Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, May 1, 2015

All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
Backyard – Riff Rockit
Beach House – The Good Ms Padgett
Danceology – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Don't Touch My Stuff! – Trout Fishing In America
Groove – Lori Henriques
Hello Goodbye – The Cure Feat. James McCartney
Lighter Feathers – Dean Jones
The Owl And The Pussycat – Papa Crow

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 30, 2015

H-U-L-L-A-B-A-L-O-O – Hullabaloo
I Can Still Say I Love You – Keith Munslow
Keep The Hate Mail Comin' – Lloyd H. Miller
Look, Think, Guess, Know – Tom Chapin
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
My Selfish Heart – Meghan Trainor
Shake a Friend's Hand – Andy Z
Stay Up Late – Dean Jones
Unwind – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

Kindie Quick Hits: Andy Z Goes Classic, Papa Crow Lears Brightly

There's a fine line being patriotic and jingoistic. I had no problem when Major League Baseball started adding "God Bless America" to games in the seventh inning stretch following 9/11. And I support the troops and always applaud the "Serviceman of the Game" whenever I attend a game. However, there are some performers who wrap themselves in the flag as a marketing ploy – how could you NOT like me, it's downright unpatriotic!

Now that I've veered very far in one direction, let me steer back and say that is NOT the case with Andy "Z" Zamenes. The most controversial track on his new CD, CLASSIC SONGS AND TRADITIONAL TUNES, is "This Land Is Your Land." And calling back to my lead, he even covers "Take Me Out of the Ballgame."

American folk music is an integral part of our culture. Yet there's a whole generation who revere Kendall Jenner and have no inkling who Woody Guthrie is. One CD won't change the world (or society), but Andy Z wants to gently nudge the needle ever so slightly in the right direction.

Andy has even created a micro-site for the CD, where you can preview every track, from "Shake My Sillies Out" to "Ghost Riders in The Sky." There is also background on the guest performers, such as vocalists Karla Kane and Kristen Geller.

I recall an old Pete Seeger songbook album that we had as a child. I wore out the grooves, as it was one of the few LPs in my family's collection where I could understand everything being sung. Andy Z has developed a CD in the same vein and we'll place it appropriately in our cabinet.

CLASSIC SONGS AND TRADITIONAL TUNES is available through Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Papa Crow (Jeff Krebs) has gone even further back in time, to the 19th century writings of poet Edward Lear. You may know him as "The Owl and the Pussycat" guy. But his nonsense nursery rhymes have lasted into a third century. That's a remarkable accomplishment for a guy who was the 21st (and final) child produced by the same set of parents.

Krebs certainly had his work cut out for him. Fart songs (an earlier project) are one thing. Songs about the wilderness are another (who doesn't think about a campfire tune now and then). But Lear is a very specific taste. And this five-song EP, "THEIR HEADS ARE GREEN AND THEIR HANDS ARE BLUE," may leave younger listeners in the dust.

Krebs also decided to sing them exactly as they appear on the page – with no text editing, recorded live in his home studio with no overdubs, just voice and a vintage Gibson acoustic guitar. This is no vanity project, no sir. It's a true labor of love; one with a slim margin of payback for its creator.

Lear is a fascinating character, deserving of a film. He was raised by an older sister (by 21 years) until he was 50. He suffered from grand mal seizures from epilepsy, something completely mysterious in his times. As a result, he went through depressions from the time he was seven years old. Yet he turned his infirmities on their head and produced enchanting artworks and nimble wordsmithing that engage readers to this day.

Perhaps five songs is a good starting place. Perhaps five songs is enough. Perhaps Papa Crow (the persona, not the musician) is the perfect way to bring Edward Lear into the 21st century. Perhaps you might want to listen for yourself.

THEIR HEADS ARE GREEN AND THEIR HANDS ARE BLUE is available through Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is a video that Papa Crow created for "The Owl and the Pussycat":

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Brick By Brick – Recess Monkey
Clouds – One Direction
Extraordinary –  Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
National Hiccup Day – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
No, No, No – The Little Rockers Band
Pendulum – Pearl Jam Lightning
Right Now –  Rihanna Feat. David Guetta
Weeksville – Lloyd H. Miller

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baldy – Lloyd H. Miller
Glass Bottom Boat – Jason Didner And The Jungle Gym Jam
Go Away  – Weezer
How Great Can This Day Be  – Lori Henriques
Kings & Queens – The Hipwaders
Lightning Bolt – Pearl Jam
Me Time  – Chibi Kodama
New  – Paul McCartney
Smile in My Heart – Suzi Shelton

