CD Review: Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem, “Ranky Tanky”

I’ll get right to the point: I love this album. A lot. I’d never heard Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem before Ranky Tanky arrived in my mailbox, but they’ve made themselves a fan for life, and I’m seeking out their albums for grown-ups as soon as I finish writing this review.

You know what to expect as soon as you lay eyes on the brightly colored, hand-drawn look of the album cover, and when you flip open the CD, those first impressions are reinforced with a picture of the band riding on a trolley and wielding acoustic guitars, fiddles, ukuleles, and wide open smiles. A few inches to the right, and you’re looking at liner notes that include instrumental credits for bottles, jawharp, kalimba, kazoo, harmonium, and some truly weird stuff, like balloon and veggie baster. You get the picture, right? This here’s a back porch kindie jamboree.

Which is all well and good, but all the fingerpicking and fiddling in the world can’t cover up for crummy songs; happily, Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem have lined up a towering stack of venerable standards (such as “The Green Grass Grows All Around”) and clever covers (The Meters’ “They All Ask’d for You,” John Gorka’s “Branching Out,” Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers,” Renee & Jeremy’s “It’s a Big World”) to go with more obviously kid-friendly fare (“If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out,” “Purple People Eater”). The arrangements are solid, the playing is impeccable, the production is clear and warm, and the vocals beam in like sunshine on a spring afternoon. What else can I say? I love this album, and I think you — and I guess more importantly, your kids — will love it too. But don’t just take my word for it — hear some samples here. (Then go buy the darn thing.)