Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Suzi Shelton: Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile

Want an easy way to tell how dedicated a recording artist is to children's music? When there are more kids vocalists listed in the credits than musicians. New York-based Suzi Shelton certainly passes the first down marker with flying colors on her new CD, SMILE IN MY HEART, her first collection in six years.

Suzi has staked out her position just right of "girl power" and adjacent to "kindie folk." You get the upbeat little chick anthem, "Tomboy in a Princess Dress" as well as a faithful cover of "Pony Boy" (featuring kindie fave Little Miss Ann). Speaking of faithful, there are those among us who believe you can never have too much Jonathan Richman. And Suzi keeps his spirit alive by ringing a perky "Ice Cream Man."

For your inner folk singer, Suzi and her band deliver the one-two punch of "Banjo Pickin' Girl" and "Jubilee." The latter song was plucked right out from under Dan Zanes, where it would sound equally as appropriate. For the toddling set, Suzi includes a tune co-written by a four-year-old student, "Go, Fire Truck, Go." And present (and past) doll collectors will smile at the ballad, "Cinnamon Bear":

He was a bear, a cinnamon bear.
And he was wild, happy, and free.
He was a bear, a cinnamon bear.
And his heart belongs to me.

Suzi was part of one of our most memorable kindie experiences a few years back at the late, lamented Kindiefest. At the 2012 family festival, a number of acts took the stage and co-mingled on each other's songs. Bari Koral sang "A Day at the Beach" with Suzi and Joanie Leeds. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo sang with SteveSongs. It was a round-robin of delights and my kids still play the videos (from my YouTube channel).

Ably produced by Mark Bazerman (of Baze and His Silly Friends fame),  SMILE IN MY HEART is mostly about uplifting messages, from the title track through "It's A Beautiful Day," "Let Your Light Shine," and the closing track, "I See You For You." No wonder she has a dedicated Brooklyn (and outreaching) following. Who doesn't want to hear that they're special? And you want to sing about it for me? Sure!

Six years is a long time between releases. And for a children's recording artists, it's an eternity – one entire audience can "age out" of your demographic. But Suzi Shelton is back to reclaim her share of the kindie spotlight, with our without her princess dress, but always with a smile.

SMILE IN MY HEART is available from Suzi's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video from her song, "Tomboy in a Princess Dress":

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