Tuesday, June 15, 2010

***Dean Jones***

I've been a die-hard follower of Dog On Fleas since I found Cranberry Sauce Flotilla over four years ago. Became a bigger fan after getting to see them live at the Donnell Central Children's Room when I worked there. Got to the point of obsessive stalkerism when Dean Jones released Napper's Delight in 2007. Now Jones has upped the ante on his second solo disc by getting The Felice Brothers involved, resulting in one of the best family albums of 2010.

Check out a full review of Dean Jones' Rock Paper Scissors over at About.com!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

***Roy Handy and The Moonshot***

Ever wonder what it would sound like if Neil Young and Crazy Horse made a kids' album? Think on it no more, music lovers, Roy Handy and The Moonshot are here! The "group" is actually Gerry Stanek doin' the solo thing, and his debut CD, (I'm Gonna Be) Your Best Friend, borrows heavily from the loud, loping sound created by Young and his legendary backing band.

Stanek says that the entire album was conceived and recorded in a mere three weeks. This, and the fact that half the songs are under two minutes long gives the album an immediate, shambolic, but not messy, sound and feel ... kinda like your uncle's band playing in the garage. Amusing side note: all the song titles are followed by three exclamation points, except, of course, the lone tender-hearted (but still pretty loud) tune "Sometimes You Need to Be Cuddled."

The album kicks off with a song from the canine's point of view, "I Am a Dog!!!" complete with guitar solo and howls, followed by the Who-like chordfest, and second single from (I'm Gonna Be) Your Best Friend, "Crayon Man!!!" And the loping "That's a Great Idea!!!" which includes a few suggestions that are sarcastically categorized as "great," would give Atlanta kindie rocker Daddy A Go Go a run for his money.

Stanek dips into Jason and The Scorchers' amped-up version of country rock to declare that "Socks are Overrated!!!" while the Crazy Horse influence resurfaces on Stanek's ode to his comforting "Blanket!!!" Some big ol' chunky chords, a la Bachman Turner Overdrive, describe the awesomeness of the "Playground!!!" and a great T. Rex boogie celebrates the "Hotdog!!!"

The lighter-hoisting "Sometimes You Need to Be Cuddled" slows down the pace a little with some Teenage Fanclub-inspired chord changes and the admission that we all need a hug every once in a while. But then the breakneck speed of "Pancakes!!!" wakes everyone up again, highlighted by a ridiculous solo that'll have yer budding juke box heroes air guitaring all over the living room.

The straight-ahead rocker "Shopping List!!!" details a trip to the grocery store, while "Space Kitty!!!" the first single from the album, would be a perfect theme song for a Saturday morning cartoon. The album ends with "Moonshot!!!" a raging tribute to space travel that would make Alabama garage rockers The Quadrajets proud. If you dig the rowdy, grungy, guitar-driven rock and roll of, say, Ragged Glory or Rust Never Sleeps, Roy Handy is right down your alley. Play this one LOUD!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

***Heidi Swedberg***

Gotta admit, this CD had three things going against it from the start: kids' music by a famous person (Swedberg played George's fiance on Seinfeld), children's voices in the songs (tends to make tunes too cutesy), and venturing into classic folk territory (beloved material often gets too modernized or shined up to within an inch of its life). Not so with Heidi Swedberg's PLAY!

Swedberg and The Sukey Jump Band run through a veritable greatest hits of classic folk tunes on the L.A.-based ukulele teacher/enthusiast's debut album PLAY! From long-lost classics like "Paw Paw Patch," "Japanese Umbrella Song," and "Cricket's Lullaby" to well-known tunes like "Muffin Man," "Buckeye Jim," and "Dream a Little Dream," Swedberg infuses each song on PLAY! with warmth, joy, playfulness, and, most importantly, ukuleles!

PLAY! includes a couple of medleys: "Skip to My Shoo" joins "Skip to My Lou" and "Shoo Fly," while "Train Medley" ties together folk favorites "I've Been Working on the Railroad," "Rock Island Line," and "Freight Train." Swedberg also performs a nice cover Chubby Parker's version of "Froggy Went A-Courtin'" (remember that "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O" refrain?).

The most unique tune on PLAY!, though, has to be the Frank Zappa-meets-Spike Jones and His City Slickers version of "Pop Goes the Weasel," as a simple ukulele verse of the familiar rhyme is followed by a discordant, percussion-filled middle section.

Don't forget to check out the booklet insert, where you'll find a short background story for each song, as well as ukulele chords and finger placements. If you're a fan of Laura Doherty or Elizabeth Mitchell, you'll dig Heidi's quiet but fun-loving, sweet but not syrupy style on PLAY!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Top 10 Best Sesame Street Songs

It wasn't that difficult to come up with my Top 10 Sesame Street songs of all time. In fact, most of them instantly popped into my head...then were stuck there for the next few days!

