Drive the blues of winter away

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BRATTLEBORO — An ode to light and dark at the turning of the year, Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem's Wintersong performance skips the jingle bells and goes straight to the power and beauty at the roots of Christmas.

Like most New Englanders in wintertime, Wintersong swings between reflection and celebration, summoning a range of responses to the dark: settings of verses by hallowed poets; fiddle- and percussion-driven New Year's shouts from the Georgia Sea Islands and Louisiana; traditional songs and carols; and searching covers by modern songwriters.

Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem has been praised as a one-band music festival, and Wintersong delivers: some tracks pulse with electric guitar and four-part harmony, and others with banjo, fiddle, and percussion; interspersed are pared-down solo vocal tracks with sparse accompaniment, offering a slow, quiet breath. The sum of these parts is a surprising winter journey full of fierce poetry, wild joy and hope for humanity in its dark times.

Harmony, rhythm, and indelible songs are the hallmarks of Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem, a New England-based folk/roots quartet now in its 18th year. Acoustic Guitar Magazine describes their sound as "effortless and loose," adding that "the band shape-shifts through roots music styles with aplomb, displaying the kind of relaxed virtuosity only achievable by the best players."

There are songs about a baby born in Bethlehem, of course, including the electric guitar-driven "Let's Make a Baby King" (by Jesse Winchester), a soaring version of the spiritual "Children, Go Where I Send Thee"; and "Singing in the Land," an Appalachian hymn in four-part harmony. There are also songs about love and war, loss and hope. There are songs about the emptiness of commercial Christmas, and the fullness of the ideas that brought it to be.

Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem's Wintersong program sidesteps the holiday canon and digs up the power, the beauty and the hopeful yearning at the roots of this holiday.

Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem's Wintersong performance will take place Dec. 15, 8 p.m., at The Stone Church, 201 Main St., Brattleboro. Tickets are $18 in advance at stonechurchvt.com or $20 at the door. For more information, call 802-579-9960.


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