Photo by Frank Edwards

Charleston’s acclaimed Lowcountry Gullah band Ranky Tanky earned its second Grammy Award nomination for Best Regional Roots Music Album. The album, Live At The 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, is a recording of the band’s April performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. 

Ranky Tanky won Best Regional Roots Music Album at the 2020 Grammys.

“This is an honor for us,” lead vocalist Quiana Parler told the Charleston City Paper. “We’re up against some amazing artists in this category this year. This has really taken us by surprise. It came from a place of good intention. Many people aren’t really familiar or have never heard of Gullah culture. We came together to move the culture forward worldwide. So I think that’s why we’ve been so blessed.”

The band’s trumpeter Charlton Singleton added, “We feel honored to be recognized by our peers in The Recording Academy for this amazing achievement. A nomination and chance to receive one of the most recognizable awards in the world is truly a blessing. Thank you to all of our family and friends that make up our village for the love and support that they have shown all of us as individual artists and as Ranky Tanky.”

Live At The 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival earning a Grammy nomination bolsters Ranky Tanky’s notable influence as a cultural ambassador of Gullah music. The band earned its first Grammy for the 2019 LP Good Time and have since catapulted into the international spotlight. The band is currently on tour with R&B artist Lisa Fischer, who played with the Rolling Stones for 26 years. 

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

“We take the Gullah culture and the Gullah music — like kids songs and nursery rhymes — and we add a contemporary flair to it so that we can reach a broader audience,” Parler said. 

Live At The 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival features two new songs, “Down in My Heart” and “Lift Me Up,” written by Singleton and Ross, respectively. 

While every band member contributes to the lyrics and compositions, Parler said the songwriting process is never “let’s sit down together and write a song.” She recalled the 2019 single “Freedom” came to be after she sang the word “freedom” off the cuff during a random sound check. She said Ranky Tanky’s songwriting process has remained eclectic and organic over the years. 

“Someone brings a song to the group, and then we’ll add a little salt and pepper and garlic salt here and there. We just put some spices on it and we go from there,” Parler said. 

Charleston soul act Black Diamond’s recent debut single “Winning,” is actually the first song that Parler managed to sit down and write completely on her own. Parler said the first time she heard Black Diamond vocalist Christian Smalls sing years ago, she fell in love with her voice. 

“Southern soul is a big, big market in Charleston and in the Southeast region,” Parler said.
“So I just thought that people need to hear her.”

It’s that generosity and collaborative spirit that each member of Ranky Tanky shares, and it’s a big part of the band’s legacy as it welcomes a chance at a second Grammy Award. 


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Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.