Monday, February 02, 2009

***Mo Phillips***

I'm diggin' the lo-fi movement goin' on in Kids' Music right now: Kimya Dawson's Alphabutt, String Bean Jones' Live from the Bathtub, Mr. David's Jump in the Jumpy House, and now Mo Phillips' Train Beard. Now, lo-fi doesn't mean low quality, as evidenced by the great material and performances on all the above CDs. It just means presenting songs from a different angle, thinking outside the musical box, so to speak. And who better to spring this "experimental" approach on than kids, the most open-minded and receptive audience to all things different, sublime, weird, magical, and ridiculous.

Mo Phillips is a musician based in Portland, OR, who has released a couple of Americana/Neil Young-like albums for grownups (The Boat, 2004; Homemade, 2006), and Train Beard follows his stylistic leanings, except with kid subjects and lyrics this time 'round. Guitars, harmonica, organ, and the occasional bongo provide the majority of the instrumentation on Train Beard, supplemented by Phillips' down-to-earth vocals.

"Supa Dupa Race Car" sounds like Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show singing one of those songs Shel Silverstein used to give them; and "I Ain't Gonna Clean My Room" is exactly the kind of poem Silverstein loved to write, as a kid's excessively messy room starts to rebel against him. The title tune is, or should become, a bona fide folk classic: a train travels from head to foot in this a cappella song, sounding like a long-lost Appalachian field holler.

The guitar/organ nonsense song "Cat and Dog" boats lines like "D-O-G dog riding on a bike / B-I-K-E bikin' through the night," while "Change Like a Cloud" uses organ, guitar, and fuzz bass to convey a sense of dreamy imagination. "Leche" is a short nonsense song en Espanol, and "My Ninja Move" battles bedtime fears via a Dave Matthews-like tune.

Other standouts include the playful folk song "Best Friends" and the silly beat poem "The Garbage Man." The only tune that features heavy percussion is "Pizza in a Cup," a drum machine-driven song about a very specific way of serving a slice. That tune then fades into a live performance of the same song, which closes out the album.

Great kids' debut from a unique talent. Check out Train Beard and encourage Mo to keep up the good work!

No comments: