Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, August 31, 2012

Grandma's Hands - Bill Withers
Move On Up  - Curtis Mayfield
Rocketfuel   - Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Shoo Fly - Don't Bother Me  - Sweet Honey In the Rock
The Dancin' Bear  - Recess Monkey
Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen
Sleepy Tigers  - Her Space Holiday
Wimoweh  - Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights 
Eggs - Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players
Siyahamba - Aaron Nigel Smith     
Subway - Bari Koral

LI's Kidstock Growing On Us

Last Sunday, we attended Kidstock 2012, the second annual open-air family festival at North Hempstead Beach Park. The emcee was Roscoe Orman (Gordon from Sesame Street) and performers included the Bari Koral Family Band, Drummin' and Strummin', Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell & Family, and Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could.

From what we heard, the festival sprang from a suggestion that Drummin' and Strummin' made to a local legislator in early 2011. Later that summer, they had the first incarnation. We arrived late - managing to catch only one song from Secret Agent 23 Skidoo before seeing headliner Brady Rymer.

Due to our late arrival, we stayed pretty close to the main stage area and did not venture to the children's crafts tables or the childrens' services area. But when the concert ended, we took a look at the park amenities, including the bayfront.

This year, we arrived just prior to the start of the show. We circled around a bit, since the location had shifted from one of the ball fields to right next to the waterfront. This meant that attendees could listen to the music while letting their kids play in the sand on the other side of the boardwalk.

Ben did not seem that interested in the crafts tent, where kids could decorate marks, make buttons, or create recyclable lunch bags. So we stuck mainly to the musical performers. Matt was desperate to reach the beach, so Andrea took him to the sand – and he eventually wound up knee-deep in the water, requiring a complete outfit change later on.

Bari Koral opened the show and benefited from the extra setup time, since there were no major sound glitches. We saw Bari at Kindiefest earlier this year and she presented a solid set.

Drummin' and Strummin' are a local group and kept the event moving. Since they were the prime motivators for the festival, I have nothing truly negative to say about them. Of the four acts, they were definitely the lowest energy with some jazzy trio noodling.

Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell & Family traded off lead vocals on songs. Due to some attempted fast stage changes, they suffered from sound problems, which are painfully evident on my clumsy videos from the event.

Brady Rymer and company again closed the event. We move our seats to avoid the blinding sunset and then all went to dance by the stage for the band's rocking set. We have seen Brady several times - often at close proximity (look for my original Kindiefest videos from years ago). He and the band have never disappointed and Ben, a reluctant dancer, needed no prompts to get moving.

Everyone was talking about "next year's event," so we assume there will be a third incarnation. The DJ was playing as we left, and they were preparing an inflatable screen to show the movie "Rio" in the parking lot after the sun went down.

Based on how Kidstock turned out, we'll modify our arrangements and bring toys and a bathing suit for Matt in 2013. And definitely some more CDs for Ben to get signed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, August 30, 2012

Odd Girl Out - Alexandra
Ode To A Superhero  - Weird Al Yankovic
Bluebird > Redbird, Redbird > Reef - The Deedle Deedle Dees
They're Red Hot  - Randy Kaplan
Go Out and Play - The Plants
Little Willy - Sweet
Popcorn - Recess Monkey
What Will You Ever See? - Lunch Money
Everybody Loves My Baby - Asylum Street Spankers      
Hero  - Okee-Dokee Brothers

All Kidding Aside, Symphony Space Rocks for Kids

Ben's first "real" concert experience was a Dan Zanes concert at Symphony Space when he was just under three years old. It was also our first exposure to the organization's "Just Kidding" Club for kids, a schedule of weekly concerts and related events (film, dance, literary, and theater).

The 2012-2013 calendar marks the 10th season for the program. Although Dan Zanes has not performed at the venue in years, we've seen a host of artists from around the country, including the Sippy Cups, Ralph's World, and Uncle Rock.

This year, we will also bring Matt to some shows (although after November, when he's two years old). We've had a family membership for the past 5-6 seasons. When calling up the schedule this year, I was struck by the high level of performers for the 10th go-round. It's going to be tough to make selections, since our commute with two kids precludes us from attending more than 4-5 shows.

Suzi Shelton kicks things off on Saturday, October 6. The Thalia Kids' Book Club starts up two weeks later on Thursday, October 18 with  Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall's "Ivy and Bean" series.

