I have to admit my unfair hesitation with Big Old Life, the latest release by New England folksters Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem; the idea of tasteful, harmony-rich originals and covers by four kind and respectable looking folks approaching middle age didn’t quite excite at first, conjuring visions of James Taylor wreaking white-bread havoc on “How Sweet It Is”. But don’t make my mistake: Arbo and band choose their material with care and consideration, from Dylan’s “Farewell, Angelina” reworked with funky swagger, to a banjo-and fiddle-based take on Leonard Cohen’s “Heart With No Companion”. The originals have their own charm; Arbo’s lap steel-abetted “Roses” works in the tradition of Jonatha Brooke and Alison Krauss, while Anand Nayak’s “What’s That” swings with cool attitude. The entire record is well served by Chris Rival’s crystal clear production, where not a single pitch-perfect note goes unnoticed.
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