Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 21, 2017

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Island in the Ocean – Bob and Luc Schneider
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama
Right Now – HAIM
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Randy and Dave Aim High & Mild on a Trampoline

The current age of television has been dubbed "Peak TV" due to so many available choices. To a remarkable degree, the same could be said about the current age of children's music. With CDBABY, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and other independent options, recording artists do not have to marry themselves to a label for exposure (although it doesn't hurt). Recess Monkey and The Pop-Ups are among the musicians who have signed deals with Amazon Prime Music. On the other end of the spectrum are Randy Sharp and Dave Kinnoin, back with their second collection of tunes, LIFE ON A TRAMPOLINE.

The CD starts with a lot of nonsense. "Enjoy It While You Can" begins a dozen tracks where the storytelling sometimes threatens to go off the rails. "Last Time I Was Here" is the pre-teen version of a Curious George cartoon, with a recounting of various misadventures. "Squadoosh" deconstructs an imaginary monster. Keeping with the spooky theme, "A Weird Thing Happened" is either a nightmare or an O. Henry story. Randy and Dave leave it to the listener to decide.

Randy and Dave enter the children's music arena with extensive credits under their oversized belt buckles. Randy Sharp has seven #1 country singles and has written and worked with Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Edgar Winter, and Linda Ronstadt to name just a few. Dave Kinnoin has eight award-winning kid's recordings and has written songs for Disney (Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Kermit the Frog). I thought I detected some Piglet in the 100 Acre Woods in "Happy To Help," despite the 'kick yourself in the rear' finale.

Try not to sing along with the chorus of the title track, LIFE ON A TRAMPOLINE. You won't, I couldn't, and neither could my kids. Randy and Dave subvert your expectations without assaulting your senses. The CD is at turns jazzy or country but never goes for all-out head-banging rock. For a true walk on the mild side, your family might remove their sneakers for a bouncy session with Randy and Dave.

LIFE ON A TRAMPOLINE is available July 28 from Randy and Dave's website and CDBABY.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy
Press Play – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Magic Believers (Featuring Mista Cookie Jar) – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Walking Away – HAIM

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lucky Diaz and Company Love L.A.

When done correctly, children's music is truly for all ages. Songs like Dan Zanes' "House Party Time" and Justin Roberts' "How Lucky We Are" can be included on playlists targeting grown-up types without drawing a snicker. With the release of MADE IN LA from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, I am safely adding the opening track, "The Magic Believers," featuring Mista Cookie Jar, to that elite list. At first blush, "The Magic Believers" sounds like somebody accidentally flipped from Kids Place Live to the Pulse (pop hits) on SiriusXM. But no, it's your introduction to MADE IN LA, a concept album of songs about life on the West Coast.

Lucky Diaz and his super-energetic, frenetic, kinetic, multi-ethnic Family Jam Band tackle the architecture, culture, business, and traffic in the City of Angels. "When It Rained" has a grandfather/grandson bedtime story intro from Mike Phirman (and his son Milo) which helps establish that the mere thought of precipitation is as fantastic and imaginary as a fairy tale (of course it poured last summer). If you're fond of the surf guitar sound and don't mind if the song's about a rabid duck, perhaps you'll enjoy "Pato Loco." Andrew and Polly also contribute to the fun on "Paletero Man" (spanish for ice cream), "Traffic," and "Fiesta De La Brea."

Other sites commemorated in the travelogue portion are the "Silver Lake Stairs" with Todd McHatton and "Echo Park," with ethereal, dreamy vocals by Frances England. MADE IN LA manages to remain distinctly a Lucky Diaz CD while incorporating and assimilating the talents of all its guest performers. Indeed, that dichotomy also describes the city of Los Angeles.

Supervising everything is über-producer Dean Jones, the two-time Grammy award-winning multi-instrumentalist whose expertise has made him the "go-to" guy behind the board. But MADE IN LA cannot be quantified as a labor of love for any one individual. It takes a village to build a concept album. Lucky Diaz (and partner Alisha Gaddis) assembled a veritable Murderers' Row (or for the sake of the kids, Cuddlers' Row) of top kindie talent to complete their vision. Much like the city it celebrates, MADE IN LA is a flawed treasure. There's a lot to love about it, and you don't have to be a grown-up to enjoy it.

