Sunday, December 13, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Rebecca Frezza & Big Truck - Rockin', Rollin' and Ridin'
Frezza and band power through six new tunes and two remixes on their new EP Rockin', Rollin and Ridin'. From the powerpop of "Rock Like This" to the 5/4 funk rock of "Rocketship," Big Truck's new set of songs is full-on fun. Roscoe Orman (Sesame Street's Gordon) joins in on the movement/call-and-response song "Hey-O," while "Robot Dancer" provides kids with an electrodance workout. Things slow down only for the naptime ballad "Smiling Moon." The CD also comes with a video of "Big Truck."
Music Together - Lullabies
The staff of the Music Together program have produced several CDs of tunes they use in their classes, and Lullabies compiles the quietest of those. From popular standards like "My Bonnie," "Shenandoah," "Brahms' Lullaby," and "All the Pretty Little Horses" to lesser-known gems like "Raisins and Almonds," "Duermete Nino Bonito," "The Water is Wide," and "Shady Grove" the 18 covers and originals on Lullabies will softly soothe your little ones. Comes with a booklet that gives a short history of the songs, along with performance suggestions.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Did you know that Hanukkah begins at sundown on Friday, December 11 this year? That's right, the Eight Nights of Light are approaching, so I've compiled a list of great Hanukkah music for kids over at About.com to help celebrate the season, from klezmer to pop, from traditional to silly remakes. Let us know if any other children's artists have released a Hanukkah CD and we'll add it to the list!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
After a brief respite, we're back with our weekly Friday Free-for-All!
King Pajama - Something Sweet
Brooklyn's Jason Blechman (piano) and Nina Zeitlin (vocals) team up as King Pajama to lay down some loungy jazz tunes tinged with blues, with help from Daniel Gould, Gerard Egan, and Tomas Cataldo on drums and guitar. Think The Brand New Heavies but with more coffee house swing than dance floor groove. Hey, Something Sweet made Jeff's OWTK Top 10 list for 2009!
John Jeffrey Hodges - Kiddy Dittys (A Kids' Album for Adults)
Straight outta Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan comes John Jeffrey Hodges, a musician with a long history of songwriting credits. His first family CD, Kiddy Dittys, will remind you stylistically of Bruce Cockburn or Peter Himmelman, but the thoughtful lyrics are about kids' stuff like bikes, parents (and parenting), imagination, feelings, and family time.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Looking for an alternative to a turkey-full Turkey Day? Check out Todd McHatton's "The Happy Vegan Thanksgiving Song."
You might remember Todd from his popliciously psychedelic kids' album Grass Stained Twilight. Well, his Thanksgiving tune, sounding kinda like a Meat Puppets outtake, falls right in line with Twilight's cosmic pop vibe, and boasts a really cool lyric. Dig:
Animals gathered round the table / Singin' songs and holdin' hands
This is a decree for all the species / This is a celebration!
Wishing you all a Happy Vegan Thanksgiving
It's a celebration / With bears and birds and turtles and girls and boys and so much more
Celabrating the joy of living / It's what we're all here for
This is a decree for all the species / This is a celebration!
Wishing you all a Happy Vegan Thanksgiving
Please pass the yams! / Please pass the stuffing too / Please pass the garlic mashed potatoes / You say you never ate those? / Oh they're so good too!
Please pass the greens! / Please pass the pearl onions / You gotta try some / Pass some green beans and corn and rolls / Please pass the squash and cranberry sauce
Oh no, I'm already way too full!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
A great soundtrack to what should be a great movie...check out this full review of the Where the Wild Things Are Soundtrack.
