This is a disk that's been sitting on my desk for awhile, and I've actually listened to it a fair amount since receiving it a few months back. I feel slightly bad about this, some sort of cognitive dissonance between the desire to tell folks about a good CD and my inability to, you know, tell folks about a good CD.
The Connecticut-based band Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem has been making music stringband music for a good decade now, but Ranky Tanky is their first album specifically targeted at families. It's a big stew of songs familiar and not, "traditional" and "un." The first 4 songs -- Cat Stevens' "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out," traditional tune "The Green Grass Grows All Around," the Meters' "They All Ask'd For You," and the pop novelty hit "Purple People Eater" -- illustrate the band's omniverous, genre-disregarding approach to music. They just find good songs and give them new life.
In essence, while lots of artists talk about making music for families, relatively few of them have taken the Dan Zanes approach of making "age-desgregated" music truly expected to be listened to without irony filters. This album takes this path less-traveled. In the end, I think Arbo falls just a little short of Zanes, which is an admittedly high bar to reach. While the album maintains a genial vibe infused with warmth, there are times on the album where the jolt of a Father Goose or an out-of-left-field guest artist would have helped a bit.
In true Zanes-ian fashion, the idea of an appropriate age range is a little odd with this disk, but think of it as being best for kids ages 3 and up. You can spin five of the tracks here and listen to clips at its CD Baby page.
Ranky Tanky is one of those disks destined to be listened to long after the kids have grown out of their size 1 shoes. Fans of Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell will find the eclectic song choices and cozy arrangements to their families' liking. Though you were always sort of part of this family music world, we'll wish you a formal welcome, Rani -- hope you stick around for awhile. (It won't take me this long next time to tell folks.) Definitely recommended.