Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 29, 2016

Carry a Tune – Recess Monkey
The Bright Side Of Me – Alastair Moock & Friends
Everything I Didn't Say – 5 Seconds of Summer
Hello Goodbye – Caspar Babypants
I'm Not the Sharpest Tool – Dean Jones
Mama – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Sing A Summer Song – Charity and the JAMBand
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 28, 2016

Forever Young – Andrew & Polly
Bile Them Cabbage – Red Yarn
Archaeology – Danny Weinkauf
One After 909 – Caspar Babypants
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Washington, DC – The Not-Its!
Shine – Charity and the JAMBand
Bad Haircut – The Bazillions

Jungle Gym Jam Checks In With Lollipop Motel

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Lollipop Motel and it's located in North Wildwood, NJ. It's noted as a piece of Americana, harkening back to the 1950s and pioneer-era rock and roll. An earlier, purer, simpler time for music, just the thing for kids. And wouldn't you know it, just the thing for Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam to utilize for its iconography for their second CD, LOLLIPOP MOTEL.

It's amazing that the Jungle Gym Jam exists at all, but New Jersey is the perfect setting. A 2013 songwriting project for Jason and wife Amy Didner, their scope organically transformed when a performance opportunity beckoned. Three years later, the band is still developing its identity and honing its unique sound, while rocking out for kids and parents along the Eastern seaboard.

LOLLIPOP MOTEL could be described as the soundtrack for a summer vacation, featuring "A Day at the Beach," "Jam Packed," and their holiday anthem "Summertime Santa," wherein Saint Nick takes a sabbatical on the Jersey shore. The band is not afraid to rock out on such numbers as "Ultimate Frisbie" and "Jersey Dinosaurs" (and no, they're not singing about local stalwarts Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi). The latter even ends with the declaration, "Baby, we were born to roar."

"Restless Heart" could be the under-seven anthem version of "Born to Run," with its revved backbeat and lyrics howling, "fingerpainting inside the lines, baby that ain't me" and "I wanna bust out of this tiny chair." Indeed the spirit of New Jersey looms large over the CD, to the extent that one wonders if the shout-outs to specific shore towns are modified when the JGJ crew performs in New York, Virginia, Connecticut, and other states. Perhaps it doesn't matter when kids are too busy jumping up and down, singing along, or protesting that they're not "Too Big To Jump on the Bed."

The CD features a lineup of local musicians, including kindie artist Suzi Shelton on a rollocking album-closing version of "Free To Be...You and Me." Production duties are ably handled by Marc "Baze" Bazerman. The mix amps up the tenor sax (of Matt "Shooby" Schoenebaum) on "Little Yellow Plane" and accordion (by Andy "Squeezebox" Sandel) on the title track. LOLLIPOP MOTEL is dedicated to the memory of the band's late bassist, Lou DeMartino, who played on the CD, played a handful of shows with the group, and passed away last summer.

Could LOLLIPOP MOTEL be the kindie version of HOTEL CALIFORNIA? Let's not put any crazy notions into Jason Didner's head. For now, the Jungle Gym Jam are happy to spend some time reminding you that summer is coming and there are worse destinations than the backyard, the playground, or the beach. Will you enjoy yourself? That's a shore thing.

LOLLIPOP MOTEL is available on May 13 from Jungle Gym Jam's website, Amazon, CDBABY, Bandcamp, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the group's song, "Too Big To Jump on the Bed":

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hello – Adele
Gettin' My Ya Ya's Out – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Danceology – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Best Friend – In The Nick Of Time
Brain Freeze – The Not-Its!
Share Your Love – Charity and the JAMBand
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Secret Fox – Gustafer Yellowgold
Don't Fence Me In – Andy Z
Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Jelly Beans! – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Grizzly Bear – Red Yarn
Voodoo Doll – 5 Seconds of Summer
Little One – Charity and the JAMBand
Favorite Book – The Bazillions

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 25, 2016

Rest Easy Now – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Kid Of The Week – The Not-Its!
DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
She Looks So Perfect – 5 Seconds of Summer
Keep a Green Tree in Your Heart – Charity and the JAMBand
Tomorrow's People – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 22, 2016

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Start Of The End – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Amnesia – 5 Seconds of Summer
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy
Toothloser – Gustafer Yellowgold
Take Me Away – Sunshine Collective
New  – Paul McCartney

Charity & JAMband Share Earth Music

Earth Day is Friday, April 22. But in reality, every day should be Earth Day. As long as an environmental crisis grips the planet, people must remain vigilant. Especially in the face of climate change deniers and politicians who fear corporate powers more than the thought of ocean levels a foot higher and a depleted ozone layer.

Charity and the JAMband commemorate the occasion with a brand-new CD, EARTH. "Every day should be Earth Day," she sings on the track with that name. Truth be told, Charity Kahn and company have always been ecologically-conscious and 100 percent bio-kindie-gradeable. From their base in San Francisco, California, their website mantra is "Music - Love - World Peace." So don't dispute the message or hate the messenger. Come for the harmonies and stay for the natural warmth in the lyrics.

