Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 13, 2017

Big Buncha Buddies – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
Jersey Dinosaurs – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
One Day By The Riverside – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
That Way – Chibi Kodama

New Bouncy Buddies from Munslow, Brewer

Some years ago, veteran children's music performer Bill Harley drew Keith Munslow into his circle. That resulted in a great friendship and partnership, witnessed in many concerts and a joint CD a few years ago. Now Keith is "paying it forward," and bringing newcomer Bridget Brewer into the kindie world with BIG BUNCHA BUDDIES.

Originally co-conspirators in the local comedy improvisation troupe The Empire Revue, Keith and Bridget worked on sketch material together. After a while, that camaraderie translated into songs for children. Even while Bridget was traveling through Mexico City writing a book, the duo used Google chat sessions to hammer out songs like "Jilly the Ghost" and "Stick Pony," which carries a Roy Rogers/Dale Evans by way of Okee-Dokee Brothers feel.

Keith has much experience as a storytelling on his own, however the Harley influence is keenly felt on "What Was a Bad Idea," where the two protagonists declare their latest scheme started out with good intentions but somehow went wrong. "Why Did You Teach Me That Word" will engage parents as well as children, teaching a valuable lesson about the right time and situations to, let's say, expand your vocabulary.

The only limitations to this partnership appear to be geographical. Keith and Bridget are simply on different continents, literally. That won't stop youngsters from sharing the tales of "The Loneliest Whale" and "Stray Dog." Once the duo get their feet inside the same state, in the same county, it will be possible for them to promote BIG BUNCHA BUDDIES together. This CD is a nice way to start the new year, hopefully helping your kids slow down and not grow up so fast. And buddy around.

BIG BUNCHA BUDDIES is available from Keith's website, CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a video of "Coffee Breath" from Keith's performance on Long Island last year:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I Like LARD (In Other Words, A New Free Song)

It's 2017! With all the uncertainty, division, and unrest in the world, shouldn't we be thinking about things we like? That's definitely the impetus behind the new, FREE single from Lard Dog & The Band of Shy.

New York's favorite up-and-coming oddballs of children's music have announced a new album coming this fall. In the meantime, they plan to release a new song every month in 2017, similar to what Mista Cookie Jar accomplished in 2015 (and Cat Doorman announced, but did not succeed in doing).  So kids' musicians have a 50/50 record in actually completing this task.

The plan for the new year starts with “I Like” already a fan favorite from the band's live show. As a bonus, the track can be downloaded for free during the month of January.

That's right, free music. Free kids' music. A free song. Click here to download "I Like," a free kids' music song from Lard Dog & The Band of Shy. The band performed the tune at last weekend's Hootenanny in Brooklyn and it went over well, like skipping in the breeze.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, January 5, 2017

Because I Love You – Caspar Babypants
Christmas In The Big House – They Might Be Giants
Dodgeball – Justin Roberts
Eyes on the Prize – Cat Doorman
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Mom (feat. Kelli Trainor) – Meghan Trainor
Only One You  – Danny Weinkauf

Children's Music: Optimism Versus Happiness

People who know nothing about children's music often confuse "optimism" with "happiness." There is a clear distinction, as I determined this past year.

I went through a number of life changes over the past 18 months. It was a whole Chinese restaurant menu of water tortures, and believe me, I wouldn't wish any combination special on most people.

Throughout the entire sad process, the one constant was children's music. As if in a daze, sometimes a funk, sometimes a mania, I perpetuated a steady output of previews, event recaps with photos and videos, and reviews.

I may have been sleep-deprived. I may not have eaten properly for days or weeks. But I kept to a schedule, attempting to get to everything within a two-week window of its release date.

And children's music became my Rock of Gibraltar. If I had an especially ominous interaction or could not turn off the conversations in my head, I turned on the next CD in my queue. These were not necessarily "happy" tunes. But overall, they diffused my dark mood so I could wake to face another day.

During the summer of 2015, I felt that my world had hit rock bottom (boy was I ever wrong). I took my older son (then 14) out to the beach, where he was only 17 miles from a special camp program. This gave him five hours of hands-on activity, for eight weekdays. Except it splintered the family and I witnessed a profound loneliness in him. He missed his younger brother, his shadow and protector. He could FaceTime with him and their mother. Occasionally he'd say "I'm sad" or "I'm okay," and I put my hand on his shoulder and we'd walk through town and make observations about people and stores and music. A lot about pop music that summer.

In retrospect, I can't imagine how I held it together at different junctions. I brought two CDs to review while we stayed at the beach. One of them was Renee & Friends' SIMPATICO. It contained the most emotionally devastating song I heard that year, "You Were Meant to Be" (duet with Glenn Phillips). It's a love song to a child, declaring that his or her birth was no accident, that the child turned a man and a woman into a family. It was a gut punch and I cried when it played. The second time through, I intentionally ensured my son was in the car so I could will myself not to tear up. No, it's not a happy children's song. But it's optimistic.