Check out my faves over at KidsMusic.About.com, and let me know what you would include on your list of best Sesame Street songs.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

***Wayne Potash***

Already one of my faves of 2010...a rock opera about a typical kid's day from sunup to sundown! Wayne Potash's A Day in the Life takes musical cues from classic rock and country, but maintains a cohesive sound throughout.

Read a full review of A Day in the Life over at KidsMusic.About.com, and make sure to check out the tunes "Snack Time," "I Wanna Take a Nap," and "After My Bath," just to name a few.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Happy 30th Birthday, PAC-MAN!

Know what's awesome? Wasting time playing PAC-MAN on Google! The game is 30 years old today, so celebrate by dropping a few quarters in your PC and listening to Buckner & Garcia's re-recorded version of "PAC-MAN Fever" on your Walkman.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Lullabies for Babies

Sure, there are tons of lullaby albums out there. On one end of the spectrum you have classical music instrumentals performed either by humans or synthesizers, and on the other end you have traditional and original tunes sung by anyone from Rick Springfield to Nicolette Larson, from Jewel to Linda Ronstadt.

Over at KidsMusic.About.com, I compiled a short list of some of the best new lullabies for babies, a list that will be expanded, I'm sure. But for now, these few CDs are great examples of the new wave of music for sleepy babies (and for adults who just want to chill). Check 'em out.

read more about New Lullabies for Babies

Friday, January 29, 2010

Best Kids' Music of 2009: #1 Here I Am! by Caspar Babypants

This is modern folk music at its best, and some of these tunes are destined to become classics. Chris Ballew, formerly of the indie rock band The Presidents of the United States of America, delivers a debut children's album that's full of witty, wordy, silly, gentle, quietly acoustic new traditional tunes. Here I Am!, recorded under the guise of Caspar Babypants, is an endless string of catchy, quiet, and imaginative songs that'll put a smile on your face. It's easy to see that Ballew didn't force the songs, that he didn't set out to write a "children's album:" these are images, tunes, and thoughts that might pop into a real kid's head, making Caspar Babypants' Here I Am! the best kids' music CD of 2009.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Best Kids' Music of 2009: # 2 Family Time by Ziggy Marley

The fact that this album begins with the lines "Lift up your hearts with a smile, Lift up your feet with a dance, Lift up your spirits with a song, It's family time," speaks volumes about the tremendously warm vibes emanating from every tune on Family Time, easily landing it near the top of the list of best kids' music of 2009. Some well-known friends (Paul Simon, Toots Hibbert, Elizabeth Mitchell, and several family members) dropped by to help Ziggy, resulting in an album of loving, fun tunes backed by rootsy, poppy Reggae. Family Time is a great introduction to contemporary Reggae for kids, and Ziggy Marley's message of love and family just can't be beat.

Number 2: Family Time by Ziggy Marley

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Best Kids' Music of 2009: # 3 Thank You for Joining the Happy Club by Billy Kelly

Billy Kelly and The Blah Blah Blahs 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. Billy Kelly is definitely a new force to be reckoned with in the kids' music field, delivering a 1-2-3 punch of catchy tunes, witty lyrics, and songs that are fun for the whole family, easily landing Thank You For Joining The Happy Club on the list of best kids' music of 2009.

Number 3: Thank You for Joining the Happy Club by Billy Kelly

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Best Kids' Music of 2009: # 4 Get Fruity!! by Apple Brains

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. Some of the best kids' music of 2009, and definitely some of the most unique!

Number 4: Get Fruity!! by Apple Brains

Monday, January 25, 2010

Best Kids' Music of 2009: # 5 Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants' previous two albums for kids, Here Come the ABCs and Here Come the 123s, were fun romps through the concepts of letters and numbers, but few hard facts were presented. Not so on Here Comes Science, a CD chock full of some of the best kids' music of 2009. The band's trademark quirky, catchy musical style and witty word play meld perfectly with concrete concepts like states of matter, paleontology, the planets, and photosynthesis.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Best Kids' Music of 2009: # 6 Hello Night by Kesang Marstrand

Kesang Marstrand's kids' music debut is touching and playful, mysterious and warm, and is certainly one of the most beautiful lullaby albums you'll ever hear. Full of pastoral scenes of water and wind, flowers and insects, setting suns and rising moons, Hello Night is an aural testament to the power of simplicity, and deservedly finds a place amongst the best kids' music of 2009.

Number 6: Hello Night by Kesang Marstrand

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Best Kids' Music of 2009: # 7 Field Trip by Recess Monkey

The fifth album by these three elementary school teachers from Seattle is full of ridiculously catchy songs, witty and silly lyrics, and a smidgen of fascinating scientific facts, all combining to make Field Trip some of the best kids' music of 2009.

