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:

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