Self-titled / August 2016
All songs traditional except:
St. John's Train (David Francey)
Ghost in the Fog (Bob Porter)
Salt in His Veins (Gerard Hamilton)
The White Hare / Float the Ice (Aaron Collis)
Living in Alberta (Dave Gunning)
All Through the Beer (trad/Collis/Manning).
by Devon Leger
I've made no bones about how much I love the new trad music coming out of Newfoundland. Steeped in old sea ballads and racing accordions and fiddles, Newfoundland deserves to be the new hotbed of Celtic music internationally.
Chief among this crowd is the young accordionist Aaron Collis. He's part of The Dardanelles, who I think are the best new-wave trad band, and has also spent time learning from accordion masters around the province. His recent album with Dardanelles fiddler Emilia Bartellas was a delight of traditional playing, and here his new album as a duo – Rum Ragged – with Newfoundland singer Mark Manning is another lovely surprise. I'll confess to not knowing a lot about Manning, but his vocals here are as soaringly powerful and crystal-clear as I'd come to expect from Newfoundland balladeers like the Dardanelles' Matthew Byrne.
Manning hails from the town of Saint Bride's and made his name playing pubs in St. John's and Placentia Bay. There's an element of the pub song to the album, for it's not entirely made up of old ballads. Instead, Manning and Collis have put together a compelling list of traditionals and originals, drawing as much from great Canadian songwriters like David Francey as from old classics like "Barque in the Harbour". It's a successful idea, and the songs mesh easily, drawing out different facets of each other.
Rum Ragged is a powerful new duo in the Newfoundland music scene and I'm delighted to say that the clarion-call vocals and harmony that is the mark of Newfoundland trad is in full effect here.