Immersing yourself in the kindie music culture is a bit like playing Alice in Wonderland. Every time you go one level deeper, you discover new concepts, interesting hotbeds, and motivated performers.
We've enjoyed the Hipwaders for many years, thanks to Spare the Rock and then through review copies of their material. Based in the San Francisco bay area, the trio has not performed on the East Coast in quite a while. Thus, our enjoyment has been strictly of the music itself. The band has existed for a decade and has a dedicated following.
Some hardships and changes in the lineup have slowed their output, but Hipwaders bandleader Tito Uquillas has stayed the course. The group's sixth CD, YEAR-ROUND SOUNDS, marks their 10th anniversary with a bittersweet farewell to bassist DJ Kinville and a rousing welcome to replacement Smilin' Hal Imbrie.
Hailed by Time Out New York as "one of the 25 best bands for kids," the Hipwaders latest is all over the place, by design. "(Here Comes) Peter Cottontail" rubs furry shoulders with "Here Comes Santa Claus." We were nowhere near ready to toilet train our youngest when "You Gotta Hold It" arrived as a single. Now we're completing the process and we witness the song's irony every time we deal with the obstinate little one.
There's some social consciousness with "Gaia She Knows" tackling Earth Day (put down the pesticides) and a cover of Frances England's "Books I Like to Read" celebrating Read Across America Day. An overall sense of fun shines through, especially on tracks like "Smile About" and "We Can Be Heroes."
Across the country, Vincent Nunes has been recording and performing children's music for more than two decades. Based in Rochester, New York, we were unaware of his material until just recently. A longtime attorney, it was the birth of his daughter that drew Vincent to the world of children's music. With his kids now grown (and into the music world themselves), he is seeking to extend his reach past the tri-state region.
Vincent's new CD, SMART SONGS FOR ACTIVE CHILDREN, is about as self-explanatory as one could imagine. You get some story songs, like Bill Harley. You also get songs that sound right out of the Raffi catalog ("The Rain Falls on Everyone"). There are many performers (I've just named a couple) who are doing exactly the same thing, for just as long, with much more success. But that's a credit to them and not necessarily a knock on Nunes. One makes choices in life and chooses their priorities. Time will tell if he can maneuver into a prime position on the kindie scene.
Vincent uses his past as the song of a Portuguese musician with songs such as "They Speak Spanish (But in Brazil, They Speak Portuguese)" and "Lullaby for Lucy (A Portuguese Lullaby)." But the multi-cultural component is underplayed. The album certainly does not play like each song is a lesson unto itself. And you get some nice child harmonies from the Big Bad Kitchen Band Choir on "Mr. Murphy's Most Amazing Super Savings Store."
In the end, it all comes down to what your kids like to listen to, and what you want them to hear. We're still looking for new artists. And sometimes "new" means "existing" (who wants to call someone old). Whether it's the Hipwaders or Vincent Nunes, there's lots of stuff arriving on the scene. This fall, back to school also means back to the iPod and CD player.
YEAR-ROUND SOUNDS is available September 23 from the Hipwaders website, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.
SMART SONGS FOR ACTIVE CHILDREN is available from Vincent Nunes' website and Amazon.
Here is the new video to Vincent's song "Nobody's Going to Keep Me Down":