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 27, 2015

Be a Mime – Eric Herman
Beneath The Water – Caspar Babypants
Changes – David Bowie
Haircut – The Not-Its!
If I Could Fly – Riff Rockit
Rock Melon – Gustafer Yellowgold
Shutterbug – Recess Monkey
Thinking Good Thoughts – Dog On Fleas
Trapped In The Attic – Lloyd H. Miller

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 25, 2015

Archaeology – Danny Weinkauf
The Bicycle Song – Eric Herman
Domino Town  – Dean Jones
Earn It – Hullabaloo
Follow The Drinking Gourd – Lloyd H. Miller
Gypsy Whale Waltz – Pointed Man Band
I Lived – OneRepublic
No More Lonely Nights – The Airborne Toxic Event
Take Your Kid To Work Day  – Recess Monkey

Miller Brings Back the Past With New Music Series for Kids

Even when you're not paying attention to it, history is always happening. Today's lunch selection may not seem important, but in the grand scheme of things, years from now, it could be talked about in reverent, hushed tones.

Lloyd H. Miller is constantly looking over his shoulder to see what lessons we can learn from the past. He then pays it forward, bringing back songs from yesteryear for new generations. His latest, SING ALONG HISTORY VOLUME 1: GLORY! GLORY! HALLELUJAH! is pretty self-explanatory. How many children's music CDs come with their own colon and secondary title?

While the primary purpose of the CD is to introduce concepts of the Civil War, there's a jaunty, pre-war celebratory feel to many of the songs. That was intentional for the times, when both sides (North and South) were looking to keep spirits high amidst bloodshed and slavery. "Marching Through Georgia" is practically a dance number, yet it's about Sherman's March to the sea. "Tenting On The Old Campground" plaintively mixes the horrors of the war ("many are dead and gone") with the childhood thrill of sleeping outside under the stars.

We seemed to keep missing Lloyd (although we met him last year at KindieComm) in concert, solo or with the Deedle Deedle Dees. We did manage to catch a Symphony Space launch for his last CD, the similarly history-centric S.S. Brooklyn. But Lloyd has taken his mission one step further. "I love songs from the Civil War era," he comments. "I tried to give them the live, exciting feel of the old-timey jazz and rock-n-roll I play at shows today." Well, except for a spoken-word version of Abraham Lincoln's "The Gettysburg Address," recited by kids and adults alike.

The one modern touch is the bluesy "Keep The Hate Mail Comin'," a peon to the electronic age, wherein people feel free to rain invective on their perceived enemies, consequences or common decency be damned. As Lloyd rebukes:

Keep the hate mail coming
'Cause I love what I do.
I must have done something right
To get a letter like this from you.

Mr. Miller is certainly doing something right with his inspired selection from the archives of Americana. Aided by ace producer Dean Jones, Lloyd effortlessly goes back to the future and returns with a cavalcade of refurbished new favorites. GLORY! is the first in a planned series of releases for kids. Lloyd has fired the first shot – now it's up to audiences to return fire.

SING ALONG HISTORY VOLUME 1: GLORY! GLORY! HALLELUJAH! is available from CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the song, "Brooklyn By Bike":

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 23, 2015

Apple Tree – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
The Ballad of Ben – Danny Weinkauf
Free Ride Everyday – Lori Henriques
Listen To What The Man Said – Owl City
Look, Think, Guess, Know – Tom Chapin
A Million Ways to Play – Eric Herman
That's Just Us (Playing Rock-n-Roll) – Hullabaloo
Tunneling To Paradise – Pointed Man Band
The Way We Gets Down – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor
Can We Buy a New Car (So I Can Have a Balloon) – Eric Herman
Change Your Ticket – One Direction
Da Vinci – Weezer
Guitar Pickin' Chicken – Ratboy Jr.
Junior's Farm – Steve Miller
Now Let's Dance – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Robots From The 4th Dimension – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band

Kindie Quick Hits: Monkeying With Penguins, New Cookie Songs, Ray Kickstarter, More!

Confession time: My kids love Recess Monkey more than they love me. How do I know? Because handed an iPad, they will happily watch videos and recorded songs from the band until I literally scream that enough is enough.

