Thursday, October 11, 2012

All Skies Clear for Mitchell's Blue Clouds

If Laurie Berkner is the queen of children's music, then Elizabeth Mitchell is Glinda, the ethereal "good witch." She hovers above the scene, floating down in her transparent bubble every few years to deliver another collection of unexpected delights.

Mitchell returns this month with her sixth CD, BLUE CLOUDS. Along with original compositions, you get interpretations of songs from a diverse range of artists – David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Bill Withers, Ella Jenkins, Van Morrison, The Allman Brothers, and The Good Ms. Padgett. The CD comes with a lushly-illustrated booklet with song-by-song notes on every selection.

About that booklet and the illustrations....all artwork is by Remy Charlip. If you didn't read any of his more than 38 books, you may be familiar with his creation, the Paper Bag Players. An extensive explanation of Remy's craft is presented by his friend, author Brian Selznick ("The Invention of Hugo Cabret").

Mitchell plays with her husband, Daniel Littleton and their daughter, Storey, as You Are My Flower (a family band). Their extended circle indulges in a smorgasbord of cultures. "Summer Is Icumen In" is based on a traditional 13th century round, transcribed by monks. "Yuki (Snow)" is a Japanese winter song, bookended on the CD by "May This Be Love" via Jimi Hendrix and the Allman Brothers' "Blue Sky."

And who knew David Bowie wrote a parenting song? That would be "Kooks:"

I bought you a pair of shoes
A trumpet you can blow
And a book of rules
On what to say to people
when they pick on you
'Cause if you stay with us you're gonna be pretty Kookie too

If you're a sucker for eloquence and simplicity, then Elizabeth Mitchell is the clear favorite. Renee and Jeremy have a similar sound, but they've snorkeling in the waters while Mitchell is already scuba diving. But I'm using the wrong set of analogies for a CD that looks upward. The title track, "Blue Clouds," was written by Daniel many years ago for Storey and the final line sums up the album:  "A blanket of stars on the back of your eyes." As well as a pillow of peaceful tunes for your ears.

BLUE CLOUDS is available on October 23 from Amazon, Smithsonian Folkways, iTunes, and You Are My Flower.

We've seen Elizabeth Mitchell and company in concert several times. Here are a couple of select videos. First, from this past summer's Kidstock festival on Long Island:

And here's a performance from Kindiefest 2011 in Brooklyn.

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