Album Review by Laura MacDonald
Andy and Ariana have cooked up yet another charming extension of themselves: a multilingual, poly-instrumental, über-sweet-sounding musical stew. Their new album, Good to Be Home, is their 8th album recorded together, and with the groove co-op of Chris Robison and Adam Bazinet providing a meaty backbone on most of the tracks, serves up eleven songs of homey goodness, warm and savory until the last note.
Eight of the songs on the album are brand new, and provide the listener with a glimpse of what Andy and Ariana have been up to in the past year. For one, they’ve got a woodstove, immortalized in the first track; ‘The Woodstove’ riffs on an extended metaphor of their fire-powered house as a ship, and has a wickedly dark sound, like a mischief-ridden secret. ‘Oh Baby!’ is maybe the best song on the album, so tender and melodic, about all the new little lives that have popped out around them lately. Ariana lays down an excellent old-timey fiddle performance on this one too.
As a special treat, the album includes a re-release of crowd-pleasers ‘Water’ and ‘Mara Manzoor.’ Newly recorded with all the benefits of Andy’s meticulous studio engineering, these hits never sounded better. They also dusted off an old recording by obscure 1980s Swiss band Chinook; ‘Sweetheart of Stone’ is a solid, awesome song, and has been a wonderful addition to their setlist, with the added bonus of getting to hear Andy sing the lead. We get more of Andy on lead vocals in ‘Uncle Sam’ — a reggae-infused rant showcasing his political bent, as well as in the title track ‘Good to Be Home’, in which he and Ariana trade the lead. This song is fun and heart-warming, and along with their always dead on vocal harmonies, shows off what they do best. It embodies the exuberance of the album and them as a whole.
Like their last album, Good to Be Home is a studio recording. But as an improvement on the quality sound they can produce in that setting, this album achieves more of a band feel, and so provides more of the live energy we love so much about them. The album is quintessentially Andy and Ariana: it contains their signature jazzy elements, Andy’s beat-boxing, Ariana’s woodwinds and mind-blowing vocal prowess — a lyrical blend of funky, folky, world-musicy tunes, with the pleasing addition of more country overtones this time around.
Come hear the new album performed live, and get your copy, at the release concert this weekend. In their own endearing, musical, quirky way, Andy and Ariana make it so great to be home. They are the local music scene’s steadfast rudder and have every reason to rhyme.
The CD release concert is Saturday, April 14th, 8pm at the Al Whittle Theatre. Tickets are available in advance at the Rolled Oat Café for $12, or $15 at the door, if there are any left.
~ Laura MacDonald