Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lori Henriques - How Great Can This Day Be

How Great Can This Day Be is Portland, Oregon resident Lori Henriques' fourth album of music for families, following The World is a Curious Place to Live (2013), Outside My Door: Songs for Children of All Ages (2011), and Lullaby Piano: Peaceful Classical Pieces (2008). Right off the bat the cover art gives listeners a clue as to Henriques' musical tack, with its mod, late '50s-early'60s layout. She lists her influences for this album specifically as Mose Allison ("Parchman Farm"), Laura Nyro ("Wedding Bell Blues"), Jacques Brel ("Ne Me Quitte Pas"), Bob Dorough ("Three Is a Magic Number"), Cole Porter ("Night and Day"), and Nina Simone ("Feeling Good"); in fact, one of the appealing things about How Great Can This Day Be is how Henriques sticks to one style, jazz, rather than ping pong amongst a variety of musical techniques.
The album kicks off with the title tune, a lively song that utilizes a repetitive modal riff reminiscent of "So What" from Miles Davis' 1959 classic Kind of Blue. The next song finds Henriques hanging out "In a Park" in Seattle where she discovers a vast cornucopia of veggies in the community garden. She then finds her "Groove" as the band lead us through a flute-filled samba, encouraging us to move in a wide variety of ways. Brother Joel Henriques' musical saw haunts the waltzing "Beau Paris" as Henriques and her young son Leo sing us a brief French language lesson; while "Free Ride Everyday," Henriques' homage to Mr. Rogers and his show, provides another example of her use of modal chord movement.
The brief "I Say Woo" features a smokin' Hammond B3 organ solo by Randy Porter (look out, Sugar Free Allstars' Chris Wiser!), throws in some French verses, and utilizes that choppy hook from James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)" in creating a great live concert sing along. "Monkey Monkey Monkey" sneaks its way through the jungle via trombone and clarinet, marking humans' similarities to our fellow primates. Along with husband Matt Keeslar, Henriques assures that "I Am Your Friend," performing an absolutely cheerful song that'll remind you of a Broadway-based Lunch Money song; hey, now that Molly Ledford and gang are producing theater shows, a collaboration may not be a bad idea! The smoky "Dream Jane Dream" features Tim Jensen's Paul Desmond-like saxophone tone in Henriques' tribute to scientist Jane Goodall. The album comes to a close by describing "Another Good Year," a warmly celebratory boogie woogie tune that makes for a great Holiday Season/New Year's Eve song. Listen for Ben Medler's trumpet solo and the way the song's intro echoes The Everly Brothers' 1961 hit "Walk Right Back."
Lori Henriques has carved a neat little niche for herself in the world of children's music, as jazzy bands and musicians are few and far between in Kindie Rock. Her sincere dedication to jazz and the prominence of her piano skills on How Great Can This Day Be will not only appeal to those who appreciate that style but also to young families who want to have a live, jazz-filled musical experience with their children. Make sure to check the official Lori Henriques website for tour dates and more info about her music.
Released November 10, 2014; Human Puppy Records
Track Listing
  1. "How Great Can This Day Be"
  2. "In a Park"
  3. "Groove"
  4. "Beau Paris"
  5. "Free Ride Everyday"
  6. "I Say Woo"
  7. "Monkey Monkey Monkey"
  8. "I Am Your Friend"
  9. "Dream Jane Dream"
  10. "Another Good Year"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Papa Crow - Full Moon, Full Moon

Marquette, Michigan's Papa Crow has finally released his long-awaited album Full Moon, Full Moon, his third collection of music for kids and families. The project was funded by a PledgeMusic campaign that directs a portion of the proceds to Oxfam, an organization that works to find solutions to poverty and social injustice.

The album kicks off with "Daylight in the Swamp," a brief acoustic preview of what's to come on Full Moon, Full Moon, sounding like a Ronnie Lane outtake from Rough Mix, the album on which Lane collaborated with Pete Townshend. "I've Got a Feeling" isn't The Beatles' Let It Be track; instead it's a vaudevillian celebration of another wonderful day. Papa Crow then gets us "Moving to the Beat" with a breezy, ska-influenced tune that features a nifty instrumental break. The upbeat Alt Country tune "Great White Pine" provides an up-high view of the wonders of outdoor adventures, while the increasingly loud and rowdy "I Wanna Rock & Roll" introduces the instruments of the band, punctuated by a Papa Crow guitar solo. "Outside Sounds" catalogues aural experiences that occur throughout the day via some super catchy newgrass, and the traditional country-sounding tune "Bumpy Bump Road" would make a great live concert sing along. Next comes one of the highlights of Full Moon, Full Moon, "Give Some, Get Some," a waltzing Alt Country duet with Frances England that would make Emmylou Harris and Jeff Tweedy jealous.

"In All of the World" is yet another top tune on the album; the lighter-waving, soulful song is deserving of a cover by Daptone Records recording star Charles Bradley. Papa Crow's dad wrote "The Michigan Waltz," a tune of memories; think a quieter, more contemplative version of Palmer and Ward's classic "The Band Played On." "Fireflies" juxtaposes the unlikely instrumental pals of acoustic guitar and synthesizer, and celebrates sharing the wonder of natural nighttime flashlights with our young ones. The mandolin-driven tune, "Over the Rooftops," is a family sing along that has the instrumental feel of an old folk song from Great Britain. Sounding like a minor key Neil Young classic, the title tune "Full Moon, Full Moon" anthropomorphisizes our lunar neighbor and features haunting fiddle work by Sara Pajunen. Another highlight is "A Billion Stars" whose thoughtful lyrics, chord changes, and fingerpicking style sound like a mix of Nick Drake, James Iha, and Robert Pollard. On "The Sun is Yellow" Papa Crow duets with Liat Tova Lis, a singer/songwriter who is sort of a modern day Malvina Reynolds, and the two deliver a song about opposites so simple in its lyrical design it becomes almost cosmic. Full Moon, Full Moon comes to a close with a reprise of "Daylight in the Swamp." This second time 'round, the Green Garden 4H Club band give the tune a distinctive Irish lilt, and their song-concluding laughter is a perfect way to end the album.

