The folk-gospel-jazz quintet makes a stop at the historic Lincoln Theater, and has the audience on their feet and shouting for more.
I had read an article about the Gulla communities of the barrier islands off the South Carolina coast several months ago. Freed slaves populated the isolated islands and managed to preserve much of their unique African art, cuisine, and language to this day. Not long after reading the article, National Public Radio highlighted Ranky Tanky, a five piece jazz, gospel group from Charleston, South Carolina that performs music with Gulla roots. When I saw the Lincoln Theater’s ad about Ranky Tanky making a visit on March 31, I put in on the calendar.
My guess is most of the other people in the almost capacity crowd had heard of them also. As soon as the band took the stage, a rousing, rowdy cheer rose up. For the rest of the night, this superb ensemble kept pouring out their blend of folky, jazzy music while throwing in anecdotes about their history of playing together. Many of their song lyrics had the cadence of jump rope songs. The nearest thing I can compare it to would be New Orleans style jazz. The gospel element was also very obvious. At times, the evening had a light hearted revival aspect to it. All the better for the appreciative crowd. In short, it was a totally entertaining event.
Lead vocalist Quiana Parler had a range and power that reminded me of some of the great soul singers. She seemed to be enjoying the evening as much as we in the audience did, swaying and grooving to the beat. Charelton Singleton the trumpet player added nice clean horn lines to the mix. Clay Ross handled the guitar work. He alternated between rocking out, laying down bluesy riffs, and at times playing smooth repetitive lines that reminded me of South African pop. Both men also added backing vocals, and took turns leading several songs.
Add to that masterful standup bass player Kevin Hamilton, red hot drummer Quentin Baxter, and you got a first rate package. One of the most interesting bits of information passed on was that the two very popular songs, Kumbaya and Michael Row the Boat Ashore are Gulla tunes. For the last number they got the entire theater to its feet, and Quiana guided us through a sing along complete with hand jive motions.
Green Sally up! Green Sally down! Green Sally turn her possum brown!
It was over all too soon, but not before the crowd demanded an encore. The Lincoln Executive Director Roger Gietzen said he had contacted them a year and a half ago, and it was well worth the wait. My hunch is they will be back.
Entertainment Writer Mark Perschbacher…A man who will cross great barriers to find exceptional music, art, food, and beer. Mark is a long time Skagit County resident, contributor to, and supporter of local arts.