We are eagerly anticipating their next CD, HOT AIR, when it arrives on June 16. And now, the debut single, "Penguinese," has been released! A jaunty little number featuring vocalist Drew Holloway and a number of feathered co-stars, the "new kid" speaks his own language but just wants to fit in.

Full disclosure: Before we would allow our four-year-old to view this video, he had to complete a certain task. It involves an activity most kindergarten students take for granted, but one he had been refusing to do. And yet, with the promise of a new Recess Monkey song AND video, he ran to make it happen. Sorry to be so obtuse. Life is like that. And we can't wait for the entire CD.

Mista Cookie Jar returns with his seventh song of the month, "Hold On to Your Dreams." These tunes have become a highlight every time they're released. The only downside is that by burning through them at this pace, by the time the CD compilation is completed, we'll have heard it all (except for the bonus tracks).

The chorus basically tells you what you need to know:

You got to hold on to your dreams.
It’s not as hard as it may seem.
It’s up to you. You got the power.
Life will open like a flower.
Gotta hold on to your dreams.

A nice sentiment. A neat tune. This month's pleasant (expected) surprise from C.J.

Mista Cookie Jar also recorded "Kidz Rock" with Twinkle Time this month (busy guy). You can get the song here, and here's the video:

For the very young at heart, Seth and the Moody Melix are working on their second CD for a summer release. In the meantime, you can still get your preschoolers their first release, HI HELLO, HOW DO YOU DO? It's basic Kids Introduction to Music 101, which doesn't make it bad, it makes it palatable and accessible. The band played as a warm-up for Paula Deen last summer. Yes, the disgraced cooking maven did a live tour with a children's musical act.

Seth and company play a mild, upbeat blend of simple songs, such as "Rhyme Time" and "Little Lady Bug." There's no heavy messaging or double entendre material. It's hardcore rudimentary good old fashioned localized children's music. With only five years under their belts, the band could still be considered novices in the field. Who knows where they'll go next? The upside is definitely intriguing.

mr. RAY is doing a Kickstarter campaign for "NO ROOM FOR BULLIES," an anti-bullying/diversity music and video project. The music is all recorded – the Kickstarter is to fund a PR (public relations/publicity/marketing) strategy. Ray is almost halfway to his goal with 20 days to go (as of this writing). Click through, watch his video, and see what you think.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Apodidae Reggae – Pointed Man Band
Blink Of An Eye – Frances England
Chicken Coop  – Earthworm Ensemble
Dancing Bear – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
My Sister Kissed Her Boyfriend – Trout Fishing In America
No School Today – Danny Weinkauf
Nose In A Book – The Not-Its!
Yawn – Gustafer Yellowgold

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 20, 2015

Alive – Eric Herman
Caught in the Screen – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Fill It Up – Josh And The Jamtones
Invisible Wind – Earthworm Ensemble
My Own Detective – Tom Chapin
Odd Socks – Dean Jones
Red Fox – Pointed Man Band
Wake up – Cat Doorman

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ensemble, Pointed Man Lead Earth Day Musical Charge

Just in time for Earth Day 2015 come a pair of environmentally-conscious, child-friendly CDs packed with music and a touch of messaging. As I'm usually message-adverse, I proceeded with initial trepidation but was pleasantly surprised.

Earthworm Ensemble (organically) delivers its second CD, BACKYARD GARDEN, with 13 original tunes covering animals, recycling, and the wonders of nature. Multi-instrumentalist Dan Elliott (aka The Pointed Man Band) returns for his sophomore release, FLIGHT OF THE BLUE WHALE. Both collections are dedicated to some pretty fierce natural concerns, as you can plainly see.

The five principal musicians behind Earthworm Ensemble (Shawn Nourse, Sherri Nourse, Victoria Jacobs, Paul Lacques, and Denny Moynahan) seek to engage all ages with songs such as "Bees Make Honey" with its heavy bassline and the deep-friend southern xydeco sound of "Chicken Coop." There's even a mini-story suite with "Mole versus Coyote" and "Coyote versus Mole."

To remind kids of the hubris of ignorance and pride, "Sparko Stegasaurus" the dinosaurs talks about  how he will walk the earth forever...until he catches a glimpse of something large in the sky making a beeline for the planet.

In the end, Earthworm Ensemble reminds us to care for the planet through the concepts of "Reduce Reuse Recycle." A solid message (if not the more familiar song that shares the same name):

We'll get a few more years out of our trusty old Chevy
See the world from the window of a train
Turn off the lights, we'll turn off the TiVo
Ride our bikes, get around in the rain.