November brings Gustafer Yellowgold and the Bari Koral Family Band (whom we just saw at Kidstock - article and videos to follow). December brings a traditional performance of the Nutcracker, as well as Elizabeth Mitchell (another Kidstock performer) and the aforementioned Uncle Rock.

Ben w/Ralph at Symphony Space (5/08)

Out-of-towners fly in next spring – the Not-Its from Seattle look like a must-see. Same goes for longtime favorites Justin Roberts (from Minneapolis) and Randy Kaplan (an LA resident by way of Brooklyn). The concerts wrap up with Aaron Nigel Smith (Sat., April 20) and Frances England (Sat., April 27).

I'm short-changing the rest of the 30-event program but really, you can click over to the Just Kidding Club and see what I'm talking about. Some of the smaller events occur at the smaller Leonard Nimoy Thalia instead of the main Peter Jay Sharp Theater. It's a more intimate venue - as Ben found out this past season, when he blurted out a song title to Chris Ballew (Caspar Babypants), who immediately replied, "Correct!"

The intimacy is a great way to remind kids that performers are people, too. Usually interactions are reserved for post-concert CD merch signings. When we arrived for a Ralph's World concert in 2008, imagine our surprise when Ralph Covert was standing in the back saying hello as people arrived. As an added bonus, we were heading to Kindiefest in Brooklyn that afternoon (where he was headlining), which I mentioned. Later that day, when we met again, they greeted each other, "Hi Ben," "Hi Ralph!"

For those in traveling distance, Symphony Space runs a stellar childrens program. I'd say that we're on the cusp of the region. But we will continue to make an effort to attend these programs. Even as Ben begins to age out, his brother is starting to age in. Which gives us another decade to continue just kidding. And I'm not just kidding.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, August 29, 2012

(I Love the Sound of) Breaking Glass - Nick Lowe
Gingerbread Man   -   Lunch Money
My Happiness  - Chris Isaak
Say Hello to My Hippo - Todd McHatton
Big Black Snake  - Dog On Fleas
Thank You - Dan Zanes & Friends
Big Blue Whale  - Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
First Warm Day - The Incredible Chandler Travis Catual Birdomonic
Balloon Fest - Ozomatli
Overjoyed - matchbox twenty      
Mother Nature's Son - Aaron Nigel Smith       

Nothing Is Free (new podcast)

There is a cost to everything.

It might be your time, it might be your vote, it might be your services.

Rarely in life does something come with no cost - even a newborn baby's affection comes with a hospital tab.

This week, the cost of participating in a "free" sporting league.

Also, the difference between reality and perception. I use a family gathering at a restaurant offering a "seven course meal" as my example.

And "Pollo," a Cohen/Aubrey comedy bit about a chicken-scented cologne for men.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, August 28, 2012

At The Zoo - Simon & Garfunkel
Daydream Believer - Renee & Jeremy
Man Gave Names  - Aaron Nigel Smith       
Come To California - The Hipwaders
My Uncle, the Ant  - Duke Otherwise
Why Is Dad So Mad?  - The Board of Education
Clap Your Hands - The Time Outs
Pop - Bari Koral
Hello - Martin Solveig feat. Dragonette
Everybody Here is a Cloud - Cloud Cult
In Tents - Recess Monkey

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, August 27, 2012

Favorite Day  - Hullabaloo
When Will You Die?   - They Might Be Giants       
The Backpack Song   - Bari Koral
Owl and Pussycat   - Heidi Swedberg
You Yes You  -   Tune-Yards 
Water   - Ozomatli      
One Thing  - One Direction
The Monkey Song   - Jesse Friedberg
On the Greener Side   - Michelle Shocked
Be My Baby  - The Ronettes
The Golem  - The Deedle Deedle Dees

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, August 24, 2012

Life's A Happy Song  - The Muppets
What Katie Did -  The Libertines
The Monkeys are Breaking Out   - Too Many Cookies
If You Wanna Dance Say Yeah!  -  Dog On Fleas
Let Your Hair Hang Down -  They Might Be Giants
Put A Little Love In Your Heart  - Renee & Jeremy 
Our World - My Morning Jacket
Twirl! Twirl! Twirl!  - Mr. Leebot   
Get Up -  Melissa Green 
Octopus -  Artichoke
I Wanna Stay Home  - Jellyfish

A New Generation of Village People

When somebody spends more than one year putting together a dream project, you're supposed to be impressed. We liked Aaron Nigel Smith's first CD, EVERYONE LOVES TO DANCE and were intrigued to hear that his new release WELCOME TO THE VILLAGE featured hundreds of voices of children from New York, Los Angeles, Portland, and Nairobi, Kenya.

