Ann Arbor, Mich., is the nexus for a lot of weird, wonderful musical behavior, and The Ragbirds are another brilliant reminder of that odd harmonic paradigm. Combining elements from a variety of sources — Gypsy Jazz, Celtic Folk, Bluegrass and Rock filtered through Middle Eastern, African and Latin rhythms — the band creates a groove-laden global Roots gumbo. You could effectively describe it as Worldicana, defined by a sound that compels feet to move and lyrics that encourage brains to think. Musical experiences don’t come more complete than that.
The Ragbirds began in Ypsilanti, Mich., when vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Erin Zindle and percussionist Randall Moore got together to record Zindle’s songs, which led to The Ragbirds’ 2005 debut, Yes Nearby.
The duo expanded to a quintet and began playing regional gigs, eventually recording their 2006 live album Catching Fire at the Ypsilanti bar where they began their journey. Later that year, Zindle and Moore got married, and in 2007 The Ragbirds relocated to Ann Arbor. By then, the band had endured a number of line-upshifts but managed to release a pair of well-received studio albums, 2007’s Wanderlove and 2009’s Finally Almost Ready (produced by Railroad Earth violinist/vocalist Tim Carbone). The group’s latest release is 2012’s highly charged and acclaimed fourth full-length, Travelin’ Machine.Area restaurants, head’s up: The Ragbirds’ tour van runs on used vegetable oil, so the committed environmentalists may be dropping by for a fill-up from your fryer.
THE RAGBIRDS play Newport's Thompson House this Friday, March 7. Tickets/details here.