The Pointed Man Band's Dan Elliott spends his time on FLIGHT OF THE BLUE WHALE with the animals – "Red Fox," "Moles on Parade" (there are those moles again), and of course a selection of whale-based tunes, "Old Mother Blubber Hunter," "Gypsy Whale Waltz," and the title track. But it's not a predominantly downbeat, with the funky "Apodidae Reggae," the jaunty sea shanty, "Valse De Taupier," and the nearly-burlesque "Tunneling To Paradise."

The CD comes with a story booklet that ties in to the music. Elliott seeks to delve the relationships between parents and children, from the opening "Red Fox":

It's the little hands that keep the big hands running
So won't you put your hand in mine.

You can't force sincerity. It has to be honestly produced (and reciprocated in kind). Earthworm Ensemble and the Pointed Man Band have a genuine interest and investment in your children and teaching them to respect the planet, so they – and it – will have a future they can enjoy. In the meantime, there's always music to share.

BACKYARD GARDEN is available from CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

FLIGHT OF THE BLUE WHALE is available on April 24 from Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the Pointed Man Band's "Summer":

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 17, 2015

Coming Back For You – Maroon 5
Farewell – Rihanna
Glass Bottom Boat – Jason Didner And The Jungle Gym Jam
I Got This! – Princess Katie & Racer Steve
Kangaroo! – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
Motorcycle Mom – The Not-Its!
Space Kid And Banana – Ratboy Jr.
Welcome To New York – Taylor Swift

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 16, 2015

Best Friend – In The Nick Of Time
Bird in an Airplane Suit – Caspar Babypants
Dad Is Takin' a Nap – Keith Munslow
Don't Stop – 5 Seconds of Summer
Hold On to Your Dreams – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Jamaica Ska (feat. Coolie Ranx & Little Goose) – Father Goose
Lucky Penny – The Whirlygigs
Upside Down – Ratboy Jr.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Great Day – The Not-Its!
H.B.D., Dude!  – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
I've Had It Up To Here – Weezer
Like I'm Gonna Lose You – Meghan Trainor Feat. John Legend
Maps – Maroon 5
My Dad – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Secret Fox – Gustafer Yellowgold
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
Voodoo Doll – 5 Seconds of Summer

Justin Roberts: A New Victory With Mysterious Hat

Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players will premiere a semi-concept concert experience, "The Mysterious Hat," for an under-8 audience at New York's New Victory Theater on April 25 and 26. "Basically, it's a concert with story breaks," Justin explains. "One of our three puppets, Little Dave, is trying to make sense of a very mysterious hat." The band will perform new material written specifically for this show, complete with props, at intervals during the concert. "If it does really well in New York, we're looking to bring the show back to Chicago," he adds.

Justin's 18-plus-year career in the children's music industry started as a sideline from his day job as a Montessori preschool teacher. "I played Raffi CDs for the kids and appreciated what he was doing but it was not what I wanted to hear as a 20-year-old," he recalls. Digging into his own music collection, Justin exposed his students to traditional Irish songs, Schoolhouse Rock, and Sam Cooke. "There's nothing like a group of four-year-olds singing Cupid," he laughs.

Children's recording artists tend to have audiences akin to dog years – every seven years, you grow a new crop or your career dries up. "We've been extremely lucky and keep attracting youngsters," Justin says. "I ran into a family that used to take their son to my shows when he was three and now he's a senior in high school. We were performing nearby and said to come by...and they did, and they brought their son!"

Last year, Justin stretched his artistic wings and wrote the score for a new musical version of "Hansel and Gretel," produced by the Emerald City Theater. "I tried to write to the format but wound up with a torch song that seemed right," he says. "It all just came together naturally."

Hansel and Gretel exceeded the theater's sales expectations, creating the possibility that the show may join their rotation of holiday productions. "We're also talking with four or five other children's theater companies who are may pick it up for their 2016-2017 seasons," he reveals.

Children's musicians generally keep things light and aim their subject matter at a level that is easy to understand. However, Justin has never shied away from deeply emotional topics. "Mama Is Sad talks about divorce and Never Getting Lost deals with an important issue for kids," he says. "At one concert, a woman asked if we would play the song for her son. I asked if he ever got lost in a mall. She said no, but he feels bad for children who do."

