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Acoustic Harmony: Release reviews

Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem - "Violets are Blue"

RANI ARBO & DAISY MAYHEM – Violets are Blue (April, 2015; Signature Sounds Recordings)

Violets are Blue, the 5th album from Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem released under the Signature Sounds label is an album that showcases a band that has reached an artistic level that only a group of musicians that have played together for 15 years are able to deliver.  Fiddler, guitarist and primary lead vocalist Rani Arbo and bassist Andrew Kinsey have an even longer history, going back to their Salamander Crossing days of the early 1990’s.  Other band members include multi-instrumentalist Anand Nayak and drummer Scott Kessel, who has been married to Arbo for years.  This band certainly feels and sounds like a family.  I recently had the pleasure of having Rani Arbo as a guest on my folk radio show, Acoustic Harmony where we discussed the album in depth.

This album showcases more originals than ever before from the band, 6 by Rani Arbo and 1 from Anand Nayak and that is truly a welcome addition to this band’s catalog of music.  The obvious nod to “love songs” implied by the title “Violets are Blue” does hold true, though these are not the sweet saccharine love songs of the 1970’s, but rather more in depth songs about the balance and acceptance required for true love to flourish.  

The album kicks off with Rani’s song “Heart of the World,” a song anchored by Scott’s percussive drumming.  This was a sound co-producer Chris Rival was searching for after hearing the band play through the song a few times featuring Rani on guitar as it had originally been written.  Rival suggested giving Scott a “big old drum to pound on” and thus the tune that appears on the album is a song with an infectious groove reminding listeners of the beauty of the everyday world around them.

Other originals from Rani include “Walk Around the Wheel,” a sea shanty for marriage and “Piece of Land,” a song that begins with a nod to Rani’s husband Scott.  First describing a man who grew up on 100 wild acres and now living on a paved city street, the song then moves on to Rani’s imaginings of the women who climbed aboard Westward-bound wagons, headed for the wilderness of their husbands' dreams.  The songs “Keep it in Mind” and “Over and Over” also written by Rani, are reminders to treasure and hold tight the ones we love.

The album closes with Rani’s beautiful song “Sweet and the Bitter,” clearly the most intimate song on the album.  Rani describes the song this way, “Sometimes, a truth is not a fact, or a figure, or a precept, or a vision, but a feeling.  And then, if you want to share it, you just have to try to translate it, in whatever inherently flawed way you can devise. I think that is what it means to be an artist, a lover, a partner, a parent, a human being”. 

In between you’ll find Mae Erlewine’s ode to New Orleans “I Love This City” where Mae’s beautiful harmony vocals provide Rani’s favorite moment on the album.  James Hill’s poignant gem “You Should See Me Now” and James Armenti’s “Down by the Water” feature Andrew Kinsey’s wonderful vocals.  Co-producer Anand Nayak takes the lead vocal on his contribution to the album “If I’m One” as well as Danny Schmitt’s catchy dance tune “Swing me Down”.  Throw in Fred Rose’s country standard “I’m Satisfied With You” (written for Hank Williams) and you’ve got another superb collection from the band Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem. 

“Violets are Blue” refuses to be pigeonholed by genre though it clearly has an Americana feel to it.  Beautifully produced by Anand Nayak, Chris Rival and the band, the album features the band’s soaring four part harmonies throughout.  This is an album that will thrill longtime fans of the band and surely bring new ones into the fold.

Mark Michaelis – Acoustic Harmony, WGDR

Mark Michaelis - Acoustic Harmony, WGDR