Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, December 14, 2018

Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
Window – Gustafer Yellowgold
Peace Be To All – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
Tricycle – Danny Weinkauf
I've Been Everywhere In New York City – Hopalong Andrew
Handle With Care  – Like Father Like Son
Higher Higher  – Justin Timberlake

Have A Heaping Holiday Helping of Matt Heaton

Boston's Matt Heaton is a throwback to the 1970s style of children's music – a singer-songwriter backed (on his recordings) by a bevy of total professionals. His new winter/holiday CD, SNOW DAY! features a lot of rockabilly guitar but also a touch of flutes.

I've lost count of the number of songs titled "Snow Day," but Matt attempts to put his own stamp on the burgeoning sub-genre. Other than the title track, the rest of the CD covers the festive gamut of staying up for Santa ("The Sneak") to a twangy "Can't Judge a Gift" that's only missing a cut-in ad break from a local sponsor.

Nostalgia continues to evolve, however, as witnessed in "Christmas Movies," where Matt reminisces how in our pre-TiVo and Netflix days, you had to peruse the TV schedule to determine when and where your favorite specials were airing in REAL TIME. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" gets a bossa nova tune-up and "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" goes surfing with a Dick Dale picking style. And Matt's "Hanukkah O Hannukah" has never made the token ethnic tune sound so welcoming. "Winter Wonderland" needs no introduction, and in Matt's version, it's merely a laid-back instrumental.

You either have an affinity for holiday music or you don't. Matt uses SNOW DAY as an opportunity to deliver some seasonal chestnuts with flavor and passion.

SNOW DAY is available from Matt's website, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here's the terribly unseasonal video for "Don't Drink the Water":

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, December 13, 2018

Me And You – Caspar Babypants
Finally – Franz Ferdinand
Stars – Ants Ants Ants
Holiday Jam – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
What Will I Be? – The Not-Its!
Teddy Bear – Danny Weinkauf
Feels Like Summer  – Weezer

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Kids Imagine Nation Rocks the Halls for Xmas

The best recent joke I've heard about the holiday season is: Anyone who says they don't hate Christmas music has never worked retail.

Having completely spoiled the mood, I'm now going to review a children's music release devoted to that topic. Kids Imagine Nation is the high energy trio that make
the Wiggles look sleepy (and not just original Wiggle Jeff). CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE is their aptly-named third CD and it's chock full of, well, power pop anthems.

"Up On the Housetop" strips the paint off the old standard and rebuilds it as a full-throttled raver. "Frosty the Snowman" gets an EDM dance beat and "Go frosty go" refrains. "Jingle Bells" sounds like it came right from the Thanksgiving Day parade and "Deck the Halls" features singing dogs (and cats). KIN's closing selection of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" is not to be played for toddler at bedtime. In fact, I'd recommend it as a wake-up song or something for mom to play as she cuts through traffic to get the kids to school on a wintry day.

CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE is available from Amazon and Apple Music.

You can find Kids Imagine Nation on their YouTube channel as well. Here's a recent episode featuring "Santa's Workshop":

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Monday, December 10, 2018

Animal Land – Bears And Lions
One Of These Days – Vance Joy
We Love to Verb – Danny Weinkauf
Runaway Bike – The Not-Its!
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
Meadow – Stone Temple Pilots

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, December 7, 2018

How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Sea Of Stars – Dan Zanes
Lazy Boy – Franz Ferdinand
What's Done is Done – Jack White
Anything For You My Love – Caspar Babypants
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
Inside I Shine – Danny Weinkauf

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, December 6, 2018

Can You Sing? – Dan Zanes
Always Ascending – Franz Ferdinand
One Day By The Riverside – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Watch Petunia Dance – Caspar Babypants
People Watching – Dean Jones
Over and Under – Danny Weinkauf

Holiday Music Playlist, Johnette Downing's "How To Dress a Po'Boy" Video

Sugar Mountain PR, which represents a scary good number of children's musical artists, has released its 2018 holiday music playlist. It's available on Soundcloud and contains the following performers – 123 AndrĂ©s, Alphabet Rockers (with Genevieve Goings), Ants Ants Ants, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, Tim Kubart, Lisa Loeb, The Not-Its!, the Okee Dokee Brothers, Raffi, Ralph's World, Justin Roberts, Brady Rymer, Suzi Shelton, Trout Fishing in America, Key Wilde & Mr Clarke, and Kira Willey. It's live on Soundcloud, so go grab it!