Oh, and you can stream the entire album over at imeem.com.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Here's another album of Halloween songs for kids to add to your collection, and boy, is it a good one. Think Goosebumps, Lemony Snicket, or Alvin Schwartz' Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark series, 'cept in musical form...check it out over at About.com.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
This was cool: recently we had lunch at a pub in the college town where we now live. My friends and I used to play awesome music in the most ridiculous manner imaginable at this very place, and lots of fun was had by all. On this day, my son and I took the stage in front of an imaginary, screaming crowd, and sang "My Bonnie," "You Are My Sunshine," and "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" into a kick drum mic. Rock and Roll.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Here's a new video from Rebecca Frezza and Big Truck called, appropriately, "Big Truck," in which the band ride around in, yep, a big truck! This cool little rock&roll tune for kids would be perfect for, say, Sesame Street, and appears on the band's new album Rockin', Rollin' and Ridin'.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and lately of Monsters of Folk, recorded a handful of George Harrison covers several years ago, and just got around to releasing them. This sparse, kinda echo-y collection only has six songs on it, and four are from All Things Must Pass, but it's interesting, nonetheless. And hey, it's only $.99! Dig it...
Monday, September 14, 2009
Sure, lots of performers have a Halloween song or two on their CDs, but I was looking for albums of nothing but spooky, silly tunes for the holiday. After searching around for full albums of Halloween songs for kids, I found a few awesome choices. Check 'em out over at About.com...
Oh, and stay tuned, there are a couple more Halloween CDs that sound great that I'll post veeeery soon...
Friday, September 11, 2009
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Monday, September 07, 2009
Since this holiday was originated by America's labor movement in the late 1800's, let's commemorate the date with a review of Ella Jenkins and a Union of Friends Pulling Together. This 1999 Smithsonian Folkways album, nominated for the 2000 GRAMMY Award for Best Musical Album for Children, is one of the best, if not only, true "concept albums" for kids.
Jenkins skillfully weaves songs, spoken word pieces, and call and response tunes about labor unions into an overall theme of togetherness, including songs about family, friends, and our nation. Kids will recognize favorites like "The More We Work Together," "If I Had a Hammer," and "Skip to My Lou," while historically significant songs like "Solidarity Forever," "Which Side Are You On?" and the powerful "Keep Your Hands on the Plow" are great discussion starters for families and schools. And compare this album's version of the Populist song "The Farmer is the Man" with the more rockin' version on Dog On Fleas' Cranberry Sauce Flotilla.
Check out this great collection of historical singalongs, perfect for both the classroom and the living room.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Phil Rosenthal, along with wife Beth, daughter Naomi, and son Daniel, created a great collection of old-time music, classic folk songs, traditional tunes, songwriter favorites, and Rosenthal originals for his 1995 album, The Green Grass Grew All Around. The project was produced and engineered expertly by Rosenthal, giving the songs a warm and inviting sound, neither overdone nor underdone.
Rosenthal takes care of most of the instrumentation himself, with a little help from his family. Also pitching in musically are Kate O’Brien on violin, Stacey Phillips on dobro, Walter Wakeman on harmonica, and Jeff and Synia McQuillan on percussion and harmony vocals.
On The Green Grass Grew All Around, Rosenthal performs traditional tunes like the story song “Frog Went A-Courtin’,” the call-and-response “What’ll I Do with the Baby-O?” the swaying shanty “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” and the nursery rhyme-like “I Had a Little Nut Tree.” On the original LP, Side 1 came to a rousing end with the cumulative folk favorite “The Green Grass Grew All Around,” and Side 2 finished up with the equally upbeat “Hey Lolly.”
Other highlights include Woody Guthrie’s nonsense song “Jig Along Home,” a simple banjo/vocals version of Stephen Foster’s “Oh! Susanna,” and Lydia Maria Child’s Thanksgiving classic “Over the River and Through the Wood.” Rosenthal also performed several original songs like “Neighbors,” a throwback to the call-to-unity vibe of the ‘70s; the cheerful “Sleepy Eyes,” which encourages the listener to wake up and see what the new day will bring; and the warm and cozy “The Train Song.”
