Ranky Tanky won a second Grammy Award Sunday night | Photo by Peter Frank Edwards

Charleston’s acclaimed Lowcountry Gullah band Ranky Tanky on Sunday earned its second Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Music Album for a live album recorded during the band’s April 2022 performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. 

“It’s a testament to our live performances —  we put out our all in all,” Parler told the Charleston City Paper on Monday. “We leave it on the stage. We never tried to recreate a moment that we’ve done previously.”

“Thank you to everyone that has called, texted and/or left some sort of message about us winning a SECOND GRAMMY AWARD (still can’t believe it!),” Ranky Tanky member Charlton Singleton wrote Monday morning on Facebook. “With that said…y’all boi know that me, Quiana [Parler], and the Charlton Singleton and Friends crew are coming in hot at the show on Feb. 18 at the Charleston Music Hall! Come out and celebrate the ‘LOVE’ with us.”

The Lowcountry ensemble fuses contemporary elements of jazz, soul and funk with traditional Gullah music from the southeastern Sea Islands. Ranky Tanky includes vocalist Quiana Parler, trumpeter Singleton, guitarist Clay Ross, bassist Kevin Hamilton and drummer Quentin E. Baxter. 

The College of Charleston (CofC) gave a special congratulations to the band’s three CofC graduates: Ross and Baxter from the class of 1998 and Hamilton from the class of 1995.

“This is a surprise nomination for us, and to win is really extraordinary,” Ross told the City Paper on Monday via email. “It definitely boosts our confidence and sense of purpose. We wouldn’t be where we are without all the years of support from the community in Charleston.”

 The band was not aware that the live performance was being submitted for a Grammy Award, Parler said. 

The tracklist on the Grammy Award winning album, Live At The 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, contains two new previously unrecorded songs, “Down in My Heart” and “Lift Me Up,” written by Singleton and Ross, respectively. The live album captured a Ranky Tanky performance within the 2022 international festival that featured more than 200 musical acts, including Charleston’s own alt-rock duo Shovels & Rope. 

“I just remember being so excited to finally play at the world famous jazz fest,” Clay said. “During the show the crowd was dancing and we were feeling good. I also remember intentionally taking more risks, improvising more and stretching out on our songs. We really weren’t conscious of the recording at all, and I think the risk taking paid off.”

Parler added, “To finally make it there to that stage at such a prestigious festival — it was exciting. We had [longtime Charleston jazz singer] Elise Testone on the side of the stage that day while we were performing. She was hanging out with us.”

The band earned its first Grammy in 2020 for its 2019 LP Good Time. Since then, it has since catapulted into the international spotlight. The band is finishing up an international tour with performances featuring R&B artist Lisa Fischer, who played with the Rolling Stones for 26 years.

“Everybody likes to compare [the sound of] Charleston and New Orleans,” Parler said. “[That performance] was like a pivot in the road where Charleston and New Orleans were meeting and working together cohesively. This is a great moment for us and an opportunity for both cultures.”

Ranky Tanky performs at 8 p.m. June 2 at the Charleston Music Hall downtown during the Spoleto Festival USA 2023 season. Tickets are $35-$55 and available through Charleston Music Hall.

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