Calling all jaded music-lovers. The Ragtime Rumours have come to prick up your ears. In an era when the dead-eyedmusicindustryclings to tired formulas, these time-travelling Dutch visionariestear up the rulebook – and that rebel attitude is all overRag ’N Roll. Anything goes on this revolutionary debut album, as the ghosts of Robert Johnson and Django Reinhardt meet the influence of Tom Waits and Pokey LaFarge, driving eleven self-penned originals and one traditional that could have been written in 1920 or 2018.“We combine our inspiration for ragtime music with the styles of blues, gypsy jazz and rock ‘n’ roll,” explain the band.“We call it rag ‘n’ roll…”
It’s been a rocket-fuelled rise for the lineup of Tom Janssen (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, banjo, Niki Van Der Schuren (upright bass, vocals, flute, baritone sax), Thimo Gijezen (electric guitar, accordion, piano, vocals) and Sjaak Korsten (drums, kazoo, washboard, vocals).Rewind just a few short years, and The Ragtime Rumours set out like any other young band: busking, grafting, playing any dive-bar and hell-hole that would have them. But this talentedquartet quickly rose above the pack, announcing their pedigree with a run of high-profile competition victories:they took first place at 2015’s BRUL contest, stormed the finals of the 2017 Dutch Blues Challenge, represented the Netherlands at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, and – perhapsmost impressively – won this year’s European Blues Challenge in Hell, Norway.
All that silverware – plus triumphantinternational tours across Norway, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland and the UK ()– have left no doubt thatThe Ragtime Rumours can shake a live stage. We’ve had early hints, too, of their alchemy in the studio, with acclaimed EP Ain’t Nobody and standout single Love & Lust rarely leaving the radio playlists on their Netherlands home-turf. Now, Rag ’N Roll bottles the exuberance and megawatt energy of watching this livewire band from the front row. “Making this album,” they remember, “was a lot of nonsense, fun and music, as usual. We wanted this album to sound sincere and organic. It’ll give people the live feel, just like it does onstage.”
The other thing thatRag ’N Roll gives us, of course, is a fistful of new songs that confirm The Ragtime Rumours as one of the most creative forces in modern music.Way Too Smart kicks off the tracklisting in style with its high-velocity groove and hard-luck lyric, and the gems keep coming, from the bluesy harmonica-driven stylings of Hookman to the quicksilver Django-worthy guitar licks ofThe Cigar. There’s a change of pace with the honky-tonk intro of Stop That Train,while the broken-down jazz of Holly Woedend, sung withheart-rending poignancy by Van Der Schuren, will move you to shivers.
The album’s other ace card, of course, is the lyric-sheet.Anything but the usual boy-meets-girl, these words areoften funny, occasionally dark, sometimes surreal (or a combination of all three).There’s the topic of money, represented on both the flat-broke Way Too Smart and tight-fisted Turn Every Dollar (“I’m a cheap, cheap, cheap fucker”). There are failed relationships, addressed by Everywhere I Go, as Janssen tries to outrun an old girlfriend (“Drove planes, boats, trains, cars, rode on a camel’s back, oh, in my head I knew you would be back”). Then there are the classic story-songs like Hookman and Stop That Train, with their mad cast of characters.“The songs are about everyday life very exaggerated,” reflect the band. “And the remarkable and unfortunate people we’ve met.”
In a world where you think you’ve heard it all before, The Ragtime Rumours’ talents add up to the freshest debut album you’ll hear this year. This band might roll back the years with their irresistible vintage/modern music – but their time is now.