Monday, October 31, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Because I Love You – Caspar Babypants
Brain Freeze – The Not-Its!
California Kids – Weezer
Circle Of Friends – Vanessa Trien & The Jumping Monkeys
DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 31, 2016

Don't Wanna Know (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) – Maroon 5
Eyes on the Prize – Cat Doorman
How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Rattlesnake – Caspar Babypants
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones
Willie And The Hand Jive – Vanessa Trien & The Jumping Monkeys

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 27, 2016

All Together Now – Vanessa Trien & The Jumping Monkeys
Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Every Day's A Holiday – Alastair Moock & Friends
Expo Line – Andrew & Polly
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
Wake Up – Red Yarn & Morgan Taylor
You Can Count On Me – Lisa Loeb

Not Kidding, Just Kidding A Boon at Symphony Spce

More than a decade ago, we made the trek from Queens into Manhattan, drawn like moths to a flame by the lure of good independent children's music (i.e., kindie). My son Ben was three years old and he'd been listening to the standard kid fare – Sesame Street and the Wiggles (whom we'd seen live the previous month). Now it was time to dare, to try something new – a live kids music event that wasn't packaged and choreographed. There would be interaction. There would be an opportunity to perhaps speak with the musicians. It was Dan Zanes. It was Symphony Space.

We have returned again and again. With Ben. Then with his younger brother (Matt). Ben has mostly aged out of the theatrical events but still loves the live music experience. They are both looking forward to Justin Roberts returning to New York on December 10. In the meantime, the Just Kidding Kids series has kicked off this month with a host of activities (live theater, book club, musicians). JKK program director Darrin Critz has booked a bevy of experiences for youthful audiences. Acts from the West Coast (Lucky Diaz) as well as classic German puppetry (Sandglass Theater) fill the 2016-2017 schedule.

This weekend, it's the Lightwire Theater – taking the story of "The Ugly Duckling" and bringing it to life in a high-tech production that uses electroluminescent wire to create glow-in-the-dark 3D puppets and props. It's a unique type of artistry that's sure to dazzle young viewers. And just the sort of thing that Symphony Space has been bringing to New York area audiences for longer than I can remember.

It's through regular trips to Symphony Space (and the Upper West Side, where their grandfather conveniently lives) that my sons have developed an appreciation for live theater, interactive audience experiences, and many genres of music. They treat performers like "normal" people and over the years, repeat visit have translated into musicians remembering MY kids. I've often done the comparison and said, "I don't think Paul McCartney would recall Ben seeing him at Barclays Center five years ago."

Other acts coming this season include Portland's folk revivalist Red Yarn (Andy Furgeson) on Feb. 4 and Oklahoma's two-man power duo the Sugar-Free Allstars (Mar. 11). Next month, there's a show for the whole clan – the Big Family Quiz Thing (Nov. 13). And the adjacent Kids Book Club brings in Newbery Honor-winning author and illustrator Grace Lin for a discussion and reading from "When the Sea Turned to Silver" on Nov. 5.

Just Kidding shows include "Social Space," where community vendors provide activities, giveaways, and more at the back of the Peter Jay Sharp theater. Plus you never know who you might run into – local artists support their peers. At a Recess Monkey concert a few years back, Jason from the Pop-Ups was just another excited audience member. So head on down (uptown) to Symphony Space in the next few months, and bring the kids. No kidding, it's a lot of fun. Click through on any performer for ticket information.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Marlowe Mixes In Kids, Brady Rymer's New Map Video

You know the Junos? If you live in Canada, it's their equivalent of the Grammys – except for Canadians, you see. Anyway, Juno nominated Marlowe & the Mix have released LIVE IN COLOUR and have brought their brand of high energy power pop across the border. The dance quotient is incredibly high, if only due to the presence of the "Mix Kids," younger artists that Marlowe mentors and puts front and center on the CD.

Marlowe Stone had a revelation about music for children in 2013. Once kids "age out" from the Wiggles, they are still too young for Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato. She decided to branch out into that gap, creating Marlowe & the Mix as a "gateway" between kiddie music and teen favorites.

On second CD for children, Marlowe & the Mix sound somewhat like Kidz Bop originals, with
"Show Your Glow" and "Video Game Insane" being Exhibits A and B. And the upbeat attitude reaches its crescendo with the empowerment anthem "Allstars Shine On" that closes the CD. Marlowe hit #1 on iTunes Canada recently, so now the States are clearly her next target. She's ready to mix it up and so are the Mix kids.