So why am I less than overwhelmed? I've never been a huge fan of choral music. Or maybe it's the material. A version of Jewel's "Hands" sounds like a track from an old Kidz Bop CD. Still, you can't fault the artist for his vision. Aaron recruited Lucky Diaz, Laurie Berkner, and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo for vocals on "Man Gave Names." And Dan Zanes makes an appearance on "Grateful." And he recorded "Faga Alafia," a traditional Nigerian morning song, with Kenyan orphans. Yes, Kenyan orphans.

Aaron sought funding for the CD through a Kickstarter campaign for the One World Chorus, which was a rousing success. A portion of the proceeds from the CD will help build a music program at the Cura Rotary Home for the previously-mentioned Kenyan orphans. Aaron is also pursuing a virtual simulcast CD release concert involving all of the participants.

This is all very impressive, more impressive than the selections on the CD - "Banana Boat Song," "One Love," and "Wonderful World" are modern childrens standards on the verge of becoming cliches.

One wants to relish tunes like "Siyahamba," where children are singing, "We are marching in the light of God." The song closes out the CD on a positive note. And come to think of it, that's a great note to close out this review.

Click here for information on the One World Chorus. Here is a video of Aaron singing with the kids:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shrimp and Gumbo -  Rebirth Brass Band
When the Bells Start Ringing (feat. The Head & the Heart)  -  My Morning Jacket
Come Up, Horsey  -  Victoria Williams
Subway -  Bari Koral
Cool Papa Bell  -  The Deedle Deedle Dees
Apes Vs. People -  They Might Be Giants      
I Walk The Line  -  Chris Isaak
New Shoes -  Paolo Nutini
Shoo Fly -  Elizabeth Mitchell      
Kick Drum Heart -  The Avett Brothers

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It Had to Be You - Esquivel
Starships  - Glee
I Can't Quit Her - Blood, Sweat & Tears 
White And Nerdy - Weird Al Yankovic
Born to Be Loved - Lucinda Williams
Dad Upside Down  - Hullabaloo
Great To Be A Kid - The Not-Its
Little Willy  - Sweet  
If You Want a Mustache  - Space Balloons 
Can't Keep Johnny Down  - They Might Be Giants     
Dance Like A Monkey - New York Dolls

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sourwood Mountain - Carolina Chocolate Drops
I Won't Give Up - Jason Mraz
Tomorrow Will Be Really Great - Dan Israel
Why Is Dad So Mad? - The Board of Education
Harry Elefante -   Rocknoceros
Sleepover  - Ellen & Mark
Shoo Fly - Don't Bother Me   - Sweet Honey In the Rock
I'll Be Waiting  - Adele
How Can I Sing Like A Girl? - They Might Be Giants     
I'm Your Moon  -/ Jonathan Coulton

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Charitable Man (new podcast)

We give money to charities every year.

I give money to "street people" on occasion as well.

But there are some instances where I feel a line has been crossed. And when that happens, no money changes hands.

This episode discusses my attitudes towards charities that call people at home, street vagrants and assorted performers and performance artists, and the mentally disturbed who latch onto central travel locations (train stations, for instance) like barnacles.

Sounds harsh? It might be. But that's life on the streets.

No comedy bit this week. Sounds harsh? It might be. But that's life on the podcast.

Ben's Playlist - Monday, August 20, 2012

Dream of You - Alan Wolpert
Summer Baby (Let It Ride)  - Caspar Babypants
One Thing - One Direction
Daydream Believer - Renee & Jeremy
How Will I Know  -   Glee
A Friend Like You  - Steve Weeks
Wrong Thing - The Hipwaders
(I Feel Like) Busting Loose  - Rebirth Brass Band
Kinder Words  - Mighty Mighty Bosstones
I Am A Scientist  - Mates Of State

Friday, August 17, 2012

Peas, Butter, and Bubbles (A Two-fer)

Two new CDs for the toddler set crossed my desk recently and I've combined them into one review. Both are veteran performers/touring bands, one based in the New York City area (Hot Peas 'N Butter) and the other led by a New York native relocated to Boston (Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys).

