The Ragtime Rumours ‘Rag ‘N Roll’ CD (RUF) 4/5

Old-time music has acquired a niche audience in the wake of the alt.country scene, devoid of the formulaic nature of much of today’s commercial music, and here is a fine example of what is possible on a set of eleven all original compositions that take one back in time to the early 1920s. This band comprises banjo, double bass, guitar and drums plus collective and individual vocals, and listeners will immediately hear the influence of gypsy guitar music as personified by Django Reinhardt inter-weaved with some tasty Robert Johnson folk-blues. Vocals hint at Seasick Steve and Tom Waits in parts, and the humorous monologue intro made by male vocalist Tom Janssen (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, banjo) on ‘Turn Every Dollar’, and accompanying electric guitar, makes for some entertaining music. Collective harmonies impress on the pared down instrumentation of ‘Hookman’, with male lead and a strong folk-blues number. That blues feeling spreads to piano on the evocative, ‘Stop That Train’, which is ostensibly a duet between piano and vocals, with shuffling drum beat accompaniment to recreate the sound of a train. The sound of guitar echo is heard on ‘Faker’, which has all the feel of a Tom Waits composition and production. For a more intimate reading of the folk-blues tradition, look no further than ‘ Holy Woedend’, complete with acoustic guitar and female lead vocals. Little wonder, then, that this Dutch formation should be competitively challenging at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, and were indeed the winners of the 2018 cycle of the European Blues Challenge in Norway.

Impressive credentials and an authentic sound to back it up. Folk-blues cognoscenti will take note that the faded brown old-style photos on the gatefold sleeve cover creatively sets the scene for the musical delights that are to follow and whether the lovely graphical and novel advertisement illustrations are authentic or not, they sure look the real deal and are highly entertaining with signs denoting “Chicken For Sale. Slight catch. Both drumsticks still intact”.

Tim Stenhouse