We Newfoundlanders know hard times more than most. Indeed, it seems to be the recurring groundhog day narrative that is being a Newfoundlander. We struggle, fall, rise and persevere, only to struggle again. Rinse, repeat, hope.
Strife & Struggle
We know plenty of strife and struggle and how to overcome, which is likely as good a reason as any to explain our unshakable sense of humour and willingness to embrace life and all her pitfalls. Enter MusicNL nominated trad foursome Rum Ragged, who have followed up their award-winning self-titled debut and Christmas EP with a sophomore effort that touches on the highs and lows of island living.
“We were driving on the 401 and on the way back to Toronto to play and we realized that we had kind of mistakingly made a concept album,” Mark Manning shared to The Herald in a sitdown with fellow Rum Ragged members Aaron Collis, Anthony Chafe and Michael Boone.
The Hard Times
“There was a song on it called The Hard Times Song. The thing for me is using the traditional songs like Fox and The Hare and the traditional songs prove that there were hard times before and we’re kind of going through hard times now. Chances are we’ll come out on the other side. But that was kind of the thing for me making the album.”
Fittingly titled The Hard Times, the second studio album for Rum Ragged – produced at the home-studio of Billy Sutton – serves as the natural progression for a band who have matured through countless miles logged and intimate studio sessions. “We didn’t try to force anything,” shared Chafe. “With the first full length we didn’t have the b’ys aboard. This time it was cool to have four people picking at the arrangements. A lot of cool things came out of that A lot of it came off the floor. It is what we are. That’s the best way to put it.” “Another thing too is trying to make something that we like,” adds Boone. “Stuff that we want to listen to ourselves and perhaps is not available.”
While much has changed for Rum Ragged – their fan base has grown, touring map widened and creative cross more fine tuned – little has wavered in terms of passion and pure enjoyment of performing and crafting music.
“It’s a lot of fun making the album. It’s constant laughs,” Manning says. “We all gets along well. Even out on tour, being crammed in a mini-van for weeks or in a hostel somewhere. It’s never rough. We had one (hotel) key to get in Toronto one time and Anthony wanted to go back early and that was about the flightiest we got.”
“Being crooked is not a recipe for creativity,” adds Collis, getting a laugh out of the room.
“It’s progressing from all ends of it,” Manning adds. “It’s getting better musically, getting better for the shows and more people are coming to the shows. We’re getting better venues and going into new markets all of the time. Every second month we’re trying something new when it comes to new markets and fighting for new people. At the end of the day it has just been fun and that is one of the reason we’re at it.”
Banking another three nominations at the 2018 MusicNL Awards for Celtic/Traditional Artist of the Year, Folk/Roots Artist of the Year and Group of the Year, Rum Ragged head into the cooler months of the year riding a momentum that saw the band tour across Canada and abroad in 2018. The band will look to carry the momentum of yet another sharp and crowd-pleasing record into 2019, where surely bigger and better things will follow.
‘The Good Times’
“What it means to us? It’s the hard times,” Manning adds of the album. “We’ve had hard times in all of it too, with all the touring. There have been times a show hasn’t gone the best and we probably didn’t take home the amount of money we thought we wanted to. It all wrapped up very good. Hopefully now that The Hard Times are made the hard times are over.”
“Hopefully the next album is the good times,” adds Boone with a laugh.
The Hard Times is available now. For more on the band visit rumragged.com