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Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem

Big Old Life – 2007 (Signature Sounds)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem

After gaining a measure of renown during the '90s as fiddler and vocalist for progressive New England bluegrass band Salamander Crossing, Rani Arbo inaugurated the new millennium by forming her own band daisy mayhem (lower case, please) as a vehicle to extend even farther beyond bluegrass into a variety of acoustic music encompassing old time, Celtic and other elements as well as the songwriting and arranging talents of not only herself, but her band as well - Scott Kessel (percussion), Anand Nayak (guitar, mandolin) and Andrew Kinsey (bass, banjo).

As the title of this newest release suggests in a wry sort of way, the dozen tracks look at the complexity - and occasional absurdity - of our common existence from a point of view that, while not exactly light-hearted, is at least generally hopeful and optimistic. Perhaps the best example is the title cut, written by Arbo. Having survived cancer herself, Arbo presents in this tune a compelling and persuasive encouragement to enjoy life while it's going on.

In addition to their own material, Arbo and her crew work in tunes from widely divergent sources like black North Carolina fiddler Joe Thompson (a national treasure), Bob Dylan ("Farewell, Angelina") and they even manage to make Leonard Cohen sound hopeful on "Heart With No Companion."