While you can't fault Charity for her earnest sincerity, subtitling your CD "Songs for the Earth and All Beings" is going to set off internal alarms in less socially-conscious parents. For instance, "We Speak for the Earth" is immediately followed by "I Am the Earth." Okay, if the Earth can speak for itself, why... oh why even ask the question.

The band does deliver some less-weighty thoughts with "Sing A Summer Song" and "We Love Everybody." The former I can absolutely concur (don't ask me about the latter these days). And "Pebble Meditation Song" would not feel out of place on Kira Willey's latest yoga for kids collection. "But it's a little hippie dippy," you might blurt, finally unable to control yourself. Yeah, but this is 10 songs devoted to the singular concept that the next generation needs a gentle entrance ramp to the world of liberal arts and open-mindedness. Your world may not be perfect but we only have one planet and Charity points out that EARTH is what we all share, no matter what our differences may be.

Closing track "Little One" starts with a sonic callback to Cyndi Lauper's "All Through the Night" (at least for me) but turns into a gentle lullaby whispering "I am here forever for you." In the context of EARTH, Charity is singing about this fragile planet with the double entendré of a parent tucking in a child. But the underlying sentiment is a comforting promise we all want somebody to tell us every night of our lives, no matter how young or how old. Let sweet Charity sing your sorrows to sleep and dream about a healthier world and a sunnier EARTH for all.

EARTH is available from Charity's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes. Check the band's Facebook page next week for one free song download per day from the CD!

Here is the video for Charity and the JAMband's song, "Earth Day":

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 21, 2016

Odd Socks – Dean Jones
Super Hero Rock Band – The Bazillions
Hymn For The Weekend – Coldplay
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Harder To Breathe – Maroon 5
Don't Stop – 5 Seconds of Summer
Right Side of the Bed – Ratboy Jr.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
Other Days – Andrew & Polly
Up To Something Good – Sunshine Collective
Fun – Coldplay Feat. Tove Lo
Oh Island in the Sun – Aaron Nigel Smith
Ground Food – Ratboy Jr.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hey Everybody! – 5 Seconds Of Summer
Amazing Day – Coldplay
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
How Great Can This Day Be – Lori Henriques
Hammer – Aaron Nigel Smith
Hamsterdam – Ratboy Jr.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 18, 2016

The Bullfrog – Red Yarn
The Word – Caspar Babypants
Stay Up Late – Dean Jones
Yawn – Gustafer Yellowgold
Go Jump in the Water – Keith Munslow
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
San Francisco – 5 Seconds Of Summer

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 15, 2016

Groove – Lori Henriques
Mystery – Dean Jones
Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Sourwood Mountain – Red Yarn
One  – Aaron Nigel Smith
Airplanes – 5 Seconds Of Summer

More Than "One" Reason to Hear Aaron Nigel Smith

Kids like what they like, just like adults. Different kids like different things from other kids, just like adults. Just because you like hard rock doesn't mean your kids are going to the Slipknot concert with you. But the point of exposing your kids to genres that you like is that it increases the likelihood that their musical tastes will wind up in sync with yours.

We've taken the kids to a plethora of musical events, including introductions to classical music. The initial entree into reggae came through Father Goose, who would join Dan Zanes and Friends on stage during the final sections of those concerts. The audiences would come to their feet and dance and sing along. It was a change of pace from the mostly folkie material and dusty "songbook" stylings. Sad to say, we never followed up with a full show by a similar performer – Aaron Nigel Smith.

Which is not to say that Aaron Nigel Smith has made it easy for us. Frustratingly, he has remained insatiably accessible with his music and local performance schedule, including shows at Symphony Space. His latest CD, ONE, remains as effervescent as ever, a mix of traditional junior reggae and rhythms. From the familiar opening shout of Father Goose, it was clear we were in the right place – "Dance to the Reggae Rhythm" puts young listeners in the right frame of mind to accept some friendly beats. By the time we got to "Natty Dreadlocks," Matt (5) began to sing along with the chorus, "Market woman, on her way to market." In fact, he sang along for the next week, whether or not the CD was playing.

Aaron's work with the 1 World Chorus continues, as the kids from Portland, Los Angeles, New York, Kenya, and Jamaica provide youth vocals on ONE. Founded by Aaron in 2006 in Los Angeles, 1 World Chorus demonstrates and promotes unity through the performing arts, with an emphasis on the transformative experience of choral singing. The program has expanded to six locations in three countries on two continents. Adult guest artists include Ernie Smith, Ras I, Dubtonic Kru, and Cathy Fink (of Cathy & Marcy fame). Despite the wide expanse of ages and talents, the focus remains on unifying values through universal themes – "Seasons" points out that no matter where you live, there are four seasons. "Take Time in Life" urges a mix of amped-up fun as well as relaxed downtime, with family. "Hammer" is a melodic take on the Pete Seeger classic. For a generation that may never have heard the folkie original, it's as good an entry point as you could hope for.

There are innumerable puns and plays on words that could be used to emphasize the positive values and zesty funk of ONE. Aaron Nigel Smith delivers a full portion of entertainment with a small side order of education. For a father and writer who visibly winces at the phrase "world music," that's a major accomplishment for ONE musician like Aaron.