With an ensemble named after animals, you can definitely expect one "squawk and shriek" song on the new album, BUBBLE RIDE. Trien and company oblige with "Deep in the Jungle." You also get the animal-themed "Peacock Walk" and the quasi-animalistic "Tickle Monster." There is also the unexpected poignancy of "Spinning Around," about a young girl dealing with the chaos of busy family life by entertaining herself by getting lost in her favorite music.

Some days my mommy says, "Honey, we've got to do some chores."
So I hop in my stroller and we walk to the bank and the grocery store.
I get so bored while my mommy chooses bread and bananas.
Then I hear the store radio on and they're playing one of my favorite songs
and I'm spinning around, spinning around."

And when did I lose the memo on "Free To Be...You and Me" mounting a comeback? For the second time this summer, a childrens' artist has put their spin on the classic song. First it was Melissa Green, and now Trien and company. There's nothing wrong with it. In fact, it's the first song I grabbed and put in Ben's "morning songs" folder.

Built for the eight-and-under set, BUBBLE RIDE will get youngsters hopping and singing. Kick off your shoes and dance along with the toe-tapping and enthusiastic. kazoo-playing Jumping Monkeys.

I found it ironic that many parents say, "Oh, most kid's music puts me to sleep" and then I found myself reviewing an album of lullabies. Hot Peas 'N Butter took two years to polish their sixth CD, CATCHIN' SOME PEAZzz. The problem is, if they succeed, will any kids be awake by the end of the last track, "Beautiful Dream"?

The Peas (principal members Danny Lapidus and Francisco Cotto) began performing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" in  guaguancó style (Cuban rumba) and things went from there. You don't get that version on this CD, however. Prepare for straight-faced tunes on piano like "Railroad Bill" and guitar "In Belgian Rain." Not to mention the ubiquitous "Rock-A-Bye Baby."

There's nothing wrong with a CD of lullabies. I might need a caffeinated drink if we're playing it in the car, but in that case, the melodic tracks are not for my ears. Hot Peas 'N Butter have crafted a serene collection of naptime and nighttime melodies; call it "new diaper" ambient music.

Youngsters all need to decompress. Twenty-one-month-old Matt has figured out how to open the CD cabinet and pry open the Sesame Street compilations that I put together for his older brother, years ago. CATCHIN' SOME PEAZzz may be just the ticket to tire him out before he begins playing DJ on the CD changer.

BUBBLE RIDE is available from Amazon, CDBaby, iTunes, and at Vanessa Trien's website.

CATCHIN' SOME PEAZzz is available from Amazon, iTunes, and at Hot Peas 'N Butter's website.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, August 17, 2012

Daydream Believer - Renee & Jeremy
Dad Upside Down - Hullabaloo
Hi 5 Dance  - Flannery Brothers
Generator (First Floor)  - Freelance Whales      
Spicy Kid - Lunch Money
Come To California - The Hipwaders
Odd Girl Out - Alexandra
Big Blue Whale  - Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Hello -   Martin Solveig feat. Dragonette
Immigrant Song  - Led Zeppelin
Kick Drum Heart - The Avett Brothers

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, August 16, 2012

Little Little Baby -  The Harmonica Pocket     
Tongue Tied  -  Glee
Let Your Love Grow Tall -  Passion Pit        
My Valentine  -  Paul McCartney
Set Fire To The Rain    -  Adele
Sing Loud -    Melissa Green 
On the Greener Side -  Michelle Shocked 
A Road Song -    Fountains Of Wayne
Yellow -  Renee & Jeremy    
In Tents -  Recess Monkey

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Hour With Roger Day (Give Or Take a Few Minutes)

Does a grandfather count?

That's what I was thinking, selfishly, as the Roger Day concert started at the Great Neck Library earlier today. As the parade of children entered the family room and sat on the mat in front of the stage, I became very self-conscious as the only male parent accompanying a child. Except for one elderly gentleman, clearly there with his (one would hope) grandchild.

Roger Day at the Great Neck Library
In the end, it didn't matter. As an alternate question, Why Does Grey Matter is the name of Roger's fourth CD.  And a highlight of his set was a performance of "Sarah Bellum, The Brainy Girl," which featured augmentation from a pre-recorded track so Roger could walk through and dance with children in the audience.