On the side, Justin and band mates Gerald Dowd and Liam Davis perform as an 80s cover band called the Part-Time Lovers. "Our first performance was during reunion weekend at Kenyon College, my alma mater," he explains. "If a song was recorded and released during the 1980s, we will play it." Occasionally he finds his way to local singer/songwriter nights at clubs like The Hideout in Chicago, where he can play acoustic songs for adults.

The mantle of kindie music has landed on Justin's shoulders, as well as such artists as Cathy & Marcy. Back when he started in the mid-90s, there was not as much exposure for the genre. "I always loved singer/songwriters like James Taylor and Cat Stevens, but I didn't really know about any other children's music performers," he says. When Justin's second CD, YELLOW BUS was released, he learned about former Del Fuegos member Dan Zanes' ROCKETSHIP BEACH album. "At that point, I started researching music for kids and found out about a lot of people who were doing it." Justin has played with many of them, including Ezra Idlet and Keith Grimwood from Trout Fishing in America at last summer's KindieComm (where my family and I caught up with him).

Justin learned a lesson about the cyclical nature of the entertainment business from veteran children's music performer Dan Crow. "After Raffi got big, the major labels all wanted their own version, so Dan and many others got signed," he says. "Of course, everything exploded and fell apart." Dan told Justin that no matter how big the venues were that the label booked him into, he kept doing school assemblies. "Those were his bread and butter," Justin adds. "I took that to heart and still do lots of schools and residencies. Even though I've performed on the TODAY show, I never lose sight of the fact that I'm just one of a million artists."

Unlike kindie group Recess Monkey, who produce a concept theme album every year, Justin's schedule and writing style result in a new album every tw

o or three years. "A million times, I've come up with a concept and when I sit down to write, that's not what comes out," he says. "Except for LULLABY, which was a complete departure with horns and an orchestra."

Justin plans to keep it simple for his next release. "My first couple of albums were fairly standard little kid stuff, but as I started playing that material with a band that became the Not Ready for Naptime Players, I started to write more with the band in mind," he says. "Now I'd like to get back to the folk and vocal harmony concepts." That sentiment was reinforced earlier this year when the power went out towards the end of a concert. "For the encore, I got an acoustic guitar and Liam grabbed some shakers and we sat on the edge of the stage and sang Henrietta's Hair," Justin says. "It was cool to strip everything away and reconnect with the audience. My last several records have been really power pop, but it would be nice to get back to that simplicity."

Ultimately, it comes down to the recording process. "I'd love to go back to writing songs on my guitar instead of on my computer," Justin confesses. "But whatever inspires me will ultimately be my guide." Whatever he chooses to do next, Justin Roberts is prepared to make it entertaining for children and adults of all ages.

THE MYSTERIOUS HAT starring Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players will be at the New Victory Theater in Manhattan on Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26. Click here for more information and show tickets.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Everything I Didn't Say – 5 Seconds of Summer
Half Of Me – Rihanna
My Sister Kissed Her Boyfriend – Trout Fishing In America
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
Road Trip – In The Nick Of Time
Sirens –  Pearl Jam
Tacky – Weird Al Yankovic
Take Your Kid To Work Day  – Recess Monkey

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 13, 2015

Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
Bonsai – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
Foolish Father  – Weezer
I Can't Sit Still  – Keith Munslow
Marsupial – Danny Weinkauf
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy
Stay in the Pool – Jason Didner And The Jungle Gym Jam
Thinking Good ThoughtsvDog On Fleas

Friday, April 10, 2015

Keeping the Faith in the 60s With Alison Faith Levy

Bruce Springsteen sings about the healing power of music. Huey Lewis and the News even sang "The Power of Love." Alison Faith Levy truly believes. She brings back the girl group power-pop sound of the 1960s with her new children's music CD, THE START OF THINGS.

The MAD MEN era feel allows Levy to pour out some genuine emotion into songs such as "Are You Happy" and "Why Am I Awake," a gentle lullaby about insomnia from a child's perspective. "T.L.C." captures the farfisa spirit of early Elvis Costello and the Attractions, an artistic stretch for an album aimed at 3-to 8-year-olds. Levy also shares an appreciation for the musical stylings of legendary lyricist Burt Bacharach, as evident on "Rainbow Tunnel":

We can drive through the Rainbow Tunnel to the other side.
Where the sun is shining and the mountains are wide.
To the rainbow tunnel, just a car ride away.
It's not far to get there, but it's worth the wait.

