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Biography

  • Members

    • Rani Arbo

Salamander Crossing was an American bluegrass band based in New England that was active from 1991 to 1999. The band was composed of lead singer and fiddler Rani Arbo, Jeff Kelliher on guitar, mandolin, and vocals, and Andrew Kinsey on bass and vocals (the name came from a pair of tunnels under Henry Street in Amherst, Massachusetts, that salamanders used in order to cross the road to mate in vernal pools). After the band split, Arbo went on to found Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem (with Kinsey as a member).

Although their instrumentation is based on the traditional bluegrass line-up of banjo, fiddle, guitar and bass, Salamander Crossing rossed over into a variety of musical genres. Their repertoire not only included bluegrass standards by Bill Monroe and The Stanley Brothers but also songs by Richard Thompson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bruce Cockburn, Kate Wolf, Shawn Colvin, Maura O'Connell, Bruce Springsteen and Lennon & McCartney.

Salamander Crossing got its name from an annual Spring event in Amherst, Massachusetts, in which hundreds of salamanders attempt to transfer from winter grounds through a pair of tunnels to a vernal pond across the street. The group was sparked when several members attended a John Hartford workshop. When Hartford failed to show, the musicians spent time talking and playing together. The remaining band members joined shortly afterwards. Salamander Crossing centered around the vocals and fiddling of Rani Arbo, the guitar, mandolin, harmonica and vocals of Jeff Kelliher, and the upright bass playing of Andrew Kinsey. Although guest banjo player Tony Furtado played on the group's first two albums, Tom Farnham joined the band in 1996. Farnham was replaced by Dave Dick the following year. Dick, who won the world banjo championship in Ontario, Canada, while still a high school student, had previously worked with Boston-based bluegrass band, Southern Rail.

Salamander Crossing's debut album remained on the Gavin Americana chart for eight weeks. Their second album, "Passion Train," was produced by western Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter Brooks Williams. Their third album, "Bottleneck Dreams," released in 1998, was recorded in Nashville and produced by Canadian songwriter Colin Linden. In addition to the band's usual instrumentation, the album featured Hammond organ, accordion, electric and steel guitars. Two years later, Henry Street was released.

After the band split, Arbo went on to found Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem (with Kinsey as a member).

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