Fans of Dan Zanes, The Dreyer Family Band, or folk songs in general will really dig this easy-to-sing-along-with classic from Phil Rosenthal and Family, originally released on, and still available from, Rosenthal's own American Melody Records label.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Dig this new CD from Laura Doherty, the Early Childhood Music Program Director at Chicago's famed Old Town School of Folk Music. Kids in the City is full of breezy urban folk tunes featuring the Natalie Merchant-like vibe of Doherty's vocals. She had musical help from Scott Besaw on drums, Amalie Smith on upright bass, Rob Newhouse on lead guitar, Susan Marques on banjo, Barb Burlingame on trumpet, Skip Landt on harmonica, and Rick Rankin on percussion and melodica, who also produced, recorded, and mixed Kids in the City.
Doherty's album is a musical tribute of sorts to The Windy City: elevators and escalators, the zoo, public transportation, the farmer’s market, traffic, and hot dog stands all get a shout out on Kids in the City. "I Spy" references Lake Michigan and taxis, "Hot Dog" celebrates sport peppers and celery salt, the a cappella "Wheels in the City" catalogs things that roll around big city sidewalks, and "El Train" is a self-explanatory tune about Chicago's famous clickety clackin' mode of transportation.
Kids in the City is full of the sights and sounds of preschoolers' lives: "I Spy" explores the colors all around us, "Farmer's Market," with its simple vocals and banjo arrangement, has fun with names of fruits and vegetables, while "Rockin' at the Zoo" catalogs the animals you might see and hear there. And check out the wonderful melodies of "Hello Hippopotamus," "I Spy," and "Kitty Cat" (which is vaguely reminiscent of The Chordettes' "Lollipop").
Doherty's album contains a couple of future kids' classics, too. "Uncle Ukulele's Band" has instruments represent members of the family, and sounds as if it could have been featured on The Muppet Show, while the very Ella Jenkins-like “Wheels in the City” is a call-and-response, a cappella tune, with overlapping melodies and vocal lines.
And Kids in the City includes two covers I’ve never heard on a children’s album before: a quiet and tender rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” and a chooglin’ version of Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago."
Laura Doherty's Kids in the City is a great example of modern urban folk. Now I gotta go get a Chicago dog and a chocolate malt.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Oh, hi! Haven't seen you in a while. We've been goin' through some big ol' life changes, and I haven't had time to post any reviews of rockin' new music lately.
Basically, my wife and I and our 3-year-old son moved back to my home state, where I'm getting my PhD in Human Development and Family Studies. There were several factors that influenced our decision, one of them being that we wanted to see if the MUCH slower pace of life in southeast Alabama appealed to us after living across the Hudson from Manhattan for eight years.
So far, things are good. We've done stuff like:
Look at turtles in a pond,
hang out on campus,
and take time to stop and smell, well, whatever flowering vine this is...
New reviews are coming very soon, as well as reports on Bill's No Nap Happy Hour series, Austin Kiddie Limits, and next year's SXSW Music Festival and the Kindiefest Conference. Stay tuned!
Monday, July 20, 2009
A few weeks ago over at About.com, I mentioned the Summer Playlist that HYP Radio's Amy Trulock created for Small Magazine. Her compilation inspired me ... oh, who am I kidding ... I totally yoinked her idea and came up with my own list of Summer Songs for Kids, tunes about sun and surf, good books and good food, and laid-back days in the shade.
My 12-song list highlights children's performers exclusively, bands like Dog On Fleas, The Dreamtree Shakers, and The Baby Grands, so this is a great way to shine the spotlight on the huge amount of talent out there in the Kids' Music world. Here's my list of Summer Songs for Kids.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Hey, live music lovers: the newest "gotta see" kids' concert series is Northampton, Massachusetts' No Nap Happy Hour, produced by Spare the Rock's Bill Childs. Kids' bands and performers, from the legendary Bill Harley to new-stars-on-the-block Lunch Money, will be rockin' the reknowned Iron Horse Music Hall once a month 'till the end of the year, beginning this Sunday.