We first became acquainted with Roger Day six years ago, when one of his songs ("It's a No-No to Kiss a Rhino") was played on the Spare the Rock (music for kids) podcast. Although based in Tennessee, Roger did perform concerts around the country. When we learned that he was playing in Roslyn - perhaps 20 minutes from our house - we didn't let a thing like restricted tickets stand in the way. My wife had a friend who grew up in Roslyn and her parents still lived there. On her next visit, the friend used her library card (still valid) and picked up three tickets. And Roger was surprised when I introduced myself - it's always nice to have fans in a new venue.

Roger leads a sing-along
It was another two years before Roger Day made his way back to the east coast. And it was unfortunately during a week that we had a pre-planned vaction out of state. The same thing happened when he returned on his next swing through New York. The years were slipping away (sob) and Ben was aging out of the children's music demographic. The timetable was getting appreciably shorter.

Then we saw the 2012 schedule for August and noticed the East Coast venues - one was in Great Neck - the library down the road from where I used to live, the library I had worked at while in high school. The library that housed Levels, the youth center I'd spend many hours from high school through the first few years of college.

And the best part? The concert swing occurred during the first week of Ben's summer break (between camp and school). And with a toddler in our midst, we were on hiatus from any out-of-state travels. Everything had come together almost perfectly - except for that restricted ticket thing again.

Luckily, I had a "connection" who will not be named. He (or she) would get the tickets for us. There was just one thing that couldn't be expected - a summer cold for Matt, which drive his temperature up to 102.4. That meant he would not be making the trip and neither would his mother. Ben and I went stag to the show.

Ben with Roger Day
And that was where I found myself - surrounded by mothers and children of all ages, while Justin from the library introduced us to "Roger Day's Big Dream" (it's Dream Big, Justin).

Right before the show, we re-introduced ourselves to Roger and Ben. Since we'd been listening to "Why Does Grey Matter" on the way to the library, Ben started to list a few of his favorite songs from the CD. Roger nodded that he would be singing "Sarah Bellum," but made no comment about "Inside My Cranium," another suggestion.

The show itself was entertaining. Roger has been doing his set long enough that it's well-paced and keeps the kids' attention. And they sing along and respond to the prompts to clap and roar. Needless to say, Ben did not look out of place, even with his height amongst the youngsters.

Starting with the title track of his third CD ("Dream Big"), Roger worked through his repetorie, singing "It's a No-No..." as well as "Zachary Hated Bumblebees," "I Like Yaks!," "Roly Poly," and "Mosquito Burrito" (see the video below). The kids ate it up.

Knowing that touring musicians need to sell merch to perpetuate their craft, I cringed when half the audience skipped for the exit after the next-to-last number, right before Roger made his sales pitch. This was why, I realized, Milkshake gave their spiel after their FIRST song when they performed.

We waited after the show to speak with Roger. Ben was remarkably patient as several little kids got autographs on ripped pieces of paper. We welcomed him to Long Island (and New York) and talked about some of the life changes we had been through since our last encounter in Roslyn. And Ben got a special moment when Roger took his guitar and the two of them performed an acoustic duet on "Inside My Cranium." Ben had a wide grin, evident in the picture of them that I took a moment later.

We'll look for the next set of concerts that bring Roger Day to the East Coast. And even as Ben "ages out" of the demographic, his younger brother is just entering it. So he'll no doubt be happy to share his collection and his musical memories with his little protege. And so will we.

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Holiday Road  -  Matt Pond PA
Burning Coffee   -  They Might Be Giants
If You Wanna Dance Say Yeah!  -  Dog On Fleas
The Robot Looked At The Stars  -  Ralph's World
Don't Call Them Twinkies   -  Craig Finn & the Baseball Project 
The Monkey Song  -  Jesse Friedberg      
Popcorn  -  Recess Monkey
We Just Won't Be Defeated   -  The Go! Team
What'd I Say  -  Ray Charles
Shiny Happy People  -  Renee & Jeremy

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rainbow Connection  - Weezer Feat. Hayley Williams
Lucy Lawcy - Keller Williams
Starships - Glee
Is Your Love Big Enough?  - Lianne La Havas     
Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart - Fountains Of Wayne
Butterfly  - The Nields
Go Out and Play  - The Plants
Say Hello to My Hippo - Todd McHatton
Chloe  - Grouplove         
The Great Outdoors  - Ralph's World

Ben's Playlist - Monday, August 13, 2012

Because I Said So - Keller Williams
Monkey Love (Featuring Caspar Babypants) - The Harmonica Pocket
Rocketfuel  - Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Big Black Snake  - Dog On Fleas
I'll Be Waiting  - Adele 
Safety Dance  - Men Without Hats
Party  - Dog On Fleas
Jingle Bells Redux  - The Jimmies 
Kick Drum Heart  - The Avett Brothers

Sunday, August 12, 2012

High School Drivers Education (new podcast)

I never got behind the wheel of a car until high school drivers education.

