Monday, July 29, 2013

American Kids Music? Must Be Frances England

Children's recording artists oftentimes have a fascinating decision to make.

Make of them are brought into children's music through their own families. Roger Day, for instance, played in local bands but started creating kids songs for his own brood.

The decision comes as their own children grow up – but their audience remains mostly in the same age set. When you're used to recording music for three-year-olds, who then become six-year-olds, then 12-year-olds, do you abandon the demographic that "made" you what you are? Or do you advance with them and, at the same time, cease to be a "children's recording artist"?

I bring up Roger Day who directly told me that he made the decision to move away from "little kid" songs and into the mysterious world of "tween" music. Which meant some rap, more guitars, and harder themes. In the other direction, Laurie Berkner seems content to stay with the younger audiences and more power to her.

Another artist who has gone across that divide, to a lesser degree, is the ethereal Frances England. Her new CD, BLINK OF AN EYE, would appear at first listening, to be on the same level as her previous three releases. But England admits that as her own children have grown up, she heard them playing artists such as Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift. England said that "BLINK OF AN EYE is geared for a slightly older audience...and has a quiet pop sensibility about it that I hope both kids and parents will like."

Dean Jones again dons his producer hat and guest performers include Elizabeth Mitchell ("Look How the Light Dances With Trees"), Caspar Babypants and Morgan Taylor (Gustafer Yellowgold, Underbirds), and Molly Ledford of Lunch Money ("Bicycle Built for Two").

Frances England has always been the "accidental tourist" of childrens music. Her first CD, FASCINATING CREATURES, was recorded as a fundraiser for his son's preschool and became an Internet favorite, catapulting her to kindie fame. BLINK OF AN EYE renews her gentle, lilting sound. While not breaking any new ground, I appreciate another 28-minute increment of England's musicality. The hardest "edge" you're going to get is "Move Like Saturday Night," which has a hint of electric guitar. More often than not, the CD reminds kids that they are special, as in "Day You Were Born."

Speaking of "growing up" concerns, "Bicycle Built For Two" stays true to the child in everyone:

Rolling down the sidewalk into the park
People everywhere, breathing in the fresh air
You remark on how much you can see
Daisies in the grass, Squirrels in the trees
On our bicycle built for two.
I wanna ride on it, I wanna ride with you.

If BLINK OF AN EYE is Frances England growing up, then I'm all for it.

BLINK OF AN EYE is available at Frances England's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for "Tell Me It All," a song from the new CD:

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