Thursday, June 13, 2013

Joanie Leeds Your Kids onto Musical Bandwagon

You can judge an artist by several standards. Does the current work stand by itself? How does it compare to the artist's previous work? Is it "best of breed" against other artists in that genre? Also important – will the kids like it? Then there's the whole issue of whether or not the material is either too cutesy or conversely, too mature for its intended audience.

Have you constructed your checklist? Great! No pressure! Let's go!

This month, NYC chanteuse Joanie Leeds returns with her fifth studio CD, BANDWAGON. We've seen Ms. Leeds perform at a past Kindiefest event. She and her band, the Nightlights (including recent husband Dan Barman, giving hope to drummers everywhere) are a tight, professional ensemble. A lifelong music fan (and musical theatre major at Syracuse University), Joanie strives to please her audiences, young and otherwise.

[CRANKY OLD MAN WARNING] As a children's music reviewer, I flinch at being too critical. Many of these CDs are labors of love or Kickstarter projects with legions of dedicated supporters. In full disclosure, we donated to the production of BANDWAGON. When I hear an earnest tune like "Helmet," about bike safety or "Bed," where Joanie's inner five-year-old begs, "Please don't make me go to bed," I instinctively want to skip to the next track. Until I hear Matt ( 2 1/2) start singing along with the CD. Then I remember, those songs are not meant for me. Duh.

The stuff that's more for parents are tracks like "Little Cloud," featuring (Mrs.) Gustafer Yellowgold Rachel Loshak and especially "Family Tree," a duet with the incomparable Jonatha Brooke. It's a thrill to hear new music from Jonatha, who is working on a new musical. The ladies sing about the nature of families, small and extended:

100 years ago, there lived some people I didn’t know.
They didn’t mean much to me ‘till I found out about my family tree.
Just like a tree, my family has deep roots. And just like a tree, it grew from the trunk.
And just like a tree, it spread out like branches. And just like a tree, it needs love.

Apparently the Senate passed some legislation about children's music because BANDWAGON is another CD produced by Dean Jones, the man who never sleeps. It must now be illegal to hire anyone other than Jones to produce your children's CD. Under his direction, the 15 songs float by from "Are We There Yet" to "Nightlights." I do wish the quirky "UFO" had two lines of resolution. It's a nice concept but came off as an incomplete thought to me. A health-oriented version of Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious" (here called "Nutritious") fares much better.

Dean Jones and Justin Lansing from the Grammy-winning Okee-Dokee Brothers appear on the title track, an upbeat countrified number from the south of Brooklyn, I'm presuming. It would be cliché to end by saying, "Just get up get up on it," so I won't. I'll return to the checklist and say that BANDWAGON fits nicely into Joanie's past body of work. It also stands as a pleasant addition to the current crop of summer releases. And best of all, the kids (our kids anyway) like it as much as we do.

BANDWAGON is available from Joanie's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for "Nutritious." Throughout the month of June, Joanie will be uploading videos for each of the 15 songs on BANDWAGON to YouTube. Check them out!

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