For at least some of the dates (including Lunch Money), it's the only New England appearance for the band, so fans should check into making the trip to western Massachusetts. Northampton is less than an hour from Hartford and a couple of hours from Boston.
All shows will be held at the Iron Horse Music Hall at 2:00pm. Tickets are $10 in advance, $13 at the door, and are available through the Iron Horse website.
Here's the 2009 No Nap Happy Hour lineup:
July 26 - Lunch Money
August 23 - Justin Roberts & the Not Ready for Naptime Trio
September 20 - Deedle Deedle Dees
October 18 - Uncle Rock & the Playthings
November 8 - Brady Rymer & the Little Band That Could
December 6 - Bill Harley
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
So, Johnny Bregar's a big-time video star now! Check out his version of the classic "Shoo Fly Pie," a tune from his Dragonfly album that's also on the new Putumayo Kids' CD Picnic Playground.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
When you first pop Max's Family Band into the CD player, the first thing you think is, "Man, this is like Broadway music for kids!" Well, it's not a coincidence: Gary and Yvette Negbaur have years of musical theater experience as both composers and performers, and they translate their talents into their kids' music debut album Max's Family Band. Inspired by the antics and day-to-day life of their son Max, the Negbaurs composed 15 songs for and about him that all parents can relate to, and some tunes will even get a giggle out of the grownups.
"Gobbledygookster Baby" is full of fun words, "One Sock Octopus" is entertainingly silly (hey, made me laugh!), and when it's "Haircut Time," what better style to sing about it than barbershop quartet? Dig how the swingin' verse of "Grandma Time" jumps to a doo-wop chorus, then try to follow the piano/vocal runs on "Picky," and dance to the hand jive boogie of "Rockin' Zebra."
Check out "The Color Medley," a four-song mini epic that utilizes Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles psychedelia, some Chicago blues, a little New Orleans shuffle, and a taste of hot Salsa to musically describe yellow, blue, green, and red. And on the songs "I'm Glad that You've Discovered M" and "Hello Mr. Diaper Hello" you can practically feel the heat from the footlights! Both songs would make perfect preschool stage productions, complete with tiny dancers and singers.
Max's Family Band is cute, catchy sing-along entertainment for your youngest music lover.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
...that a bland product like The Jonas Brothers' Lines, Vines and Trying Times has massive advertising dollars behind it and hits #1 on the Billboard Charts, while a brilliant effort like Cathy Heller's Say Hello to the Sun remains relatively unknown. Both albums are aimed at the pop music-lovin' preteen crowd, but Heller beats the big label machine at their own game, hands down. Get the word out, people: there's awesome music out there for kids!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I've always been kinda cynical. I mean, nothing just blew my mind, ya know? Well, when I watched this live in 1983, this.blew.my.mind. It was truly one of the few times in my life that I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Crank up the volume and try to dance along at home.
This is for my friend Brad Breath.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
...so far! There are *lots* of great kids' CDs out this year, and I've pulled together a few of my favorites that have already hit the record store shelves. You can check out my list of Best Kids' Music of 2009 over at About.com, and then let me know who you think should be included on the year-end list.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
With the innocent enthusiasm of Jonathan Richman, the eclectic inventiveness of Mr. David, and the general kookiness of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Apple Brains bursts upon the kids' music scene with their debut album Get Fruity!!
L.A.-based Allen Bleyle is the brainy apple behind Apple Brains, and his free-for-all, lo-fi, indie rock style is a refreshing addition to the children's music world. Get Fruity!! is a concept album of sorts, with every track highlighting fruits, vegetables, water, and healthy eating in general. But this isn't a preachy, stick-in-the-mud, instructional album by any means: Peanut Butter and Jelly show up as characters who tell the story of how they met; a little girl carries around a mango like a baby; a little boy weeps at the wonderfulness of tomatoes. Far Out!
