Hey, remember Raffi? Sure, everyone remembers Raffi. In fact, many people still connect the dots from "childrens music" to "Raffi," even if the latter hadn't done the former for close to 10 years.
Nowadays, the "face" of childrens music is disputed. Is it Dan Zanes? Is it Laure Berkner? Is it Elizabeth Mitchell? I want to throw another name into the equation – Justin Roberts. With his Not Ready for Naptime Players, Roberts is of those musicians who traverses the country and performs a countless number of shows every year. And it's easy to describe him to those jaded adults who haven't kept up with the kindie scene – he's Raffi on steroids.
Am I serious? Does Elmo love you? Raffi sang "Baby Beluga." Justin sings "Willie Was a Whale." Raffi sang "The Wheels on the Bus." Justin sings "Yellow Bus." Raffi put many parents to sleep. Earlier this year, Justin released a CD entitled LULLABY. Am I starting to make sense?
More than that, Justin is all about singing from a child's perspective. Most kids would rather rock than slumber. Which brings me (about time) to the new Justin Roberts' CD, RECESS. We start with the rocking title track, move swiftly into the playful "I'll Be An Alien," and stay in the playground for "Hopscotch." Even my two-year-old could relate to "Check Me Out, I'm At The Checkout," since he's already a supermarket veteran and ready and willing to empty the cart. The CD features jamming guitars, triumphant horns, and enough oomph to bring the stodgiest parent to his feet.
Imagining a world of sexual equality, Justin envisions the shock when "The Princess Wore Pink." Every kid who's ever pushed every button in an elevator will see themselves in "Otis," as well as every frustrated adult trapped alongside them. "Every Little Step" tells the story of a boy and his dog, with Justin singing as the dog:
When you come home, I'll come running.
When you're gone, you know I'm gonna stay.
By the door, I'm sleeping on the floor.
You know I'm with you every single step of the way.
With Justin Roberts, you aren't going to get lots of winking or thrown-in references to cultural anachronisms that get an easy pop from parents. You're going to get beautifully crafted, deceptively pervasive childrens music. Judging from the list of awards (not to mention a 2010 Grammy nomination), I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Raffi climbed his way to the top of childrens music by hypnotizing his audience. Justin Roberts reached the mountaintop by waking up his audience and taking them on a romp, whether it's through the JUNGLE GYM (his 2010 album) or reminding them it's NOT NAPTIME (from 2003). The year 2013 may be time for Justin Roberts' RECESS, but by no means is he ready to rest on his laurels.
RECESS is available at Justin Roberts' website, Amazon, and iTunes.
Here is the video for "COUNT THEM AS THEY GO," from the LULLABY CD: