Playing Time - 46:41 -- "Daisy" has a slang definition of "something excellent or notable." And in the boxing ring of yesteryear, "mayhem" used to informally refer to a knockout. Hence, this band's moniker is appropriate for their eclectic musical mix that is superior, impressive and attractive. A real daisy knockout! Contemporary folk is able to cast aside genre-specific boundaries in favor of band individualism. While other groups have established the archetype, Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem follow their own muse. Inspiring spirits guide them into old-time, folk, blues, swing, cajun and pop idioms. Imparting their own unique and contemporaneous stamp on material keeps them from sounding anachronistic. Just look at how they incoporate lyrics from Amazing Grace into the spirited vocal groove of "Oil in my Vessel." Their innovative rearrangement of Leonard Cohen's "Heart with No Companion" transforms it into a powerful old-time mountain ballad, and a traditional "Red Haired Boy" is given a very contemporary interpretation. With resonator guitar kicking it off, Bob Dylan's "Farewell Angelina" is given a charged-up, engaging bluesy treatment. The set opens a cappella with "Joy Comes Back," a song (learned from Scott Staples) that has special meaning for Rani because she's fought and won a battle with cancer diagnosed shortly after she gave birth.
Various band members have a knack for crafting songs of their own. Rani Arbo (fiddle, guitar) penned the title track, "Big Old Life" that welcomes and invites listeners to step right in, rise and shine, take a ride, and connect with their music. That interaction without intimidation is one of the band's charismatic strengths. Anand Hayuk (guitar, mandolin, piano) wrote "What's That," a slower swinging tune with plenty of emotional and intellectual energy. Andrew Kinsey (bass, banjo) wrote the personal and reflective "Mother of Our Dreams." The fourth band member, Scott Kessel, plays a wide variety of common and unusual percussion instruments. Guests Kevin Barry (lap steel) and Deb Pasternak (backing vocals) provide some tasty flavorings to the overall set that ends with Daisy May Erlewine's optimistic message of perseverance and reliance, "Shine On." Four years coming since their last CD, "Big Old Life" is a well-wrought entry in the new folk field. The band's musical maturity has allowed these alchemists to take roots music stylings and magically transform them into present-day gold. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)