On her first kid's CD, WORLD OF WONDER, Levy first delved into the time machine for a Supremes-styled "Itsy Bitsy Spider." For THE START OF THINGS, Levy mines the rich history of 60s power-pop and delivers a winning selection of new (and old) material. Cat Stevens' return from obscurity is harkened in her cover of "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out."

Levy has worn many hats over the course of her musical career – from alternative to family to collaborator. She is currently adapting WORLD OF WONDER into a children's stage musical with a San Francisco-based theater company. In the meantime, she continues to entertain children and their families with her uplifting, lilting brand of sunny feelgood West Coast pop. If this is just THE START OF THIGNS, you wonder how ambitious Levy's plan are for the future.

THE START OF THINGS is available April 21 from Levy's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the new song, "The Froggy Dance":

Thursday, April 09, 2015

An Hour With Keith Munslow

You would think that there's no argument about the definition of the word "public." But you'd be wrong. But that's a sideline to this article.

We traveled to the Jericho Public Library on Tuesday morning to see a performance by Rhode Island-based children's recording artist/illustrator Keith Munslow. It was fortuitous that the appearance was scheduled during the spring school break. And I happened to see an item in NEWSDAY hyping the show.

I even called the library to confirm that as non-Jericho residents and non-Jericho library card holders, we would be able to see the show. I was told that "the head librarian is a bit of a stickler, but everyone who comes should be able to get in." I was also warned that the program, listed for grades K through 6, would be mandated for children in that age range (5 to 11). Which meant that if someone asked the age of either of our kids, we'd have to do some dancing.

I posted a quick note on Keith's Facebook page the night before and off we went in the morning. Sure enough, we ran right into him as we entered the building. I forgot to even ask if he could perhaps walk to the children's room and grab a few tickets for us. My mistake. But I'll get to that.

Keith entered the auditorium, we went into the children's room. A very nice, modern facility. And the two librarians looked up and asked, "Can we help you?" "We're here for the Keith Munslow performance," I replied. "Do you have tickets?" one asked. "Oh no... we don't." "Well, can we see your library card?" "Oh, we drove from Queens. We saw the item in NEWSDAY and we know Keith," I replied. They stiffened up. "Well, you'll have to wait in here until all ticket holders and Jericho residents go in first."

Whatever, I thought. Not to denigrate Keith or any children's musician, but I've never seen a completely packed library auditorium. I felt pretty confident that we were getting in. My wife, on the other hand, was frustrated that I had not asked Keith to grab tickets for us. I pointed out that she was expecting one of our younger son's friends and mother to meet us. Even if we had tickets, what if they DID reach capacity?

Long story short, we all got in. Keith did his show. Everyone enjoyed it. He played a few songs, "The Absentee Polka," "Coffee Breath," and "I Love the Beach," drew a picture, and told a long, amusing story about the Bellywog. Kids were literally screaming (with laughter).

I was mildly distracted by one of the librarians (the head librarian?) lurking in the back of the room. Occasionally, she would see something not to her liking – a child with their feet on the seat of the chair, or playing with the "slantboard" part of a chair. She would scurry over to their parents and quickly admonish the adult to chastise the child. In other words, attempting to control the event by bringing as many people as possible out from of the experience of being entertained. Divert their attention to the fact that they are doing something wrong in the library!!! while they are enjoying themselves.

But our boys both enjoyed the experience. We had not been in the Jericho building before and it's got nice acoustics and is real performance-friendly, even if the staff were not.
Keith and Ben.

We got to talk to Keith afterwards and he was in fine spirits, looking forward to his afternoon show in Port Washington. Ben even consented to take a picture with him, an act he has not agreed to for more than a year. His younger brother was not as amenable.

Turns out that the library was annoyed at the level of publicity for the concert. Imagine that – they were upset that the local newspaper ran an item outside of the Jericho area. And perhaps annoyed that it drew an extra (small) number of people who actually KNEW THE MUSICIAN. But you know the old joke about librarians…they're the people who control a small universe by telling people "Sssshhh!"

Keith has just released his new CD, TINY DESTROYER (named after his two-year-old son, Luke). You can read my review here. And you can find his upcoming appearances here. It's a fun show, and it is a show, not just a concert. He doesn't come around these parts that much, so we felt privileged to have the opportunity to see him in a public setting. And the key word there is "public," isn't it?