Get Fruity!! kicks off with the sunny anthem "Apple x3," which begins as a cheerful ode and ends as a manic scream-along, followed by the awesomely weird story tune "Peanut Butter and Jelly How They Met Song." A wobbly melody line carries "Water the Loveliest Beverage," a tune that's half informational and half tribute, then comes the ridiculously catchy (and informative!) rave-up "Ba-na-nas."
The hyper-enthusiastic sing-along "Lots of Different Colors" describes the many hues of fruits and vegetables, while "The Stone Fruit Salute" celebrates peaches, plums, cherries, and apricots with a waltzing carnival-like sound of pump organs and slide whistles. The indie pop "Growing Like Crazy" features a kazoo/keyboard sound effects solo while describing the things that help us grow, and a laid-back island groove carries the mango-worshiping tune "A Mango is a Precious Egg to be Cherished."
The bilingual "Frutero" describes looking for something good to eat while walking around Los Angeles, while the brilliantly Ween-like "Tomatoes are So Wonderful That They Make Me Want to Cry" is pretty much what the title tells you, a tune that definitely needs to find its way onto The Dr. Demento Show. The entire album features guitar work by Kyle Thomas, highlighted by the goofy acid rock of "Wonder Worm," while the key-shifting "Each and Every," a song about seeds and plants, ends the album with a laugh-out-loud verse courtesy Lucia Turino.
Now, all these songs might seem a little silly, but Bleyle is serious about his enthusiasm for good eating. Check out his gushing blog post about Adam Leith Gollner's book The Fruit Hunters, and find out how it was the inspiration for one of the Apple Brains songs. And Bleyle gets indie cred with the roster of musicians used on Get Fruity!!: members of The Devil Makes Three, Feathers, Pretend You're Happy, and Witch (Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis' side project) help sing and play on the album.
Bottom line: in a perfect world Get Fruity!! would be a massive hit on college radio stations, with its dadaist lyrics, overdriven vocal recording, stick-in-your-head melodies, lo-fi aesthetic, and generally earthy vibe. And I think our similarly musically open-minded little listeners will dig it, as well. One of the best kids' albums of 2009, and definitely one of the most unique!
Monday, June 15, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
There aren't many high-profile kids' groups from Alabama, so it's extraspecially exciting when a Bama band bursts onto the children's music scene with such a solid debut CD. Tangerine Tambourine release their self-titled kids' album today on the Science Fair label, and indie rock lovers everywhere will love their mix of powerpop, country rock, and R&B influences.
Jump on over to About.com for a full review of Tangerine Tambourine.
Monday, June 08, 2009
Here's the first single from Tangerine Tambourine, Alabama's premiere kids' band. Their self-titled debut CD drops tomorrow, so look for a full album review then.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Spiral Up Kids took the jam band ensemble playing of Phish, the nouveau country rock of Son Volt, and the earthy funk of The Band to create their groovy, harmony-filled, kids' music debut Spiral Up Kids.
Georgia Weinmann, Darren Cohen, and Tim Whalen, three Hudson Valley, NY parents, decided to document the lives of their toddlers through song. They got musical help from friends and fellow Hudson Valley musicians Jason Sarubbi on bass and background vocals, Ross Rice on piano and organ, Larry Packer on fiddle and mandolin, and Robin Baker on background vocals, while Darren handled guitar duty and background vocals, with Tim on drums and lead vocals.
Highlights of Spiral Up Kids include the jam band groove of "Friends," the New Orleans shuffle of "Sugar," and the electric bluegrass of "In the Fiddle is a Song," a tune based on Durga Bernhard's picture book (she also designed the CD package). The group really channel the spirit of The Band on the vocal phrasing of "My Kitty and Me," while the sound of late-70s Crosby, Stills & Nash is revived on "Rainy Day Play."
If the H.O.R.D.E. tour was still on the road, Spiral Up Kids would be the most likely children's band to be up on stage. Solid, earthy, fun kids' music debut.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Andy Mason's sophomore kids' album continues where Everybody Likes Pizza! left off, but with more instruments in the mix. Play It Again! is a solid collection of Americana tunes, slyly instructional songs, ridiculous sing-alongs, and eclectic covers. Everybody Like Pizza! was pretty much a solo acoustic affair, but this time around, Portales, New Mexico's favorite kids' musician utilizes jangly piano, a taste of accordion, twangy guitar, and the occasional standup bass.
