Music Matters Review

Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem—Wintersong
2016, Signature Sounds

Well into their second decade together, Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem have shared both trying and happy times, giving unique credibility to their expression of hope and joy. Their blend of enthusiastic, exquisitely produced acoustic styles translates well to the Holiday season. The album consists of traditional songs, covers and poems set to music. The band members seem to connect deeply with the culturally authentic tunes and profound, thoughtful lyrics of the songs they choose. Andrew Kinsey, Anand Nayak and Rani take the lead vocals by turns, supporting each other with harmonies that spring from years of mingling their voices in studios and halls, strong, confident and joyful. Scott Kessel brilliantly balances the relatively understated drumming required by acoustic arrangements and the lively accompaniment demanded by the spirit of the songs. You are not likely to have heard these songs on mass-market Holiday collections (with the possible exception of “2000 Miles,” originally by Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders). Although RADM’s version is not much different from the original in tempo and arrangement, the feel is completely different, more fully expressing the personal yearning of the lyrics. “Ring Out, Wild Bells” is just Rani and the tick-tock pattern of her plucked cello. The simple arrangement is fascinating, giving her the freedom to slide and pause dramatically around the beat. The lyrics are taken from part of an Alfred, Lord Tennyson elegy published in 1850 after the death of his sister’s fiancée, but they speak volumes to right now. “Ring out false pride in place and blood,/ The civic slander and the spite;/ Ring in the love of truth and right,/ Ring in the common love of good.” “Yonder Come Day” is not the first song that RADM has borrowed from Bessie Jones and the Sea Island Singers, having covered “Turtle Dove” on Gabling Eden in 2003. The band resists the temptation to imitate the gospel sound of Bessie Jones, yet remains faithful to the spirit and rhythm of the originals. [Click here for a video of the Sea Island Singers version of “Yonder Come Day,” then here for RADM’s version.] “Bonne Année,” written by Canray Fontenot and Michael Doucet, finds Scott front and center, laying down a spirited Cajun beat as the rest strut in the New Year in style. For me the heart of RADM’s appeal is in the way they always find a few songs that have lines you can really wrap your heart around. For example, Ron Sexsmith’s “Maybe This Christmas,” is realistic about post-childhood expectations of the Holiday, yet hopeful— “And maybe this Christmas will find us at last/ In Heavenly peace,/ Grateful at least/ For the love we've been shown in the past.” Enjoyable on a casual listen, magnificent when you give it your undivided attention, the songs reveal more of themselves each time you listen, making this an excellent addition to the music that fills your house in the Holiday season. —Michael Devlin