Thursday, July 21, 2011

Babypants Is (are) For All Ages

Sing Along With Caspar; He's Friendly

What happens to grunge rockers when they grow up? If you're Chris Ballew, you go back to the beginning. Well, to where it all begins - childhood. The former guitarist/singer for The Presidents of the United States is now Caspar Babypants. Let's process that again: grunge rocker, now children's recording artist. Proceed.

The prolific Ballew has produced four well-received CDs in three years' time. The latest, SING ALONG! collects 20 tracks, mostly tradtional favorites with a few new tunes. Joined by bongo player Stone Gossard, the CD features guest appearances by Weird Al Yankovic (on accordian), Frances England, rapper Outtasite, Pete Droge, and Rachel Loshak (Mrs. Gustafer Yellowgold).

For his newest release, Ballew (it's hard to refer to an artist, even a childrens' artist, as Mr. Babypants) listened to call-and-response tunes based on old African folk melodies as well as work songs from early American history. "I loved how the next line in the song was like an sing along and get right into the fabric of the song," he says. The opening track, "Bad Blue Jay," sets the stage for singalongs, as do "Helicopter" and "Them Bones," which features Outtasite doing a funky bone-connects-to interlude. And why are there 47 babies in that helicopter? Song doesn't really say...

It takes some getting used to, hearing "Pussycat Pussycat" played in a modern context with farfisa organ. And the music does skew for the younger set (5-and-under). Still, a 10-year-old like Ben appreciates the musicality and named Caspar Babypants as one of two "must-see" acts next season at Symphony Space (along with Recess Monkey).

Ballew does throw in whimsical touches that tots will not get entirely, such as in songs like "My Flea Has Dogs" and "Butterfly Driving a Truck." The latter exists as a list of standard truck thoughts (CB radio, greasy spoon diners) without an explanation of WHY a butterfly would be hauling cargo in an 18-wheeler. The songs are gentle, melodic, and hummable. The humor will provoke giggles, which is the preferred method of communication with all small children.

Artwork for all the CDs is by Kate Endle, local artist (and Mrs. Ballew) who also co-wrote two tracks on the CD, which is released August 14 on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, and where all fine childrens music is sold. Give your kids some easy listening and sing along.

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