Friday, June 06, 2014

GOOD EGG: Egg-Actly What You'd Expect from Joanie Leeds

Leeds and the Nightlights Return for Sixth Romp

There's an early Uncle Rock song called "Rock and Roll Babysitter," which talks about a goth, hip, boot-wearing lady who wows her young charges. And she plays guitar. I could never put a face to that character until I listened to Joanie Leeds' new CD, GOOD EGG. So many Kindie women have clear identities – Laurie Berkner is the soccer mom with a sense of humor. Princess Katie is the big sister who still loves to play dress-up. Elizabeth Mitchell is your mother's best friend from college who majored in music history.

Joanie has been around the New York music scene for more than a decade, performing for adults as well as their kids. Joanie and her band, the Nightlights, successfully turned to Kickstarter to fund this CD and its predecessor, BANDWAGON. Under the watchful eye of crack producer / Dog on Fleas maven Dean Jones, the group has delivered another collection of child-riffic tunes.

If anything, the Nightlights try too hard to cover all the bases. It's tough to write and record material that will satisfy toddlers, their older siblings, as well as their parents. The lesson song "Germs" works for my three-year-old. "Hipster in the Making" (the best of the bunch) works for my 13-year-old, who started singing the "OOO-aaa-OOO" chorus halfway through. "I Love You" works for, well, it works as a variation on the standard show-closing tune that seems to make its way onto so many children's recordings.

Dean Jones brings a crisp production sound to everyone he works with and Joanie and company are no exception. The 15 tracks are enjoyably upbeat and entertaining, with story songs "Dino on the UWS (Upper West Side)," "Food Fight," and "Dr. Lowett." You get classic kids' wishful fantasies with "Kids Place" and "Always on the Run." Joanie's husband, drummer Dan Barman, even gets his own anthem, "Drummer Dan," featuring guest vocals from Mista Cookie Jar. And Joanie clears out a shopping list of Williamsburg pet peeves in "Hipster in the Making":

I sport my fedora 'top my shaggy do
While I listen to dub-step with 5 temp tattoos.
I only wear sneakers if they're chucks or old school. 
My wardrobe is vintage and effortlessly cool.

The title track, "Good Egg" harkens back to the bad old Batman series, with a series of egg-asperating bad egg puns. "With My Dad" is a parental love song (too bad the CD is dropping 10 days AFTER Fathers Day) that came from a friend's grieving over their deceased parent.  Joanie's mom inspired "Confusing Costume" with her homemade designs over the years. Jacob Stein of the Pop-Ups duets with Joanie on "The World is Your Oyster," a compendium of helpful (and not so helpful) idioms and sayings.

Joanie has made herself a fixture on the New York City kids music scene with a loyal following and much airplay on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live. GOOD EGG may not break much new ground but it will please her fans, if they can avoid the egg shells. The Nightlights rock, they get funky, they get a little country. Some call that New York, other call it egg-lectic. Which I think was Joanie's point in the first place.

GOOD EGG is available on June 24 from Joanie Leeds' website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is a video of a recent live performance of "Phish's Possum":
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