A month later I had a similar moment with Tim Kubart's Grammy-winning CD, HOME. It's a celebration of childhood, family, and shared bonding experiences. The first time I heard the title track, "Last Turn Home," I was driving back to the house with both sons. It had been a long day and they'd drifted off. But we were approaching the house, their home, the only home they've both ever known. The home and the family that I knew were coming to a close. I gripped the steering wheel tight with both hands and read between the lyrics. The song is about a journey, and the destination isn't really important as long as there's love there. Again, not entirely a happy children's song. But it's optimistic.

The closing track of HOME is called "Moving Day," which reinforces the album's concept of family as people and not a place. That theme became my mantra in 2016, when I repeatedly went through the "five stages," thinking I'd finished with two or three only to cycle back to the beginning. By the summer, we had relocated. By October, the bussing situation was rectified and the boys began to settle into their routines. I accepted some absences in my life. I filled some holes in my schedule. I continued to attend concerts, shoot videos, and write reviews.

What was it about children's music more that drew me in, when by all rights I could have blasted death metal, or played dramatic operas, or danced around to show tunes? Simply put, there's no hidden agenda. With an absence of irony and a commitment to building positive values, children's music is about inclusion and being forward-thinking. You can't wallow when you have a child whose needs come before your own. You can't be narcissistic and play your favorite comfort CD from college, even if it bores the kids to tears since they can't relate to it.

Children's music gave me an uplifting release. It focused me. It helped me obtain and move toward some form of acceptance, even when there were scheduling conflicts, soul-sucking emails, or the continued existence of people I could not – nor ever plan – to stomach.

That's the putative salvation of children's music that is often misread. It's not all happy. There's no Morrissey for six-year-olds. Even Amy Lee (Evanescence) put out a delightful, cheery CD this year, DREAM TOO MUCH. You don't have to be happy to be optimistic and that's the promise of children's music. Broke a toy? Split your time between mommy and daddy? Scared of new foods? Kids can change emotions in the span of a drumbeat. It may only take one note of a special song from a fun performer. It could even be that eerie song about things going bump in the night. Because kids might not be happy when that occurs, but morning is going to come and daylight will turn that ghost into a sweater on the doorknob. They're not happy about it, but they're optimistic. That's a true super power and it's why I still enjoy children's music.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Get Loose – Father Goose feat. Little Goose
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Soar  – Mo Phillips
The Word – Caspar Babypants

Monday, January 02, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, January 3, 2017

All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Ode To Bed – Mo Phillips
This Is How We Bring In The Sun – Justin Roberts
To and Fro – Cat Doorman

Life's a Hootenanny; Kelly Standup and Pinecones Roar

You're never supposed to have regrets. Live life to the fullest and if you missed something, consider it an opportunity to self-correct in the future.

That's just what I'm going to do next weekend. In January 2016, a group of children's music-loving adults gathered in Brooklyn to talk, network, and sing songs – not necessarily kid's songs. There's a community out there and I dropped the ball. On January 7, 2017, I'm gonna pick up that ball and throw it back into play.

It's a bit of a trek (and not direct) but I'll get down to Jalopy in Red Hook for Hootenanny with a ton of people I've reviewed, met, or interacted with via social media. Spare the Rock's Bill Childs and PR maven Stephanie Mayers spearheaded the gathering, which came from the coffee grinds of Kindiefest.

As for the lineup, oh gosh I'm agog – Jazzy Ash, Billy Kelly (the Billy Kelly) doing standup, Sugar Free Allstars, Lloyd H. Miller, Uncle Rock (perhaps as responsible for my foray into children's music blogging as much as Bill and Elizabeth Waldman), Dean Jones, and oh so many more.

If you're in the area, or from around the area, or a fan of enthusiastic local music, it's a chance to meet like-minded people in the new year. Here's the 411.

Here's a video of Ashley Albert (formerly of the Jimmies) and ex-bandmate (and minted Grammy winner) Tim Kubart singing "Suddenly Seymour" from "Little Shop of Horrors" at last year's gathering:

Speaking of Billy Kelly, he is kicking off a "residency" program at the Peoples Improv Theater on East 24th Street on (the same) Saturday, January 7 at 3 pm (repeating February 4 and March 4). We saw Mr. Kelly do his little act at the Brokerage on Long Island in November and there was much merriment (despite a tough crowd of pre-teens).

January 7 is going to be a big day for kid's music as jazz-themed JoJo and the Pinecones bring in the New Year with a show at Lincoln Center. It's aimed at 2-5 year-olds, so they'll need to bring an adult to supervise. On the other hand, it's a free performance, unlike the other two shows listed above. That's right – get yourself to Lincoln Center for free kids music as part of "Artists at the Atrium." Thus ends this portion of my public service message.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Ben's New Year's Day Playlist - Monday, January 2, 2017

Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Free Ride Everyday – Lori Henriques
How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Island in the Ocean – Bob and Luc Schneider
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
Small Bird – Caspar Babypants
Solar Flares – Mo Phillips

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ben's Final 2016 Playlist - Friday, December 30, 2016

Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Groove – Lori Henriques
How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
Loving Cup –  Cat Doorman
Tae Kwon Do – Bob and Luc Schneider