Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem: Big Old Life
As you may have guessed from the title and the whimsical, bare-footed cover photo, this is an album about life. Or more precisely, it is a celebration of life. Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem have been playing together now for seven years. In that time they have shared the ups and downs of being modern musicians in an all-too-real world. The resulting perspective and companionship has culminated in an album that drips of maturity. Their latest tragedy-turned-triumph, Arbo’s successful battle against breast cancer, makes its presence felt in the album’s sound. The songs are joyful, but practically so. They are performed with the knowledge that life is dirty and comes to an end, but is something worth singing about anyway.
Daisy Mayhem’s maturity shows in their performance as well. No one member or instrument dominates these subtly well-crafted tracks. The instrumentation is varied, but not overbearing. Harmonicas, lap steel, and banjos wander in and out of songs, not as gimmicks, but only as needed to make the album’s musical statement. And what a varied statement that is. Big Old Life takes listeners on a tour of Americana musical styles. The obvious influences of folk, country, and gospel are complemented by tracks that are closer to bluegrass and gypsy jazz. The opening track, “Joy Comes Back,” even pulls out the accordion for some straight-from-the-bayou zydeco.
I enjoyed this album. Younger listeners may find it lacking a little in excitement and bells and whistles. But like a happy marriage, it makes up for that with familiarity and laid-back comfort–simple, sonic contentedness.