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 10, 2015

Domino – Van Morrison
Go Jump in the Water – Keith Munslow
Guitar Pickin' Chicken – Ratboy Jr.
If I Lose Myself – Alesso Vs. OneRepublic
Iko Iko (feat. Josh and the Jamtones & Little Goose) – Father Goose
Kidz Rock (feat. Mista Cookie Jar) – Twinkle Time Kidz Rock (feat. Mista Cookie Jar)
Like a Bird Must – Hullabaloo
National Hiccup Day – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Runaway – Ed Sheeran

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 9, 2015

Flannel Jammies – The Not-Its!
Fun Day (feat. Roxanne Farrell) – Father Goose
I Love the Beach – Keith Munslow
Right Now – Rihanna Feat. David Guetta
Snaggletooth – Dean Jones
Sunglasses – The Que Pastas
Thinking Out Loud  – Ed Sheeran
Trondaxx Berserker – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
Wake Up  – The Neville Brothers

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Ballad of Ben – Danny Weinkauf
Don't – Ed Sheeran
From Scratch – Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer
NOW That's What I Call Polka! – Weird Al Yankovic
Raise Your Hand – The Not-Its!
Roller coaster – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
Sugar – Maroon 5
This Little Light Of Mine – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band

Monday, April 06, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Archaeology – Danny Weinkauf
Banana Pudding – Sugar Free Allstars
Big Green Party Machine – David Heatley
Bird in an Airplane Suit – Caspar Babypants
Germs – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
How Great Can This Day Be – Lori Henriques
I'm a Shark (I Rock, I Swim) – ScribbleMonster
Kings & Queens – The Hipwaders
Something I Need – OneRepublic

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 6, 2015

Coral Reef – The Whizpops!
Danceology – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Duck Ellington – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Gettin' My Ya Ya's Out – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Groove – Lori Henriques
Lips Are Movin –  Meghan Trainor
Sing – Ed Sheeran
Yawn – Gustafer Yellowgold

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 3, 2015

Be a Little Angel – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Boo! –  Trout Fishing In America
Da Vinci  – Weezer
Dancing Bear – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
Extraordinary  – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
Mystery – Dean Jones
Nose In A Book – The Not-Its!
Up In Cat's Room – David Heatley

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 2, 2015

Together We Can Fly – Danny Weinkauf
It Suits You – Gustafer Yellowgold
Sisters and Brothers – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
You Can Do This – Hullabaloo
In The Group – Tom Chapin
Gratitude – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Copycat – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Steal My Girl – One Direction

Randy and Dave's Excellent Kindie Adventure

Professionalism and children's music do not go hand-in-mitten on every occasion.

Some of the best kid's music I've heard was clearly composed and recorded in somebody's home studio. Some of the most infuriating songs were obviously pristinely produced and hermetically sealed.

Randy (Sharp) and Dave (Kinnion) have decades of professional musicianship between them. Dave is an impressive list of 20 awards – NAPPA, Parents' Choice Gold, Mom's Choice, etc. Randy is a Grammy-winning country music songwriter dipping his toe in the kindie pond for the first time.

Together, they have produced CALLING ALL THE ELEPHANTS, a countrified romp around the world and back again. The collection includes an ode to the difficulties of living with family ("Woke Up Cranky" and "Hum"), tantrums ("Acting Like a Baby"), and playing well with others ("Never Ever").

Of course, there's also a few head-scratchers, but that's to be expected in any first-time collaboration. Do we need a variation of the "up with kids" anthem? Here's "I'm Special." But the gents have some sly touches up their sleeves, such as the semi-subversive lines in "Acting Like a Baby":

I wear a diaper just because I'm busy.
My grandpa wears a diaper,
and he's not a baby, is he?
I'm not acting like a baby.

Speaking of professionalism, these guys are such pros that they want you, the listener, to be able to replicate their songs. The enclosed booklet of lyrics (if you feel so inclined to purchase an actual, real, physical CD) comes with the chords to all tunes. Pretty nifty touch.

As a regional curio, Randy & Dave may drum up some interest, perhaps some festival appearances as well. They have acquitted themselves well, even if they didn't blow my socks off. Rarely does lightning strike right off the bat on a kindie collaboration. But kudos to Randy & Dave for taking the challenge. As their own song title attests, it's a "Puzzle" for anyone.

CALLING ALL THE ELEPHANTS is available April 7 from Amazon, iTunes, and nationwide retailers.