanky is fully informed by the Gullah culture but Good Time never once comes across as a dull history lesson or lecture. The truth is that the heartache, joy, and sheer beauty so apparent in every groove of Good Time contains everything you need to know about the members of Ranky Tanky and their Lowcountry ancestors

Ranky Tanky doesn't focus on a meticulous recreation of traditional Gullah music, which used only a cappella voices and body percussion. While the album's charming closing track, "Shoo Lie Loo" does indeed feature only vocals and percussion, the rest of the album adds jazzy guitar and trumpet solos to the intricate vocals and percussion tracks that represent the Gullah sound. The band is loose and fun throughout, and Quiana Parler's vocals are breathtaking. Throughout the album, from the thoughtful gospel tune "Stand by Me" (not the Ben E. King song) through to "Shoo Lie Loo", the songs seem to live at the magic place where soul, jazz, gospel, and threads of other Americana-based music intersect.

Ranky Tanky's Good Time is a beautiful piece of work that honors the Gullah culture while successfully updating it for the 21st century. Good Time is indeed a good time, but it is so much more. Good Time is a supremely soulful album, in every sense of the word "soulful".





The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.


Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.


Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.


Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.


Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.


The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.


Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.


The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.