Play It Again! kicks off with the honky tonk sing-along "My Cat's Got Fleas!" and the energetic tribute to swashbucklers everywhere, "The Pirate Song." Boogie woogie while you "Wash Your Hands," then follow along with the Simon Says-like "Monkey See, Monkey Do," a tune that sounds like a tinkling piano version of John Mellencamp's "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A."
Mason lets his southwestern musical influences show on the cantina canción "The Toilet Training Dance," the bilingual "Los Colores," and the Spanish-language ballad "A Mi Madre" and counting song "Los Numeros." And the country-flavored, perfect-for-Summer-Reading tune "Everybody Likes to Read" declares that ... well ... everybody likes to read!
What's interesting is Mason's choice of cover tunes: his barroom story-song version of the traditional "Hagdelina Magdelina;" his cajun-spiced version of Trout Fishing In America's great song "My Hair Had a Party Last Night," which fits in perfectly with Mason's Americana sound; his faithful cover of William Hargreaves' "Delaney's Donkey," made popular by Irish singer Val Doonican in the late '60s; and his breezy cover of The Housemartins' "Sheep," from their 1986 album London 0 Hull 4. Mason reworks the lyrics to turn "Sheep" into a song about trying to get to sleep, rather than The Housemartins' original sunny tirade against the easily-led masses.
Play It Again! ends with a live version of the crowd participation summer camp song "Bubble Gum," and the epic lullaby instrumental "Lalabye." And note that two tunes, "Kewsong," a waltzing country & western tune about Mason's daughter, and the aforementioned "A Mi Madre," were originally included on Mason's recently-released grownup album Lost Cowboy, which goes to show that the line between kids' music and grownup music is disappearing.
Andy Mason turns in a fun album of southwestern Americana tunes for the whole family!
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Straight outta the C.C. DeVille/Paul Stanley book of theatrical stage presence, John Carlin and The Kids' Music Underground present "Air Guitar," their tribute to the budding rock star in everyone's family.
Monday, May 25, 2009
What's your favorite Disney Pixar tune? To celebrate their tenth animated film, Disney Pixar recently released the Disney Pixar Greatest Soundtrack, which includes music and songs from all 10 movies, from 1995's Toy Story to this year's Up. It's interesting to see both what was included and what was left off...
You can check out a full review of the Disney Pixar Greatest Soundtrack over at About.com.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
At the very least, this is a cute distraction. At the most, it's a fun, super catchy introduction for the whole family to the talents of Neil Sedaka. Hopefully, Sedaka's kids' debut, Waking Up is Hard to Do, will lead to further exploration of his poptacular back catalog of hits. And I can pretty much guarantee that the line "Lunch, lunch will keep us together" will get stuck in your head for days!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
If Jonathan Richman or The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band made kids' music ... well, I guess they kinda did ... anyway, I think Apple Brains' "Apple x3" would feel right at home amongst such company. This tune is from Apple Brains' debut kids' album Get Fruity!
Sunday, May 17, 2009
... the Top 10 High School Musical songs! Ok, everybody knows the High School Musical Soundtracks aren't beginning-to-end masterpieces, particularly High School Musical 2, but each album does contain a nice slice or two of tween pop. Check out the Top 10 High School Musical songs from the first three soundtracks, and let us know which was your favorite.
Posted by Warren Truitt at 6:00 AM
Friday, May 15, 2009
Hmmm, I had no idea that Los Lobos, They Might Be Giants, indie rockers Tally Hall, composer Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked) and Andy Sturmer from Jellyfish all had a hand in making music for the Playhouse Disney Music Play Date CD ...