Johnette Downing has gone cajun. For her 11th children's music CD, SWAMP ROMP (coming next February), Johnette spent five years in writing the material for the CD, the first recorded with her husband/producer Scott Billington, in New Orleans.

And if you're going down the bayou, you might as well bring along a bunch of top-notch supporting players. Guest artists on SWAMP ROMP include Irma Thomas, Roddie Romero, Joel Savoy, James Singleton, Doug Belote, Lee Allen Zeno, Matt Perrine, Wilson Savoy, Jake Eckert, C.R. Gruver, "Washboard Chaz" Leary, players in the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Roger Lewis, Kevin Harris and Kirk Joseph), the Dukes of Dixieland (Kevin Clark, Craig Klein and Tim Laughlin), the McCrary Sisters, and some of the ReBirth Brass Band (Keith Frazier and Derrick Tabb).

The first video from SWAMP ROMP comes with animation from the picture book of the same name, "How to Dress a Po'Boy":

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Shiny New Music from Danny Weinkauf and His Red Pants Band

This review is not about George Harrison. It's not even about Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads). But there is parallel between George Harrison and They Might Be Giants' bassist Danny Weinkauf. George was "given" about one track per Beatles album for his own material. Later, when he went solo, he surprised everyone with his prodigious output; even a TRIPLE album that is still listed as the most successful individual project from the esteemed group. When TMBG started their children's music CDs, Danny was granted a similar ration. And it just wasn't enough for him.

Danny Weinkauf and the Red Pants Band (Tina Kenny Jones, Russ Jones, and Steve Plesnarski) have released their third CD (and Danny's fourth solo effort), entitled INSIDE I SHINE. A generous frontman, many of the 15 tunes feature Tina on lead vocals, including the title track and the groovin' "Dozen Good Reason."

A prodigious songwriter and producer, Danny makes sure that INSIDE I SHINE is crammed full of pop appeal and preteen zeal. "We Love to Verb" gives a vocabulary-building lesson without rubbing your kid's nose in the educational aspect. And do you think pumpkins are vegetables because they grow on vines? Let the band set you straight on the SiriusXM Kids Place Live "13 Under 13" chart-topper "Pumpkins Are My Favorite Fruit."

Much like the Beatles, TMBG never set out to intentionally make music for children. After 20 years in the business, though, tunes like "Dr. Worm" just lent themselves to that genre. Danny and his band have the opposite in mind. "Dozen Good Reasons" could be a simple, traditional love song, except in this context it's generational, from mother (or an older relative) to child. With songs like "Teddy Bear" and "Tricycle" the listener is back in the standard "independent children's music band" zone.

The song structure on INSIDE I SHINE also detours from the typical kid's CD, placing "Good Morning to You" as track 13. Most children's musicians will open with an AM or "can't wait to play" song, and build like a rollercoaster with dance songs in the middle, before coasting to a stop with a lullaby. Danny closes INSIDE I SHINE with a piano version of "The Moon Is Made of Cheese," followed by show tune "Wiggle Wiggle" and a short piano blooper. I'd say he's subverting expectations, but that would be delusionally pompous and improper. The Red Pants Band just wants to have fun, and what's more fun that a good surprise or two?

INSIDE I SHINE is available from Danny Weinkauf's website, Amazon, Bandcamp, and Apple Music.

Here is the video for the song, "Pumpkins Are My Favorite Fruit":