Number 7: Field Trip by Recess Monkey

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Best Kids' Music of 2009: # 8 Family Photograph by The Dreyer Family Band

Family Photograph is a remarkable collaboration between East and West Coast members of the Dreyer family, who pull together musical influences from across time and around the world to create their impressive kids' music debut, some of the best kids' music of 2009.

Number 8: Family Photograph by The Dreyer Family Band

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Best Kids' Music of 2009: # 9 Beautiful World by Dog On Fleas

This week and next, we're looking at some of the best kids' music of 2009, and the ninth spot is occupied by Hudson Valley musical ensemble Dog On Fleas. Eclectic Americana at its best.

Number 9: Beautiful World by Dog On Fleas

Monday, January 18, 2010

Best Kids' Music of 2009: # 10 Dizzy by Lunch Money

This week begins a rundown of my picks of the Top 10 Best Kids' Music Albums of 2009. Now, this list is, of course, subjective and totally biased, but these are the platters that stayed on my turntable the longest this past year. Plus, I really believe that these 10 CDs provide kids, and their families, with a great starting point for further musical exploration, no matter what genre.

Number 10: Dizzy by Lunch Money

Monday, January 11, 2010


Learning all the chords to Robot Dance...

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Free-for-All # 24

Ross King - Words that Rhyme with Orange

On Words that Rhyme with Orange, it's clear that Ross King's strength is pop tune composition, much in the fashion of musicians like Chris Von Sneidern or kids' music star Justin Roberts. Check out "Happy to Be Me" and "I Like to Play Outside" for evidence of King's radio-ready style. King has released several modern worship albums over the past 15 years, but Words is his first CD for kids. Words is a cute, well-produced collection of tunes, but based on his witty wordplay and songwriting chops I really think King's future is in television, so listen for a King-penned children's tv show theme song in the future.

Earthworm Ensemble - Earthworm Ensemble

Eclectic roots music by members of the Los Angeles-based Americana band I See Hawks In L.A. The band bring along The Chapin Sisters to round out their blend of country, garage schlock rock, bluegrass, and folk. The Ensemble's self-titled kids' album is full of songs about trains, the extraterrestrial planet-saving duo Bear and Dog, a hip hop jam about pizza, the rhythm workout "Bang a Drum," the weepy lap steel-flavored "We are Birds," the Muppets-meet New Orleans tune "Little Willy Buffalo," and the sweetly trippy "Goodnight, Little Spaceship." Lots of musical influences, yeah, but Earthworm Ensemble is a cohesive grab bag of great tunes for the whole family.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

New Americana Music for Kids

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.

Monday, January 04, 2010

***Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem***

This here's what gives credence to the fact that music for kids and their families is a force to be reckoned with: kids' bands are now playing tunes by other kids' bands. Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem cover not one but two family favorites on their latest CD, Billy Jonas' "Bear to the Left" from his 2002 album What Kind of Cat Are You?!, and the title track from Renee & Jeremy's 2007 album It's a Big World. But I digress...let's take a listen at Ranky Tanky.

Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem have been making "new roots music" together for a decade, with three previous CDs of fiddle-driven, harmony-filled tunes under their belt. The Middletown, CT-based quartet are adept at their frontporch, old time, loose-jointed but tightly-played style, no matter what song they attempt, and that's what makes Ranky Tanky work. Most of the album consists of covers, including "Tennessee Wig Walk," made famous by Bonnie Lou (Mary Joe Kath), also covered by Dan Zanes on House Party; "Kee-mo, Ky-mo," found on June Christy's "kids' album" The Cool School; New Folk artist John Gorka's "Branching Out;" Malvina Reynolds' "Morningtown Ride," one of The Seekers biggets hits; and "Bushel and a Peck" from the Broadway musical Guys and Dolls.

But despite the wide range of sources, all the songs sound like daisy mayhem tunes. Lots and lots of kids' musicians and bands attempt a "stylistic showcase" of sorts, especially on debut albums. Rather than attempt a rockabilly style here and a folk style there, followed by the obligatory reggae misstep, Rani Arbo and band maintain their own unique, cohesive sound, even on covers of well-known tunes like Cat Steven's "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out", The Meters' "They All Ask'd For You", Sheb Wooley's "Purple People Eater", and Tom Petty's "Wildflowers."

Great organic Americana music for the whole family. Let's hope we hear more from Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem in the future.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

2009 gave us lots of great albums for kids and their families, and it was really hard to narrow down my choices to a mere ten. So, without further adoooooo, here's my Top 10 List of the best kids' music of 2009. Enjoy, discuss, and comment!