LIVE IN COLOUR is available Marlowe & the Mix's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Brady Rymer has a new video shot all along the back roads and fields of the little town of Southold on the North Fork of Long Island, NY. As Brady told NAEYC last month, "The inspiration for the song came from a book: Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney. I loved the idea of children knowing and finding their place in the world: appreciating where they live, learning about their special spot — and “me on the map” is such a singable phrase, I just went for it. I played harmonica, a classic American folk instrument, on the song because it expresses so well the lyrical themes of country, land, pride."

As I described it in my review, "Me on the Map" would not sound out of place on any Bon Jovi CD from the past 15 years. It's a little bit country, it's a little bit folk, it's a little bit kindie.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 21, 2016

All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Lets Keep the Band Together – Lisa Loeb
Only One You – Danny Weinkauf
Small Bird – Caspar Babypants
The Ultimate Frisbee – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Loeb and Behold: Feels Like Teeny Spirit

If there was ever a singer/songwriter who seemed always to teeter on the precipice of the kindie music scene, it was Lisa Loeb. First, there's the natural recording style of most of her compositions. Next, there's her college music partner Elizabeth Mitchell, who has spent the past decade-plus building quite a catalog and reputation. Lisa dipped her toe (with a little encouragement) and finally jumped into the Web stream with the birth of her own children.

As the marquee artist of the Amazon Prime Music label for kids, Lisa's second Amazon exclusive release, FEEL WHAT U FEEL, is now available for download. It's a dozen songs to make your kids happy and get them to sing along in the back seat, without making you want to bite through the steering wheel.

The title track (featuring comic actor Craig Robinson) is an upbeat "I'm okay/you're okay" message/dance song. It serves as the flip side for the other duet with Robinson, a cover of the '70s classic "It's All Right To Cry." There's generally only slow dancing associated with that tune. Film and TV star Ed Helms lends his bluegrass banjo twang to the jaunty "Wanna Do Day," chronicling a plethora of kid activities that comprise a typical child's schedule, which is not necessarily what one particular kid sees as optimal.

Remembering experiences – both positive and negative – is the theme of "I Was Here," which describes a child dealing with allergic reactions, playing in the rain, and staying home with a cold, as well as walking home with mom and having ice cream. "Wiggle" is a girl-group tune straight from the Brill Building. "Let's Keep the Band Together" is written from the perspective of a girl having so much fun playing music that she doesn't want it to end:

Let's keep the band together
Why should we break it up
We've always known each other
Why should we interrupt what we've got goin' on
Let's write another song and play.

Lisa and her collaborators, Rich Jacques and Kyler England, are not looking to re-invent the Big Wheel. FEEL WHAT U FEEL may make you nostalgic for the 70s but it doesn't feel like an anachronism. Which is good, since their target audience has no idea what an anachronism is. They just feel what they feel.

FEEL WHAT U FEEL is available exclusively for streaming on Amazon Music – both Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music, and for digital download or physical purchase through Amazon Music.

Here's the video for "Mary Had a Little Lamb" from last year's NURSERY RHYME PARADE collection:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bop Bodiop! – Cat Doorman
Feel What You Feel  – Lisa Loeb and Craig Robinson
Forever Young – Andrew & Polly
People Watching – Dean Jones
Press Play – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
This Land Is Your Land – Alastair Moock & Friends
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Quick Hits: COBBLESTONE touts Hamilton, Ghost Spooks Munslow

Li-Manuel Miranda has made American history hip with HAMILTON. Translating that excitement down to a middle-school level has gone to COBBLESTONE magazine, a publication from Cricket Media.

I remember getting CRICKET magazine when I was a kid (decades ago). While never quite my thing, I did leaf through every issue looking for articles that interested me. It's still around, although it almost skipped a generation in my home. Now COBBLESTONE seeks to infiltrate my abode with its Hamilton-esque edition. The mag is also promoting a "Rap Into History" challenge, inviting kids of all ages to create an original rap or song about their favorite figure in U.S. history (runs through November 4). Use hashtag #RapIntoHistory and @CricketMedia. Winning entrants might even find themselves and their subjects receiving coverage in a future issue.

Subscribe to COBBLESTONE and get 35% off plus get the Hamilton issue for free. It features background on Hamilton, his childhood, development, and military background, his famous duel with Aaron Burr, and coverage of the musical. Did you know that Hamilton was instrumental in the creation of the Coast Guard? That's a factoid you can read about. Past issues have highlighted the road to civil rights and why Washington, DC was chosen to be the nation's capital.

'Tis the season to be spooky. Musician/illustrator Keith Munslow is back with a timely new Halloween song, "Jilly the Ghost," a collaboration with Bridget Brewer.

The protagonist is – what else – a member of the deceased and haunts the neighborhood. Like every good Halloween song, it comes and goes in just over a brisk two minutes. That makes it imminently replayable for the kids. Keith is working on his next full-length kids CD, due to arrive early next year. Until then, here's a quick glimpse of what's in store.

