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The Ranters put a new face on Appalachian music

Named for an unconventional movement, the duo delivers a new approach to classic tunes
The Ranters.

Rockland Moran and Gillian Wale are an Americana/Roots duo from Shawnigan Lake whose band, The Ranters, have set a new standard for their musical genre and continue to thrill fans wherever they go. 

Moran, on the mandola (that’s sort of like a mandolin’s big brother), guitar, harmonica and vocals is joined by Gillian Wale on the mandolin, autoharp (sort of a zither that, well, look it up) and together they produce an authentic Appalachian sound that sets feet to tapping and brings smiles to faces. 

“We do a lot of Appalachian music, but something we do is take classic '60s music and turn it into sort of blue-grassy tunes,” said Moran.  “It’s a new approach that people seem to love.” 

Moran has been performing in and around Vancouver and Vancouver Island since his start with a group called The Diviners, back in the '90s, although his first paid gig as a musician was back in 1968. Suffice to say, Moran has paid his dues. 

For her part, Wales came at their music on a very different route. 

She trained as a classical pianist but found that she had a flair for (and love of) ragtime music: not the sort of thing one generally hears in classic concert halls. 

“Gillian also tapped into the autoharp culture," said Moran. “She studied with Bryan Bowers [who is credited as a master of the instrument and the man who reintroduced it to a new generation of musicians] and really fell in love with the instrument.”  

Those autoharp connections saw the duo travel all down the West Coast of North America, performing in everything from folk festivals to house concerts. 

“I actually love the house concerts,” said Moran. "People get 20 or 30 of their friends together and we show up and we’ll play for two hours. It’s intimate and the way this music was originally heard. It’s great.” 

And, in case you’re wondering about their name, Moran had read about Ranters, a breakaway radical religious sect in the 17th Century that rejected the very notion of obedience, arguing that true believers were guided by the Spirit and therefore not bound to obey Mosaic Law. They promoted a highly individualistic approach to spirituality. 

“They believed that religion was just a control thing and they’d run into churches and disrupt services. They were kind of free spirits and I suppose the name seemed appropriate to who we were,” Moran said. 

The Ranters’ CD, Rant on Children consists of one traditional song and nine originals – all of which focus on their tight vocal harmonies and the magical sound of their rather non-mainstream instruments. 

They’ll be appearing all around Vancouver Island, including the Duncan 39 Days Festival which runs throughout July.

The Ranters relax. The Ranters