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Remember those Billy Joel / Elton John solo piano concerts? Dude, I'd totally go see a kids' show with David Tobocman and Michael Rachap rockin' the keys. Dig it:
Monday, May 11, 2009
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Chicago's Little Miss Ann tipped us off to a kids' band with one of the best names I've heard in a while, The Dreamtree Shakers. This Windy City ensemble's debut kids' album, Dream and You Will See, is actually a soundtrack of sorts of their live puppetry and movement show, featuring characters and landscapes of the forest.
Call it poppy folk, folky pop, or indie alt country americana, Jeremy Babcock and gang lay down some righteous, jangly tunes, the kind of airy, loping rock and roll that America and Neil Young were so good at. Babcock is the go-to guy in The Dreamtree Shakers, and he and fellow Shakers Shawn Schlag and Michael Doty play in the similar-sounding grownup band Third Wheel.
With song titles like "Her Sound is Sunshine," "Dream and You Will See," and "Watching the Leaves Fall," you can see at first glance where The Dreamtree Shakers are coming from. Very cool indie pop for kids, awesome kindie rock for adults, great CD for the whole family. But first and foremost, check out The Dreamtree Shakers' live show ... then you'll see what they're all about.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Hey, remember when soundtracks were more than just rehashed Top 40 songs or poorly-composed wannabe Broadway ditties? Yeah, me too. So, here's what may be the best example of how to make a family movie album: Mary Poppins.
The Mary Poppins Soundtrack was released in 1964 and spent 14 weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts! And why not, with tunes like "A Spoonful of Sugar," "I Love to Laugh," "Chim Chim Cher-ee," "Let's Go Fly a Kite," and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." You have brothers Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman to thank for those classics, along with other memorable songs like "Feed the Birds," "The Life I Lead," "Sister Suffragette," "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank," and the absolutely raucous "Step in Time."
Make sure to check out the 40th Anniversary edition that contains fascinating conversations with the Sherman Brothers about their songwriting process. Julie Andrews' voice, super songs by the Shermans, and Dick Van Dyke's ridiculous Cockney accent make for a classic kids' movie soundtrack.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Let's revisit a classic today! Peter, Paul and Mary's 1969 kids' album Peter, Paul and Mommy was a groundbreaker of sorts, because it was the first instance of a major pop star or band making an album specifically for children. The trio covered Tom Paxton's "The Marvelous Toy" and "Going to the Zoo," Shel Silverstein's short and silly "Boa Constrictor," and Gilbert & Sullivan's "I Have a Song to Sing, O!" from Yeoman of the Guard.
The album included performances of the traditional tunes "Leatherwing Bat," "All Through the Night," and "Mockingbird," as well as Peter Yarrow's amusing "Make-Believe Town." Peter, Paul and Mary also covered themselves on "It's Raining," originally peformed on their 1962 debut album Peter, Paul and Mary, and, of course, their classic "Puff the Magic Dragon," a re-recording of a tune first heard on their 1963 album (Moving). Peter, Paul and Mommy also introduced two new PP&M gems, Peter Yarrow's "Day is Done" and Paul Stookey's "Christmas Dinner."
Peter, Paul and Mommy is, for the most part, a subdued acoustic affair, so the album would make a perfect backdrop to a rainy afternoon or a summer sundown.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Pete Seeger is 90 years young today, and he's as full of vim and vigor as ever. You can get a quick overview of Pete Seeger's biography over at About.com, or check out a review of American Folk Songs for Children, Seeger's first album for kids and one of the Top 5 Classic Children's Albums of all time.
photo copyright Christopher Felver
Saturday, May 02, 2009
So, who's your favorite Yo Gabba Gabba! musical guest from Season 1? Season 2 brought some bigger and better names, and I've heard crazy rumors about the third season, but let's look at Yo Gabba Gabba!'s first year on the tube. Here are my picks for Top 10 Yo Gabba Gabba! musical guests from Season 1.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Billy Kelly and The Blah Blah Blahs (Bruce W. Derr, guitar; Bob Albin, bass; Jake Kline, drums; and Billy Kelly, everything else) present a super set of indie rock songs for kids on their debut CD Thank You For Joining the Happy Club. Their musical mix will remind you of Jonathan Richman, They Might Be Giants, R.E.M., and Wilco, and those influences perfectly compliment the band's breezy, slyly humorous tunes.