Available at CDBABY and iTunes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Hammer – Aaron Nigel Smith
Jilly the Ghost – Keith Munslow
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
That Way – Chibi Kodama
This Is How We Bring In The Sun – Justin Roberts
Unhuggable – Caspar Babypants

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, October 18, 2016

All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
California Kids – Weezer
How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
To and Fro – Cat Doorman

Lisa Loeb: Feeling At Home With Children's Music

There's a popular term that's entered the lexicon – "facepalm," which is when a person brings the palm of their hand to their face, as an expression of disbelief, shame, or exasperation. I tend to facepalm whenever I mention the name of a performer and say, "I just reviewed their new children's music release."


"I just reviewed the new Amy Lee CD for kids."
"For kids? For real?"

"I just reviewed the new Caspar Babypants CD. It's Chris Ballew, from the Presidents of the United States."
"Wait, Caspar... is he doing a punk thing now?"

Add to the collection the esteemed Lisa Loeb, who recently released her fourth recording for children, FEEL WHAT U FEEL. This is in addition to continuing to tour her music for "grown-ups" and touting a new line of eye glasses (you saw that coming), as well producing a storybook app. Oh and she's got two kids of her own, hence the lateral move to kid's music.

Lisa answered a few questions via e-mail about her latest venture and how she decided to travel down this enchanted road. Her children's recording career started more than a decade ago, when Lisa recorded CATCH THE MOON with college recording partner Elizabeth Mitchell.

Prior to CATCH THE MOON, did you have any familiarity with current children's music? I guess, other than Elizabeth Mitchell... And was she your entry point into recording music for kids?
I listened a lot to Gustafer Yellowgold CDs as well as the videos. I also listened to the music I listened to growing up, including “Free To Be You and Me,” and “Really Rosie.” Those albums that sounded a lot like grown-up albums – but with more imagination and storytelling – were always fun and satisfying to hear.

FEEL WHAT U FEEL is your second children's music CD in two years. Do you feel more of an affinity with kid's music these days because of your own children?
I’m on a roll. I have so much to share that it seems like I can’t write fast enough. It’s not really related to me having kids, but that I feel so creative and open in this genre. It’s funny though, the kids' music and grown-up music are starting to kind of merge, as it’s all coming from the same place and same level of songwriting and production – and both kids and grown-up audiences seem to respond positively. I try to work to the same high level for any genre I'm working in.

Do you think it's important to strike a balance between "fun" kids songs and "meaningful" kids songs?
It’s all relative. I like writing “meaningful" songs more than “fun" songs, but I have to remember that it’s more fun to play “fun” songs live than “meaningful” songs. The kids really have a good time during the “fun” songs, which makes them more “meaningful.”

You've had some amazing career longevity. Do people approach you at live shows and say "My parents played your CDs for me and now I'm playing your music for MY kids”?
Yes! And grandparents and aunts and uncles, too.

Chicken-or-the-egg question – Did you know Craig Robinson before he covered STAY for HOT TUB TIME MACHINE II or did you meet him because he covered the song?
I knew Craig before that. He actually called me to see if I was cool with him changing all the words and wearing my glasses and re-enacting my song. He asked me to be a part of the movie too, and I did! I acted in the scene as a cat wrangler on my own video.

How did you decide to cover "It's All Right To Cry?" with Craig?
I was writing “Feel What U Feel,” the disco funk jam, with my collaborators, Rich Jacques and Kyler England. It was sounding like an auxiliary song to another song, and not a song that might live on its own. Then I realized that “It’s All Right To Cry” would make a perfect partner song, and that Craig and I should do both. I connected with him and he enthusiastically agreed. His voice is perfect for this song (originally performed by Rosey Grier on "Free To Be You and Me" in the 1970s). I think Craig's performance is powerful.

Did you write any of the songs on FEEL WHAT U FEEL with your kids? Do either of them take music lessons or play an instrument? Could you see something akin to a family band down the road?
I didn’t write with my kids. I do write sometimes with my daughter. She comes up with great ideas. They don’t take lessons yet, but do have instruments all over the house they can play whenever the feeling strikes – piano, guitars, bass, drums. We will start with some formal lessons soon. Plus, both my daughter and son get a lot of music instrument lessons and exposure to all kinds of music at their schools.

In the 1990s you were established as a versatile singer/songwriter. Do you find it somewhat ironic that there's now a Lisa Loeb "brand" with kids music, eyewear, and books? Meaning, there are kids whose exposure is primarily through "Camp Kappawanna," "Silly Sing-Along" book, and your children's CDs.
I don’t think it’s ironic at all. It’s all things I’ve been passionate about and created in my world to share with others.