ONE is available on April 22 from Aaron's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for "Man Gave Names" featuring puppet versions of vocalists Laurie Berkner, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, and Lucky Diaz:

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 14, 2016

Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Extraordinary – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Unwind – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Permanent Vacation – 5 Seconds Of Summer
That Way – Chibi Kodama
This Land Is Your Land – Alastair Moock & Friends

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 13, 2016

LA Christmas – Andrew & Polly & Mista Cookie Jar
All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
Domino Town  – Dean Jones
Water Under The Bridge – Adele
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
By The Light –  Yarn
Sunday Morning – Maroon 5

Monday, April 11, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
Sweetest Devotion – Adele
Sons and Daughters  – The Bazillions
Fourth Day Of July  – Red Yarn
Sugar – Maroon 5

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Dad's Birthday, April 11, 2016

Loving Cup – Cat Doorman
Shake a Friend's Hand – Andy Z
River Lea  – Adele
Uh Huh – Dean Jones
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Clap Your Hands – Red Yarn & Mo Phillips
Everybody Out There – Paul McCartney

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 8, 2016

The Bright Side Of Me – Alastair Moock & Friends
Ghost Riders in the Sky – Andy Z
Bad Haircut – The Bazillions
Hey Jude – Caspar Babypants
Danceology – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Road Trip – In The Nick Of Time
Wake Up – Red Yarn & Morgan Taylor
This Love – Maroon 5

Red Yarn Spins More Folksy Kindie Fun

Part of the appeal of children's music is the "I can do that!" aspect. Whenever you see a toddler strum a toy guitar, bang on an oatmeal box, or shake a tambourine, they are actively engaged and participating in the experience. My five-year-old loves nothing more than to sit, stone-faced, during a live concert of his favorite musicians (Recess Monkey) then go home and recreate the show, song-for-song, in front of a tinny microphone with a cheap, broken plastic guitar.

There's nothing cheap, broken, or plastic about Red Yarn (aka Andy Furgeson). Since committing to his role as an American roots musician, Andy has devoted his attention to reviving traditional folk music, following in the legendary stylistic footsteps of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. For his third CD, WAKE UP & SING, Andy and Ă¼ber-producer Dean Jones broach Guthrie's iconic "Wake Up," accompanied by Morgan Taylor (Gustafer Yellowgold) as well as a trove of rediscovered numbers, such as "Fourth Day of July," "Molly Cottontail," and "Hound Dog Song." Portland mainstay Mo Phillips also drops by for "Clap Your Hands" (not the They Might Be Giants song).

I want to specifically stress the "light bulb" moment that youngsters have in regards to certain performers. While my kids may have enjoyed the Wiggles, in no way did they ever feel they could emulate that style. But when my son sings "I Had a Rooster" and mimics Red Yarn's vocals, I can tell that the compact fluorescent switch has been flipped – this is something my kid can do, and that's a testament to Furgeson's simplicity and folkie integrity. Kudos also to Red Yarn bandmate Jed Greenberg (bass and fiddle) and guest cellist Jane Scarpantoni for their contributions to the "cause."

Andy is not seeking to make a career from just covering dustbowl classics. He sprinkles in contemporary and catchy originals. The first song and accompanying video, "Beautiful Day," demonstrate a clear example of the musical and puppetry talents that Andy uses to hook his target audience. Here is "Red Yarn," not precisely Andy, with his puppet family and their daily fun activities. If you're under seven years old, how can you look away?

Andy (and wife/vocalist Jessie Eller-Isaacs) close out WAKE UP & SING with a charming pair of new tunes ("Welcome to the World" and "Sleepy Song") informally dedicated to their young son. It's a commonality among artists, especially kindie peeps (for example, Harmonica Pocket and Chibi Kodama). It's a personal touch that speaks to their children while speaking to an audience of children and the children of those who first heard this genre of American songs. It's enough to make a kid grab a kazoo, or an oatmeal box, or, well you get the idea.

WAKE UP & SING is available on April 22 from Red Yarn's website, Amazon, Bandcamp, and iTunes.

Here is the new video for "Beautiful Day" from WAKE UP & SING, directed by Laki Karavias:

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Mapmaker's Song – Andrew & Polly
She Looks So Perfect – 5 Seconds of Summer
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
Favorite Book – The Bazillions
Cheese World – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Tomorrow's People – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
A Head Full Of Dreams – Coldplay
The Tale Of The Sun And The Moon – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Caught in the Screen – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Brain Freeze – The Not-Its!

Monday, April 04, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Secret Fox – Gustafer Yellowgold
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Don't Fence Me In – Andy Z
I'm Not the Sharpest Tool – Dean Jones
San Francisco – 5 Seconds Of Summer
It's Only in Your Head – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 4, 2016

Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Everything I Didn't Say – 5 Seconds of Summer
Turned Out – Paul McCartney
Hello – Adele
Snaggletooth – Dean Jones
Kings & Queens – The Hipwaders
Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose