by Kerry Dexter

There’s joy and celebration in the music that Rani Arbo and the men of her band, daisy mayhem, offer on Big Old Life an exuberance you can feel in the cover photos. It’s joy made all the stronger with a clear eyed view of the rocky roads walked to reach it, too.

In the seven years the band has been together, and especially in the four years since their last record, Gambling Eden, the folk acoustic bluegrass old time swing ensemble has faced challenges and changes together and separately, ranging from the joy of new parenthood to the sadness of breast cancer. They’ve survived, and they’re here to tell you about it, and invite you into the celebration. “I want to be ready/when joy comes back to me,” they offer as n opening line. The musical and lyrical ideas wind through swing, led by Arbo’s fiddle and voice on her original title track, to bass player Andrew Kinsey’s hushed and reflective Mother of Our Dreams. Scott Kessel keeps the beat on percussion instruments ranging from a regular drum kit to the pizza box/suitcase/cookie tin manifestation known as Drumship Enterprise, an invention made to bring drumming into a string band, backing with equal invention the high spirits of Joy Comes Back and the quiet introspection of Arbo’s remebrance of a friend who has passed on, Hole in Heaven. Anand Nayak ask a few questions, and then a few more, on What’s That, and contributes high powered arrangement to frame Arbo’s voice on a cover of Bob Dylan’s Farewell Angelina, a song whose fractured images fit right in with the moveable feast of ideas and melodies, thought provoking and just plain fun, which this band offers. What sort of music is this? Country, folk, bluegrass, swing, singer/songwriter, world music, and most of all the unique voice forged by four talented musicians who become even stronger by playing together. To bring the collection to a close, they offer the song Shine, which includes the words : I will give you hope, ‘cause I’m learning as I go.” Indeed.

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