For some reason, with three younger brothers, my parents' cars were always in use and there was never enough time to get some practice in. Until I started the class and began driving a vehicle owned by the school district. At that point, they felt confident enough that I wouldn't crack up one of the cars they needed for day-to-day life.

Here are some experiences from that class, which have stayed with me for 30 years.

Plus "Scraps," a Cohen/Aubrey comedy bit that speaks for itself. Unfortunately.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Quiet Corner for Harmonica Pocket

One of the truisms I've discovered in reviewing children's music is that while i get older, the themes remain the same. And so does the age of the intended audience – and clearly, those themes are for them.

Which brings me to APPLE APPLE, the latest release from the Harmonica Pocket. Principal band members Keeth Apgar and Nala Walla have always written wistful and gentle selections. But their latest CD is practically an exercise in "new parent naval-gazing" as it celebrates last year's birth of their son.

Make no mistake about it, Harmonica Pocket are serious musicians and the tunes on APPLE APPLE are perfect for the very young set. It's just difficult to segue from The Wanted on Ben's morning playlist to hearing "Diaperman," a cut on the new CD. I can't imagine Ben concentrating on anything but the melodies, however Matt (at 20 months) will be entranced by the simple repetition of "Little Little Baby":

Little nose
Little eyes
Little ears and your
Little little head
Little tongue
Little mouth
Little lips and your
Little little breath

This is my issue to work through - we've been familiar with Harmonica Pocket since "Spiders in My Breakfast" on Spare the Rock years ago. And they certainly practice what they preach. APPLE APPLE was recorded "off the grid" at their solar-powered studios on an island in Puget Sound. The CD features notables Jack Forman (of Recess Monkey fame) and Chris Ballew (aka Caspar Babypants).

APPLE APPLE will go into rotation for Matt. I can definitely picture him singing along with "I'm Gonna Count" and the title track. When Montana makes his aural appearances, I know Matt will look at the speakers, wondering where the baby sounds are coming from. Performers like the Harmonica Pocket and Renee and Jeremy fill an important space in the children's music scene – it can't all be loud guitars and deep cosmic theme. To fill a child's head with knowledge, one must take their time. And some time with the Harmonica Pocket would be well-spent.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, August 10, 2012

Because I Said So - Keller Williams
Bag of Dreams  - Steven Courtney
Sojourner Truth - The Deedle Deedle Dees
New Shoes - Paolo Nutini
The Robot Looked At The Stars - Ralph's World     
My Uncle, the Ant - Duke Otherwise
Move On Up - Curtis Mayfield
El Jefe - Mexican Institute of Sound
Call Your Girlfriend - Robyn
Last Song - The Hipwaders

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, August 9, 2012

Edwina Mae  -  Recess Monkey
Valley Winter Song   -  Fountains Of Wayne
(I Love the Sound of) Breaking Glass  -  Nick Lowe
I'm Not Tired    -    Ralph's World        
Henry (Hudson), How Ya Gonna Find a Way?   -  The Deedle Deedle Dees
Green Green Rocky Road   -    Randy Kaplan       
Clap Your Hands  -  The Time Outs 
We Are Young (ft. Janelle Monae)  -  fun.
You Yes You   -  Tune-Yards
Born On the Bayou   -  Etta James

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Glad You Came  - The Wanted
A Dog Named Bruce   - Ralph's World      
Our World  - My Morning Jacket
The Backpack Song  - Bari Koral
Bouncy House  - Recess Monkey 
My Happiness   - Chris Isaak
Set Fire To The Rain   - Adele
One Time   - Justin Bieber
In A Timeout Now  - Randy Kaplan        
Sugar Ant   - Caspar Babypants

Monday, August 06, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Alphabet Produce  - Kathleen Edwards
Lucy Lawcy  - Keller Williams
I Wanna Party  - Hot Wings
Life's A Happy Song  - The Muppets
Cicada  - Chickasaw Mudd Puppies       
Chrismukaah  - The Jimmies
They're Red Hot   - Randy Kaplan       
Wimoweh   - Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
All Around The World  - Ralph's World    
ÜBerlin  - R.E.M.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

In Sickness and With Kids (new podcast)

When you've got your health, you've got everything.

