I’m rocking a nasty headache these days, deep in the throws of caffeine withdrawal suffered during periodic flirtations with the coffee-free lifestyle. There wasn’t much spring in my step this morning, until I popped a new CD into my laptop and gave a listen to “Ranky Tanky” by Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem. Despite living in the “i-everything” age, I’ve no intention of breaking my CD (or album) habit.
The CD opens with Yusaf Islam’s “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.” Back in the day, we knew him as Cat Stevens. The first few notes had a real Jason Mraz vibe, but soon the foursome’s original stylings and unique arrangements came through. I was waking up, and ready to dance. And why not? I was alone with my kitchen, and dishes needed washing. No harm in having a little fun along the way.
Finding a CD fit for family consumption is harder than it seems, but this baby brings the perfect balance in song selection, musical arrangement and vocal performance. Its 17 tunes include the likes of “Tennessee Wig Walk,” “Morningtown Ride” and “Wildflowers.” Several, including “Kind Kangaroo” and “Bear to the Left,” feature animal themes. My personal favorite is a sweet, slower piece about a pony named “Tinny.”
“Ranky Tanky” took me back to preschool parenting days — when my three kids, now in college, loved throwing sheets over tables to make forts or building cities out of giant boxes in the back yard. Parents eager to help their children break high-tech habits have a friend in “Ranky Tanky.” Its sing-along stylings will get your kids off the couch and into movement. Don’t be surprised if they start foraging for materials to make their own musical instruments. They’ll be eager to recreate the diversity of sounds on this CD, so let them run with it.
While listening to “Ranky Tanky,” I pictured all the ways my children might have enjoyed it years ago. Grabbing purple markers to draw their own monsters after listening to “Purple People Eater.” Running out to tend the garden after hearing “Wildflowers.” Grabbing the books “Hats of Sale” off the shelf after enjoying “Where Did You Get That Hat?”
Kids hear plenty of noise that passes for music nowadays, but “Ranky Tanky” is the real thing. It’s fun to pick out various instruments as you’re listening, even pretending to play right along. Air guitar is so yesterday. Air veggie baster is where it’s at. Turns out the daisy mayhem foursome plays more than a dozen instruments on “Ranky Tanky” — from fiddle and ukelele to kazoo, jawharp and baloon kalimba. Four “extra super extra musicians play clarinet, trombone, trumpet, tuba, resonator banjo and mandolin.
Daisy mayhem (they like the lower case vibe) is a lovely ensemble of four vocalists and musicians — Rani Arbo, Andrew Kinsey, Scott Kessel and Anand Nayak — who’ll be performing May 5 at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. It’s hard to imagine a better venue, since the MIM is home to an “Experience Gallery” where folks can try their hand at playing instruments from around the globe.
You could break a lot of bad habits listening to “Ranky Tanky.” Too much couch time. Too much caffeine. Too much computer time. Too much remote control time. But go ahead and Häagen Dazs it every now and again. Just be sure you’re dancing while you do it.
Coming up: Playwright profiles, Before there was the Web