Sunday, January 11, 2009

Daisy Mayhem at 92Y Tribeca

Last night, Sarah and I found ourselves at the 92Y Tribeca again (see previous post here). We were there to see Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem.

I have been listening to Rani Arbo for years. Before the formation of Daisy Mayhem, she was in a group called Salamander Crossing, and when I was getting into bluegrass and roots music, they were a band that I listened to quite a bit and also was able to see live a number of times. (Andrew Kinsey, the bassist in Salamander Crossing, also plays in Daisy Mayhem.)

I have listened to and followed Daisy Mayhem a little less religiously but always have enjoyed their shows when I've had the opportunity to see them. And last night's at the 92Y Tribeca was no exception.

They hit several of the usual bases -- diving down to the Georgia Sea Islands twice for the Bessie Jones' songs "Turtle Dove" and "Oh Death" and giving us a terrific jazzy rendition of Lefty Frizzell's "I Do My Crying at Night" -- and these were spot on. I was most moved during the middle of the set when they offered up a beautiful cover of Leonard Cohen's "Heart with No Companion" that featured Andrew Kinsey on the banjo followed by Bob Dylan's "Farewell Angelina," both of which they have recorded on their most recent CD, Big Old Life. One review mentioning "Heart with No Companion" in its final sentence apparently said of the band, "They can even make Leonard Cohen sound hopeful," and it's true! The band livened up "Farewell Angelina" by playing with the tempo and the density of the instrumentation over the course of the song.

Toward the end of the set, the band got into their "agnostic gospel" vibe. This started with guitarist Anand Nyack's song "Road to Heaven" and then an absolutely beautiful song written by the improbably named Daisy May Erlewine called "Shine On" before they brought the audience into the mix with a hand-clapping and chorus-hollering "I Want to Be Ready." (The audience had only sung quietly on an earlier sing-a-long, and so Rani challenged us to do better next time. One of her bandmates, referencing her growing up in New York said, "Ah, you understand the New York psyche." "But I don't condone it!" she replied.) As an encore, they sang an a capella rendition of "Moonshiner," which has been in the band's repertoire since the Salamander Crossing days.

Jazz guitarist Matt Munisteri played the second set with bassist Danton Boller. They offered up some really nice treatments of some of Matt's originals and classics that he is doing his best to save from obscurity on dusty old 78s. "Get Acquainted with Yourself," recorded by Willie 'The Lion' Smith in the 1920s, was a particular highlight.

Matt's playing was terrific -- he moved up and down the fretboard using both chord-form and single-note runs with great ease and polish -- and the bass solos also were quite solid.

Matt is apparently at work on a CD of music composed by Willard Robison.

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