The extremely literal "This Is the First Song" is the funniest deconstruction of song structure you'll ever hear, while the title tune is a superb pop song about universal inclusion. Dig the cosmic kid logic of yet another awesome pop composition, "I Can't Get Away From Myself," as well as an ode to the soothing, exhilarating powers of the "Mindless Pop Song." And a cover of Talking Heads' "Don't Worry About the Government" isn't something you'd expect to hear on a kids' record, but it fits in perfectly with the other tunes on Thank You.
Super duper children's music debut from Billy Kelly and gang. More, please!
Monday, April 27, 2009
Even reviewers have favorite bands, and Dog On Fleas are definitely one of my faves. One reason is because of their uniqueness: very few bands, even grownup bands, draw from such an eclectic grab bag of influences to develop their sound. Well, I think they've met their match ... dig Family Photograph by the Dreyer Family Band.
Two families from opposite coasts combined to make an album "not FOR kids, but includes them ... from the perspective of all family members." And, I must say, they successfuly achieved their goal. Parents will amen the lyrics of "You Get What You Get," a song that sounds like Dr. John playing on The Muppet Show; "How To Be Happy" could be a companion to It's A Beautiful Day's "White Bird;" "Photograph" sounds like one of those great tunes Richard Manuel used to write for The Band; and "Imagination" is just a great pop song about the awesome power of a kid's mind.
Earthy, funny, sincere, silly, knowing, and musically right on, the tunes on Family Photograph'll find an audience with at least one, and probably every, member of your own family.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Here's the latest video from Debbie Cavalier, an animated version of Debbie and Friends' "Three Pigs and a Wolf." Planet Sunday took care of the animation, while the images are by Robert Heath of Barkley Studios.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Straight out of Portland, Oregon comes the Dean of Five Strings, the Chancellor of Claw Hammer ... that's right, folks, it's Professor Banjo, and he's here to teach you a few things about Old Time music.
Paul Silveria, aka Prof. Banjo, teaches music at Portland's Village Free School by day, and spreads the joys of banjo playing and square dance calling by night. Old Familiar Tunes is his first CD for kids, and, true to the title's word, it's full of ancient songs you swear you've heard in movies, on TV, or floating through the breeze.
Old Familiar Tunes features well-known oldies like "Old Joe Clark," "Arkansas Traveler," "Black Eyed Suzie," and "John Henry," along with long-lost treasures like "I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground," "Polly Put the Kettle On," "Soldier's Joy," and the instrumental "Salt River/Flatfoot in the Ashes." But two of the highlights have to be "Cripple Creek/Square Dance" and "Reuben's Train": the former highlights Silveria's square dance calling skills, while the latter shows off his one-man-band prowess, as he plays banjo, washboard, tambourine, spoons, bike bell, kazoo, and suitcase all at once!
"So, why don't you just listen to an album of banjo tunes by, say, Dock Boggs or Roscoe Holcomb?" Well, the fact that Professor Banjo performs regularly in the Oregon/Washington area gives kids and families a chance to experience this style of Old Time music first hand, and then they have a CD of Old Familiar Tunes to make the connection. Class dismissed!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Barenaked Ladies' debut kids' CD made the headlines twice this week over at About.com: Snack Time! won the 2009 JUNO Award for Children's Album of the Year, and, on the strength of that win, hit the top of the Children's Music Charts, surpassing Playhouse Disney: Music Playdate.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The sub-genres in Kids' Music are constantly growing and improving, including the Americana field. I've reviewed five of the best examples of new Americana music for kids over at About.com, and I have room to expand the list, so please feel free to send recommendations or make comments.