Sure, Jeff Krebs has released several animal- and sound-themed EPs and albums for kids, but Full Moon, Full Moon feels like his first true collection. The songs on this release speak to the entire family, they're accessible to kids while still being intelligent, and they're catchy as hell. Let's hope the Kindie Rock world hears more from Papa Crow in the future.

Released October 8, 2014; Things That Roar

Track Listing
  1. "Daylight in the Swamp"
  2. "I've Got a Feeling"
  3. "Moving to the Beat"
  4. "Great White Pine"
  5. "I Wanna Rock & Roll"
  6. "Outside Sounds"
  7. "Bumpy Bump Road"
  8. "Give Some, Get Some"
  9. "In All of the World"
  10. "The Michigan Waltz"
  11. "Fireflies"
  12. "Over the Rooftops"
  13. "Full Moon, Full Moon"
  14. "A Billion Stars"
  15. "The Sun is Yellow"
  16. "Daylight in the Swamp (Reprise)"

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Little Miss Ann - Follow Me

Chicago's Ann Torralba has released several albums of family music over the past few years, each CD better than the last. Her latest, Follow Me, continues her string of organic, thoughtful, joyful collections of tunes for music-loving families.

Follow Me kicks off with a cover of "Someday, Some Morning, Sometime," a music-less Woody Guthrie lyric that Billy Bragg and Wilco refurbished with a new melody for Mermaid Avenue Vol. II. Ann performs a much more energetic reading than Bragg and Wilco's woozy, laid back version, giving the tune a "wake up, let's live!" feeling. The title track follows, continuing the "celebrate the day" vibe; then Ann asks, "Can You Make a Circle?" as the band perform an activity song for which Kristi Thom provided the lyrics. Ann brilliantly updates the old camp song "I Love the Mountains," aka "Boom De Ah Da," by giving it more of a jam band, danceable feel (dig the groovy tambourine and flute during the instrumental interlude!). And the droning musical accompaniment and the excitedly rushed vocals in the verses make "Two's Today" sound like a long-lost Velvet Underground song.

Rather than present a typical "I miss you" tune, the singer exclaims she "Can't Wait to See You" because she wants to dance, dance, dance with her friend, as early '90s jangle pop meets Jefferson Airplane in this great movement song. Daniel Littleton and Elizabeth Mitchell of You Are My Flower join Ann on "I Got a Light," one of the highlights of Follow Me, sounding like no less than Fairport Convention playing a Decemberists song. Ann then covers Frank Loesser's "Bushel and a Peck," a tune originally written for the Broadway musical Guys and Dolls and later made famous by Perry Como and Betty Hutton. The song was also covered by fellow kindie rocker Dan Zanes on his 2000 album Rocket Ship Beach.; here, Ann updates the tune by utilizing Chris Frumkin's funky clavinet and a crowd-participatory wordless chorus. Ann then performs "Jolly Ole' Soul," an original song that sounds like it could be an ancient nursery rhyme performed by The Incredible String Band. Follow Me comes to a gentle close with the counting song, "Three Little Pumpkins," a sort of neo-bluegrass alternative to the old storytime standby "Five Little Ducks."

To my ears, the songs on Follow Me are more "feels" than compositions; Little Miss Ann seems to be writing from the soul rather than trying to document literal events with cookie cutter arrangements. It sounds as if these songs came together in the moment for Ann rather than her trying to fit a traditional "I must construct a song that fits a certain children's music style" mold. And we listeners are better off for it!

Released May 1, 2014; Late Bloomer Records

Track Listing
  1. "Someday, Some Morning, Sometime"
  2. "Follow Me"
  3. "Can You Make a Circle?"
  4. "I Love the Mountains"
  5. "Two's Today"
  6. "Can't Wait to See You"
  7. "I Got a Light"
  8. "Bushel and a Peck"
  9. "Jolly Ole' Soul"
  10. "Three Little Pumpkins"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Alternative 4 from The Beatles

OK, I realize that the point of this release is to promote upcoming remastered music, but, c'mon, the song selection could have been a bit more imaginative. iTunes recently offered up a free four-song EP of solo material by those guys who used to be in The Beatles: John's “Love," from 1970’s John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Paul's “Call Me Back Again," from Wings’ 1975 Venus and Mars, George's “Let It Down,” from 1970’s All Things Must Pass, and Ringo's “Walk With You," from 2010’s Y Not.

A much more darkly amusing quartet of tunes would have included "How Do You Sleep?" and "Too Many People," John and Paul's respective musical "fuck you" directed toward each other right after the band's breakup. Also, George's "Sue Me, Sue You Blues," his desperately frustrated reaction to the legal wranglings that roiled within the Beatles camp post breakup, and poor Ringo's "Early 1970," the loveable drummer's message of "I miss you guys, let's get back together," would have nicely rounded out four solo Beatles tunes that revealed the Fab Four's individual takes on a difficult time in their personal and musical lives.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Happy Autumn Equinox!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

It's Good to Be Back!

After a short stint at another media outlet, I'm back at good ol' Kids Music That Rocks. I'll be digging deeper into stuff I like: kindiependent bands and performers, obscure oldies, grownup music that kids might like, and weird tunes that probably appeal to nobody but me.

If you have music you'd like me to check out, please feel free to send me a message at my new email listed over there in the left-hand column. Can't wait to hear what you've created!

It's good to be back!