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Venue: Square & Compass
Town: Worth Matravers
Date: 02/03/19

There are pub-gig venues and pub-gig venues, but I would defy anyone to come up with more unique hostelry to enjoy a live show than The Square & Compass in Worth Matravers. Beautifully situated on the limestone uploads of Purbeck, the pub, which began life as a pair of cottages, became an alehouse in around 1776, and is one of a handful in the country to have appeared in every edition of the Good Beer Guide. There can't be many that also boast their own museum too! Historically, music has been an important feature, and this has continued with a passion since the current manager, Kevin, took over in 2003, providing a great range of regular events which have free entry.

With the news that FATEA favourites, RANAGRI, were to perform there as part of their Playing For Luck (FATEA review here), promotional tour, and the fact that the venue management were so helpful in ensuring appropriate wheelchair access for my for my Dorset-based son-in-law and daughter, (not often the case, trust me), then a trek down from Kent for Mrs P & I, seemed eminently in order and too good an opportunity to resist.

And boy am I glad that I did. (No apologies for hyperbole and bad grammar). Over the course of two superbly crafted sets, the music played by this seriously talented, and, in some quarters, woefully neglected group of musicians assailed the emotions in a way that so few possess the courage to attempt, let alone the ability to achieve with such seemingly consummate ease.

It seems a fair time since founder members Donal Rogers and Eliza Marshall were joined by Joe Danks and Ellie Turner, but to these ears at least, over this period the quartet have developed and gelled into a much more effective and forceful homogenous unit. Musically, the interplay between the various instruments, including voices, is tight, but close observation of body language and facial expressions, (rather easy given my position at the end of Eliza's bass flute), reveals four people quite obviously in total harmony with each other and so thoroughly enjoying what they are doing. This fervour shines through and is infectious.

The light and shade elements presented musically were perfectly judged. Thus those packed into the room listening were at one moment in (almost) silent awe at the tranquil passages and the next jumping, clapping and whooping like a latter-day folk-mosh pit (admittedly difficult, if not dangerous, given the low ceiling beams).

The opening song of the evening, The Medication Show, immediately set the tone, in terms of high standard, quality musicianship and song-writing, and not only hooked, but successfully reeled in those present. They were successfully 'netted' for the rest of the evening. This song, as with the majority of what was played, quite rightly, came from Playing For Luck, the group's most recent release.

Other tracks from the release included the moody, atmospheric The Strangler, which has more than a shade of James Bond to it, along with the plaintive beauty and deceptive simplicity of Sometimes Home which preceded, in a stark contrast, the magnificent up-tempo number Trees, with dynamic percussion, harp and guitar, all intertwined with rapid-fire flute.

Prior to the show, I have to admit that I was contemplating how the recorded versions on PFL would be rendered live on stage, especially if there was not to be a harmonium or piano on-stage. Given the fact that the stage was a fireplace, these instruments were indeed absent, and with all due respect to Eliza & Ellie, I was, to say the least, astounded with how mighty fine the live versions sounded without. Indeed much of what was heard tonight 'trumped' (double pun intended) the versions on the CD - again this is intended as a compliment - the CD is excellent, but on many occasions you just can't beat live music (just an opinion).

Older material, however, was not neglected, with old favourites such as the politically-tinged Bogeyman and a beautiful rendition of Fear a' Bhàta being performed, together with rousing interpretations of High Germany and The Hare, both of which were exuberantly received.

The song-writing skills of the group, but obviously, on a ratio-count, of Donal in particular had more than ample opportunity to shine through tonight. His guitar and voice were a source of strength and an effective counterpoint to the percussive dexterity and energetic hearth-based terpsichorean movements of Joe Danks. This, together with the interplay between the variety of Eliza's flute sounds, which were pastoral, jazz-tinged and out-and-out rocky along with Ellie's harp, which was ethereal and fluidly buoyant, all in unequal measure, and all the better for it, provided for an evening of contemporary folk music of the highest quality and enjoyment. Tonight whilst there was certainly a Celtic heartbeat apparent, at times there were also Indian, African and Japanese influences.

The buzz and joyous mood as people sought to escape the heat and find a little fresh air was palpable.
Two comments made to me included "The best group we've ever had on here", "Do you know the band? That was just amazing."

For many of tonight's patrons, this was their first encounter with Ranagri, and their music. I'm sure that it will not be their last. This is no ordinary folk music and Ranagri are certainly no ordinary folk band, this was a magical evening.

David Pratt - Words & Pictures, Rebecca Goodson - Video Clip

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