Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem

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“If Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem offer to cook at your place, you better open up all the doors, and borrow every table and chair you can, because the whole town should come.” So proclaims Folk Alley. The New England-based good-time harmony, string and groove band serves up a musical gumbo of folk, progressive bluegrass, country blues, jazz and swing.

Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem is a steadily deepening, 12-year brew of band chemistry, life experience and musical evolution. In 2007, the San Francisco Bay Guardian called the group “one of the most song- and arrangement-oriented bands in a field overgrown with pyrotechnic, jam- and solo-conscious virtuosos.” Nice. And true. But what really sets this band apart is its members connection — to each other, to the audience, and to the music. Simultaneously loose and tight, their playing seems to tick by invisible radar; it’s exciting, cathartic, and fun to watch.

On stage, they are Rani Arbo (fiddle, guitar), Andrew Kinsey (bass, banjo and uke), Anand Nayak (electric and acoustic guitars) and Scott Kessel (percussion). Rani and Andrew were part of the progressive bluegrass band Salamander Crossing during the 1990s,.while Anand has been in steel drum orchestras, a capella singing groups and 90s rock bands. Scott, who played for many years in zydeco and funk bands, has a percussion rig that is 95% comprised of recycled materials — including a cardboard box, tin cans, caulk tubes, and a vinyl suitcase in lieu of a bass drum. All the band members sing, and their four-part harmonies soar, whether on a haunting Appalachian ballad, a Springsteen rocker, or a Bahamian a capella song. Many of their songs plumb the human condition, with topics ranging from joy to death (a favorite), loss, aging, blackbirds and red-haired boys. The band has jokingly dubbed itself an “agnostic gospel” revival show, but there’s truth in it — the refrain they hear time and again from audiences all over the country is that its performances really do heal.

Musically, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem reuse and recycle (but try hard not to reduce) 150 years of American music. They hang a Georgia Sea Islands song on a New Orleans groove. They write lyrics for an Irish fiddle tune and underpin it with an Afro-Cuban cajon. Leonard Cohen gets claw hammer banjo treatment; Springsteen gets bluegrass harmonies. Their originals range from blues, to bluegrass, to Unitarian funk gospel, to crooner swing, to spooky folk-pop. With influences ranging from Doc Watson to Django Reinhardt, from Fiddlin’ John Carson to the funky Meters, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem celebrates America’s past and takes it into the present. Of their signature style, Vancouver’s Rogue Folk Review wrote, “It’s as hard to classify as it is to praise highly enough…an intoxicating blend of roots music styles, with deep traditional roots and a healthy futuristic outlook. Strongly recommended.”

Now in its 44th year, the Folk Music Society of Huntington presents two monthly concert series, a monthly folk jam and sing-along, and an annual folk festival in conjunction with the Huntington Arts Council.

Location: The Congregational Church of Huntington

First Saturday Concerts are held at the Congregational Church of Huntington, 30 Washington Drive, Centerport (at the Eastern border of Huntington, off Route 25A).

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