The West African phrase Ranky Tanky
roughly translates to "get funky" or "work it," according to the band's website. The band earns this title with danceable blends of gospel and jazz, celebrating the Gullah culture found in their home state of South Carolina. Although Good Time
delivers more infectious energy than their self-titled debut, Ranky Tanky fails to leave a lasting impression due to weak arrangements and lackluster lyrics.
In 2017, Ranky Tanky's first album introduced their unique celebration of influences and Quiana Parler
's powerful voice through an understated collection of contemplative tracks. Good Time
is much more lively, building danceable, although not fully developed, grooves.
"Freedom" opens with a simple and catchy guitar lick, then gradually incorporates an afrobeat aesthetic with layers of drums, percussion, bass and gospel backing vocals. A trumpet breaks into the mix for a lovely solo, but disappears afterward, leaving the track's dynamic progression to fall flat. However, "Freedom's" disappointingly simple arrangement cannot detract from Parler's powerful vocals.
Every element of "Beat Em Down," from Parler's breezy singing to the subtle guitar and trumpet solos at the song's midpoint, works to make this acoustic ballad even more soothing and picturesque. Again, Charlton Singleton
's trumpet is the only instrument absent for most of the song, but simplistic instrumentation fits much better on a folksy tune like "Beat Em Down" then it did on "Freedom."
Ranky Tanky composed both of these original songs, but most of Good Time
's tracks cover traditional Gullah songs. Although sharing culture is commendable, Ranky Tanky does not creatively elevate these traditional tunes, allowing them to drag the whole album down.
The album's title track is promising at a glance, showcasing jubilant backing vocals, bustling drums, tasteful hand claps, one of Singleton's best trumpet solos and some of Parler's most visceral cries and delicate melodies. Unfortunately, guitarist and vocalist Clay Ross
takes over for Parler throughout most of the song, and his nasally voice clashes with the band's smooth instrumentation.
"Old Bill" stands out as Good Time
's worst track. Although it begins with an exciting blues groove featuring propulsive drums, bass and guitar, the track's vocals and lyrics get old quickly. The main vocal melody has the complexity of a nursery rhyme, and lyrics about uncooperative mules and frog-eating snakes do nothing to elevate the track's simplicity.
Ranky Tanky's talent cannot be ignored, but stale arrangements and dated songs keep them from realizing their full potential. Good Time
is pleasant while it's on, but forgettable.