A regular draw at the Rockabilly Rave, Mary Ann is entering a fresh phase of the Ranch Girls with the launch of The New Ranch Girls
Singing the sweetest of harmonies to melt even the most resistant of hearts, The New Ranch Girls – consisting of Mary Ann and Raina – performed miracles at this year’s Rockabilly Rave with a set that was fit to bursting point with the aforementioned mellifluous vocals, but one that also had a sting in its tail when the band decided to crank up the amplifiers and (whisper it) rock out. Such was the ferocity of several of the rockin’ numbers that FLW was left in a state of joyous bewilderment due to being caught unawares as documented by the incomprehensible scribble by the time the set reached its conclusion.
Having caught up with the all-singing duo earlier during the same day, the sheer ecstasy felt after The New Ranch Girl’s performance on the main stage was heightened because no indication was given during our discussion of a riotous edge to a few of the ditties lining their set. Having said that, there was one more surprise from the New Ranch Girls and that was the very fact that this was going to be their opening bow under said moniker at the Rockabilly Rave, as well as acting as a promotional tool for Miss Mary Ann’s current album ‘Danger Moved West’ with her Ragtime Wranglers.
“As The New Ranch Girls this will be the first gig,” explains Mary Ann backstage at the Rockabilly Rave. “The Ranch Girls itself have played the Rave several times before.”
Despite a wealth of experience performing live, including several appearances at the Rockabilly Rave, a bout of pre-stage nerves is something not uncommon to Mary Ann as she explains.
“The funny thing is if you are backstage at the Rave, every single person who plays here is really nervous because it’s all about the music. Jerry [Chatabox] also spends a lot of money getting the right PA system as it’s all about quality as well. So, I can’t think of anybody who won’t be nervous to play the Rave, and that includes us, as it is very nerve-wracking!”
It must be a great honour to be asked to perform at the Rockabilly Rave?
“Yes, as there are quite a lot of other festivals around,” agrees Mary Ann. “The Rave is the best one in my opinion.”
“It’s so exciting because if you get to perform at the Rave, then you have done it in the sense that you’ve arrived in the rockabilly scene,” adds Raina. “It’s got a lot of notoriety as people come from all over the world from countries such as America, Japan, and Australia and all over Europe.”
For new band member Raina, becoming a main component in the newly formed Ranch Girls was a dream come true as she confirms.
“I have loved the Ranch Girls for many years, as I have had their records in my collection a long time. In fact, I have often found myself singing along in the car to their records! A while ago, Mary Ann mentioned that she’d like to start The Ranch Girls again and asked if I wanted to be involved. I had already moved to England as I had fallen in love with an Englishman. We got married last year, and she [Mary Ann] got married this year. So I was very excited to be asked to be involved with one of my favourite bands.”
“We started The Ranch Girls a long time ago and have played together for twenty-five years until we decided to stop. Then we found Raina and here we go with the American connection. We knew each other from shows in America and meeting up at festivals,” explains Mary Ann on the recruitment of Raina to the Ranch Girls’ ranks.
Considering this will be the debut live performance for the New Ranch Girls, have you managed to find the time to record any material under the new name yet?
“The New Ranch Girls have only recorded two songs at the moment, which are on the new Miss Mary Ann album,” replies Mary Ann. “In terms of The Ranch Girls, we recorded four CDs and loads of 45s. We have been on various record labels such as Goofin in Finland and we started our own label, Homebrew Records, and now we record on Homebrew Records via Sonic Rendezvous in Holland.”
In terms of your own compositions, where do you get your inspiration from?
“For me, it’s a lot of the harmony singers whether female or male such as Jimmy and Johnny, Dinning Sisters, Miller Sisters and so on. I always feel my songs are a little manky when I hear their songs, but these guys [band] like it and say it’s good enough,” explains Mary Ann.
With one half of the New Ranch Girls stemming from the Netherlands and the other some considerable distance from the USA, any notion of a consistent writing process between these heavenly vocalists must surely encounter a few complications along the way considering the distance between them?
“We’re both based in England now,” answers Raina helping to provide the simplest of solutions to ease FLWs’ troubled brow.
“We live nearby each other and so we meet up at least once a week if we can,” adds Mary Ann.
“If neither of us is travelling, then we try and meet at least once a week,” says Raina before adding, “and there’s a lot of cheese involved [laughing]!”
It takes FLW the equivalent of a cruise liner turning in a harbour to register the reference to cheese and its frequent involvement when The New Ranch Girls rendezvous for a hoedown over new material.
“I had to say it, sorry!” continues Raina still laughing.
