The Pine Hill Project/Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem
by Eric Sutter and Stephanie C. Lyons-Keeley
Imagine a coffeehouse string band transported onto the big stage – where they perform a seamless mix of folk and bluegrass from the stellar album Violets Are Blue. That’s what took place this past November at the Academy of Music in Northampton, MA. Fiddle extraordinaire Rani Arbo of Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem roused the audience in gospel harmony. The group began with a spirited rendition of “Hear Jerusalem Moan” followed by “Will Your House Be Blessed?” Bruce Springsteen’s “Reason to Believe” received a similar rootsy Americana treatment. The traditional “Travelin’ Shoes” came to life with playful fiddle. Ticklin’ and toe-tappin’, they moved onto “Fire in the Sky” and added more fiddle flavor with “Swing Me Down.” Great picking and playing by Andrew Kinsey’s ukulele and Scott Kessel’s sweet kalimba (featured on The Pretenders’ “2000 Miles”). Guitarist Anand Nayak closed with his upbeat vocals in “I Want to Be Ready.”
This was followed by Pine Hill Project, which is the collaboration of singer-songwriters Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell who performed cool covers of their own and other folk/Americana artist’s songs, many of which were from their Tomorrow You’re Going CD. This was thoughtful music with beautifully moving vocals that provided a stunning complement to one another. Story songs “Wichita” (Gillian Welch), “Rain Just Falls” (David Halley), and “Farewell to St. Dolores” (Dave Carter) churned out thought provoking lyrics. Nick Lowe’s edgy “I Live on a Battlefield” was countered by a sad love song “Open Book.” Richard Shindell’s relationship song, “Are We Happy Now?” came to life with Kaplansky on the mandolin. Kaplansky’s “Reunion” highlighted memories of family and her piano ballad, “Brooklyn Train,” expressed memories about home. Her rendition of “Ten Year Night” was fresh and angelic; a song which had been responsible for bringing her sound to a wider audience back in 1999. The Pine Hill Project wound down the show giving a wonderful Americana treatment to U2’s “The Sweetest Thing” and finally, “I Know You Rider” pulsed with heartfelt, bluesy passion. They ended the night with a stunning encore of Greg Brown’s “Lord, I Have Made You a Place in My Heart.”
Many thanks to Jim Olson and Signature Sounds for bringing great music to the Valley.