Unless you've got kids. When THEY'VE got their health, you've got everything. Otherwise, everything falls apart.

This week, some tales of sickness and health.

The podcast wraps up with possibly (let's hope) the final CAT update!

Comedy bits to return next week, depending on how long the segments run.

Ben's Playlist - Monday, August 6, 2012

Lonely Glove  - Caspar Babypants
It's Now Or Never  - Chris Isaak
Sleigh Ride   - The Jimmies
Everybody Let's Jump    - Eloise the Great
 I Like How It Feels   - Enrique Iglesias feat. Pitbull
The Dancin' Bear   - Recess Monkey
Mary Anning  - Artichoke
Conservation    - Rocknoceros
Pop  - Bari Koral
Kindhearted Babysitter Blues  - Randy Kaplan       
We Found Love (Feat. Calvin Harris)   - Rihanna
My Magic Trick  - Ralph's World  

Friday, August 03, 2012

Fill Your Randy Days With the Blues

Randy Kaplan's got the blues and he's got it good.

Prolific recording artist Randy Kaplan has returned with his newest collection, "Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie," and he's preaching the blues for all ages.

We first stumbled onto Randy with his first release, "Five Cent Piece," in 2006. Already a revivalist with version of "We're in the Same Boat, Brother" and "So Long, It's Been Good to Know Ya'," Randy also turned the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" into an epic 10-minute story. But we got hooked on the whimsy of "Shampoo Me," the tale of a shark coming up through a child's bathtub drain and asking for help getting clean.

Randy now delves even further into his love of the music from the first half of the century with his fourth children's CD. He is assisted, so to speak, by narrator Lightnin' Bodkins, who drops by every few songs to help create a blues nickname for Kaplan and talk about the masters of the genre.

I hesitate to call "Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie" a concept album because it's neither a story cycle nor a pure period piece. Randy bends the blues -- call it light blues -- for easily-impressionable young minds. I like to peruse lyrics for songs before playing them for the kids. Imagine my surprise when I opened the (thick) liner notes booklet and discovered track-by-track history lessons for each song! From Robert Johnson to Blind Willie Johnson to Mississippi John Hurt, Randy breathes life into the stories behind the giants of the blues. 

Randy shifts the focus away from adult themes and into the wheelhouse of the under-12 set. "Jackson Blues" becomes "Runaway Blues" as Randy recounts a time he ran away from home. "Kindhearted Woman Blues" is "Kindhearted Babysitter Blues," about a child worried that his regular sitter is "cheating" on him by watching another youngster. You even learn how to deal with a bully through the blues ("You've Been a Good Old Wagon").

My wife commented that the narrative blues style is well-suited to Kaplan's trademark story songs. "Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie" is an extension of his established performance persona. With his porkpie hat at a jaunty angle, kids know immediately that they are not about to get the usual laundry list of jingles and jangles. Unless they are educated about Bojangles, perhaps.

The CD is clearly a labor of love for Randy. They may be old songs but he doesn't let them feel old. Randy has kept the arrangements faithful, while updating the material for a savvy, youthful generation. Who knows? Bringing home "Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie" might even make your children start to sing the blues.

"Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie" is available from MyKazooMusic,  Amazon, and through iTunes. You can watch his videos on MyKazooTV.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, August 3, 2012

Lucy Lawcy  - Keller Williams
At The Zoo   - Simon & Garfunkel
I Won't Give Up   - Jason Mraz  
The Christmas Song   - The Raveonettes
Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart   -   Fountains Of Wayne
eBay   - Weird Al Yankovic
Puzzle Pieces Within   - Lunch Money      
For Those About To Walk (We Salute You)   - Daddy A Go Go
Favorite Day  - Hullabaloo      
Bunny Brown   - Caspar Babypants
Burning Coffee  - They Might Be Giants

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sylvie -  Elizabeth Mitchell 
Sleepy Tigers -  Her Space Holiday
There's a Band in My Head -  Dog On Fleas
Summer Daze  -  Susanna Hoffs       
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas  -  The Jimmies
The Golem  -  The Deedle Deedle Dees
A Road Song  -  Fountains Of Wayne
Hot Sauce -  Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Oh Love  -  Green Day   
Kick Drum Heart  -  The Avett Brothers