So, a variety of cheeses is the real inspiration for any forthcoming releases from the new look Ranch Girls?
“Cheese and Bruschetta!” laughs Mary Ann in response.
In terms of your own compositions, how would you describe your sound?
“Hillbilly harmonies,” replies Raina without any hesitation.
“Yes, that’s probably the best [description] as it is sort of a mixture between hillbilly and rockabilly and therefore a crossover of the two when rockabilly came from hillbilly [music] and that’s what we do,” confirms Mary Ann.
With such a description of the New Ranch Girls material, FLW begins to wonder about the possible difficulties hillbilly inspired music may encounter in Britain considering its American roots being at odds with British audiences’ familiarity with rock and pop music, especially in terms of the scale which it finds itself now. However, despite any concerns, the popularity for this particular genre is in fact completely the opposite.
“I think they’re more receptive to hillbilly music than American audiences to be honest,” clarifies Raina surprisingly. “There is something about the way that American music has progressed from this style – it’s changed a lot and I’m going to speak for my countrymen here [laughing] – and as soon as we find something that’s good, we love to change it and improve it as Americans don’t like to do the same thing in exactly the same way that it was done by someone else. There’s just a sound here [UK] that has been maintained and it can be recreated so accurately that people love, not that people don’t love that sound in the States but that there’s more affinity for it here.”
“I think it’s also more available in America whereas Europeans have to put in an effort to find it, so they are more likely to go a bit deeper into the original sounds because they have already done all that research to actually get the music in a way,” explains Mary Ann.
Bearing this in mind, it is worth probing further to see where rockabilly music finds itself in the USA, due to one half of the Ranch Girls possessing first-hand experience of living and breathing in the States.
“It’s huge,” responds Raina straight away. “I think rockabilly has had resurgence as America has always loved this sound, but I think with hillbilly music, Europe seems to love it more.”
“I think we’re going to get into an argument here,” jests Mary Ann regarding Raina’s response to the popularity of rockabilly in the States. “Rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll, especially in England, has really been maintained by the Teddy Boy scene from the moment it started, and it hasn’t lapsed. Maybe it’s an English thing to stick with tradition that they kept their scene going that way, but I think for a long time in America people just forgot about the whole thing.”
“It’s true as it faded out and then sometime in the late 80s and early 90s it had this big upswing again,” says Raina. “It hasn’t left since then because there has been a very consistent rockabilly subculture. But it really did have a big dropout, a thirty-year dropout [in the States] whereas that didn’t happen in England.”
British audiences, however, have been slow to accept country music as it would seem that this genre of music is still a relatively small market over here.
“I think there is a big love for old-style country music in England and Europe,” answers Raina. “Personally, it feels like living in happy land and everybody loves it! I go home and I’m [perceived] as a little bit weird whereas over here more people seem to like hillbilly music too.”
As the New Ranch Girls receive word regarding final sound checking duties before tonight’s main stage performance at the Rockabilly Rave, FLW is keen to hear of their future plans when it comes to new material.
“I’ve just finished my record [‘Danger Moved West’], so we’re going to have this breathing space and then start thinking about The New Ranch Girls album. Joe [Ragtime Wranglers] is actually building a studio, as we like to record in an old-fashioned style with vintage mics and old equipment. We have all the equipment but Joe is still building the studio in his house in Rotterdam. We did that for the last recording – travelled to Rotterdam – as the way we record everybody has to be there as it’s all live.”
The funny thing is if you are backstage at the Rave, every single person who plays here is really nervous because it's all about the music."
Mary Ann, The New Ranch Girls
FLW - From the Tapes
It’s not all about the vocals…
“It’s always been a thing with The Ranch Girls where I’m always perceived as the tomboy of the crew and everybody always has this elegant way of walking on stage. There was one particular night when we had a gig and I followed out on stage and just went flat on my back and in full sight of everybody!” says Mary Ann laughing. “We were playing somewhere in France and there were 20,000 people watching and I picked my moment because that’s when I decided to go flat out!”
What was the reaction from the band to this unfortunate mishap?
“Well, they didn’t even notice at first, so they started [without me],” she adds laughing at the memory of this incident.
Favourite Ranch Girls track?
“‘Just Play The Jukebox’,” says Mary Ann after deliberating with her song partner Raina.
“It just makes me wanna cry!” comments Raina.
“It’s basically about someone who is waiting in this dingy bar because his partner has left him and there’s nowhere else to go than to move out of town and he’s just waiting for the next train or bus out. So he’s just playing the jukebox over and over again to drink his sorrows away.”
Is there a New Ranch Girls philosophy?
“Cheese and Bruschetta for everybody!”