Born and raised in rural towns upon the island of Newfoundland, Rum Ragged founders Aaron Collis and Mark Manning have always been fans of folk and traditional music. “Being a musician or entertainer was never something we thought possible while growing up in our small rural hometowns,” Mark shares. But as they both left home to attend university in St. John’s, they found themselves drawn to the downtown music scene. Mark and Aaron met while playing solo gigs downtown and soon began playing as a duo. “Making music together came from a mutual interest in the traditional music of our home and being able to bring nearly forgotten songs, stories and tunes to the ears of today’s listeners in our own way.”
Few traditional folk bands have gained prominence as quickly as Rum Ragged, giving testament to the appeal of their sound and performances. Their band name, Rum Ragged, comes from a play on words. The band started out playing the pub circuit of downtown St. John’s, with multiple shows a day. They were often asked if they were “run ragged” from all of the back-to-back performances, so Mark and Aaron took the phrase and added some local flavour. “Newfoundland has a great history of trading our salt fish with Jamaica for Jamaican Rum,” Mark shares. The band switched “run” for “rum” and Rum Ragged was born.
These days Rum Ragged typically plays as a four-piece with the addition of fiddler Colin Grant and multi-instrumentalist Zack Nash. Boasting such instruments as the bouzouki, fiddle, bodhran, guitar, banjo and button accordion, Rum Ragged champions the East Coast sound with enlightening and lively songs that excite audiences across the country. Although they’re a prolific band with four albums, Rum Ragged acclaim comes from their many performances and their energy onstage. “Our favourite part hands down is being able to share the music of our home with audiences and musicians all over the world,” Mark shares. “Travelling, sharing and meeting new folks is really what we love most about the music industry.”
Both fans of Blundstone boots, Aaron and Mark jumped at the chance to be a part of the Blundstone Playlist Volume 4. “We have been wearing Blundstone for years and we absolutely love them. There is simply no other boot that can be and do so many things” Rum Ragged has sported their boots on stages, in meetings, at pubs, on the dance floor, on hikes, on airplanes and countless other places, sharing that Blundstone boots’ “mixture of comfort, style, practicality and most importantly dependability gives us the confidence that whatever direction it is that we choose, we will be at least walking in the right shoes… or boots that is.”
The Thing About Fish is the title track of their 2019 album and contribution to the Blundstone Playlist Volume 4. It captures the significance of Newfoundland’s fishing industry to the social and economic past, present and future. The lyrics “delve into the fact that it was fish that drew our ancestors to this island, it was fish that created the foundation for us to grow here and it was fish that shaped and continues to shape who we are and how we identify as a people,” Mark shares. Head over to the Blundstone Playlist Volume 4 and check out their Newfoundland folk music.
Follow Rum Ragged for updates:
If able, please join Rum Ragged in supporting The Jacob Puddister Memorial Foundation, whose mission is to provide mental health resources to youth in Newfoundland and Labrador and to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health through various fundraising efforts and community partnerships.
Rum Ragged’s music is available for purchase through NL owned and operated www.SingSongInc.ca
Update: Rum Ragged’s album ‘The Thing About Fish’ has been nominated for Traditional Roots Album of the Year at the 50th Annual JUNO Awards – Canada’s Music awards. The 2021 JUNO Awards will be broadcast nationwide on June 6, 2021.