Finally, do adults show up at your concerts for children, even though they don't have kids?
Yes! And that is so much fun when it happens.

FEEL WHAT U FEEL is available exclusively for streaming on Amazon Music – both Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music, and for digital download or physical purchase through Amazon Music.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, October 17, 2016

Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
Dodgeball – Justin Roberts
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
Hey Jude – Caspar Babypants
King of the World – Weezer
Oh Island in the Sun – Aaron Nigel Smith

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, October 12, 2016

All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
L.A. Girlz – Weezer
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
One Day By The Riverside – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could

Monday, October 10, 2016

No Time Like the Present for Justin Roberts' Lemonade

Thirteen seems to be the new magic number for children's music. Recess Monkey recently released their 13th CD (NOVELTIES), Caspar Babypants is perched to release his 13th CD later this year, and now Justin Roberts is cresting the trend with LEMONADE, his 13th children's music album.

LEMONADE also continues a pattern of musicians returning to their roots and playing either solo with guitar, or with a band playing acoustic instruments and nothing electric. For the dozen tracks on the CD, listeners get the "original" Justin Roberts sound; intriguing characters such as "Eight-Legged Octopus" and "Me and My Kangaroo" and politically kid-rect sentiments like "Valentine (I Don't Wanna Be Yours)":

Don't get me wrong, if there is candy in the envelope
I'll open it, and pretend to care about your card
Oh yeah oh yeah
That purple heart was pretty great, but
Unless it's chocolate, that kiss can wait now

Justin kept a pretty grueling schedule for the past two years. In addition to touring with the Not Ready for Naptime Players (Gerald Dowd, Jackie Schimmel, David Winer, and Liam Davis, who also doubles as CD producer), he published a picture book ("The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade"), wrote his first musical ("Hansel and Gretel"), and created a concert/theatrical event ("The Mysterious Hat") that debuted off-Broadway. When I spoke with him last spring, he was already planning to keep things 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 said. "Now I'd like to get back to the folk and vocal harmony concepts."

We got a preview of LEMONADE at Symphony Space with "Must Be This Tall," a yearning for height that every child can relate to. The trademark Roberts' stutter-sing is in full effect on "Dodgeball," which had my kids singing "d-d-d-dodgeball" throughout. "How Lucky We Are" slips through as a ballad about camping in the backyard that also serves as a quiet paean to being together and doing group activities. That's the facet that cements Justin Roberts' reputation as a consummate family entertainer – a non-offensive double entendrĂ© that works for both kids and parents, and you can also use it to hum a baby to sleep. And then refresh yourself with some LEMONADE.

LEMONADE is available October 14 from Justin's PledgeMusic site and iTunes.

Here is a video of the stripped-down Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players performing "Kick Board Baby" at Symphony Space last fall:

Friday, October 07, 2016

Quick Hits: New Videos from Justin Roberts and KB Whirly & MIsta Cookie Jar

A neat thing about kids is that their reactions are genuine. Even when they fake enthusiasm, there's always that split second right before they go into an "act" when you can, y'know, just tell they aren't into something.

Happily, that wasn't the case when the preview copy of Justin Roberts' new CD, LEMONADE, arrived a few weeks ago (review pending). In the meantime, here's the video that accompanies the title track. It provides a glimpse into the acoustic nature (a throwback to his earlier recordings) of the CD. And you can pre-order LEMONADE from Amazon.

KB Whirly and Mista Cookie Jar team up for the sunny new autumn single, LOVE LIGHT SHINE (produced by Josh and the Jamtones' Patrick Hanlin). I heard a little Sly and the Family Stone, I sensed some Michael Franti, I tapped my toes and swayed gently in place.

They are calling LOVE LIGHT SHINE a very important public service announcement. And with everyone putting out their Halloween decorations, we could all use something upbeat that doesn't feature scary clowns.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 7, 2016

Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Done With The Science Fair – The Not-Its!
Fourth Day Of July – Red Yarn
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf
Me Too – Meghan Trainor
People Watching – Dean Jones
12 Just Say Goodbye – Wilco

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 6, 2016

Clap Your Hands – Red Yarn & Mo Phillips
The Great Divide – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Jersey Dinosaurs – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
NO – Meghan Trainor
The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
What Kind Of Fruit  – Dean Jones
11 We Aren't The World (Safety Girl) – Wilco

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

By The Light – Red Yarn
The Grass Is Always Greener – The Okee Dokee Brothers
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
I Won't Let You Down – Meghan Trainor
The Ultimate Frisbee – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
7 Happiness – Wilco

Monday, October 03, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
The Word – Caspar Babypants
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
2 If I Ever Was A Child – Wilco