MADE IN LA is available July 21 from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the lyric video for the #1 song on Kids Place Live, "Palentero Man":

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 17, 2017

How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Something To Tell You – HAIM
All I Can Think About Is You – Coldplay

Friday, July 14, 2017

Jazzy Ash Gets Kids In the Swing Of Things

When you boil it down to the essential elements, children's music is all about discovery. The first songs that every child hears, they think are just being created for them, until they hear the music being performed by others. A standard like "Happy Birthday" is interpreted as a family heirloom until they realize that everybody knows it.

The next stage of children's music is rediscovery. That happens when kids are introduced to the same songs as performed by different, diverse performers. I've always contended that parents do their kids no favors by being snarky and only playing "adult" or "pop" music for their tots. Most of it is age-inappropriate. But also, what are the odds that other children even know what they're singing? And once they get to school age, that kind of parenting is going to be stigmatized by more conventional thinking. 

Okay, I could go on another 20 paragraphs by I've digressed far enough. Part of the concept of reinterpretation occurs when musicians go back to their roots and dredge the past for classics and forgotten tunes. Jazzy Ash (and the Leaping Lizards) have done just that with her latest collection, SWING SET. Fourteen songs are gathered, from the well-known "Down By the Riverside" and "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain" to little-known "Little Sally Walker" and "Eh La Bas."

SWING SET accomplishes for the New Orleans sound what Dan Zanes did nearly two decades ago when he inadvertently inaugurated the kindie movement. Putamayo has released similar collections, but one must be familiar with their organization (or their SiriusXM KidsPlace Live show). Jazzy Ash and the Leaping Lizards resurrect the purely American brassy NOLA beat, which draws clear lines to blues, jazz, rap, and country.

A fully-rounded children's education presents many forms of music and lets them decide what they like. As a result, I have a six-year-old who requests The Offspring and a 16-year-old who cycled through Dave Matthews and Pearl Jam. SWING SET gives children and families an opportunity to learn about the rich history of NOLA music and culture and opens the door to a different perspective from another time and place. 

SWING SET is available July 21 from Jazzy Ash's website, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is a video of Ash and friends recording an impromptu version of "Li'l Liza Jane" in a vintage recording booth:

Monday, July 10, 2017

Radio Days: Going On the Record With One Story

Marc Maron recently hosted comedian Jason Mantzoukas on his podcast (WTF). Jason has a number of credits and is cohost of the "How Did This Get Made?" podcast. During their conversation, Jason talked about becoming general manager of a radio station, being tasked to purchase $3,000 worth of records, and how it was the "best summer" he'd ever had.

Marc Maron (left) and Jason Mantzoukas
The anecdote brought back memories from my college radio days and I wrote a quick email to Maron. However I also wanted to share it more widely, so here it is:

I attended Queens College and on my first day, I went down to the radio station (WQMC 590 AM) and signed up for anything I could possibly do. I auditioned for a DJ spot and didn't make it, but became a newscaster and engineer for other people. Over the next two years, I became the "go-to" guy for sound editing on AMPEX mono reel-to-reel machines and dubbing pop songs onto
carts.

The station had security problems (i.e., no security). There was a sign-in book that was routinely ignored by everyone. Even when the station board passed an edict that if you didn't sign in, you would be suspended from your air shift, nobody signed in. INCLUDING the general manager, chief engineer, program director, and music director.

In the fall of 1984, Bruce Springsteen's BORN IN THE USA and Prince's PURPLE RAIN were huge on radio. But our DJs had to rely on old carts of the singles or bring in their own copies to spin.

We had no budget. Some of our staff visited WLIR on Long Island, under the premise of delivering some mail to former Queens College student and WQMC News Director - either Larry Dunn (Larry the Duck) or Mark "the Shark" Drucker. They thought maybe WLIR could donate some equipment that they had decommissioned. They returned in a state of shock - OUR dilapidated hardware was better than WLIR's ancient equipment.

Finally, on the verge of a DJ revolt from lack of current releases, I suggested we hold a bake sale. "How would be do that?" someone asked. "I'll bring a folding table from home, you buy some cookies from A&P," I explained. A group of people committed to buying stuff. On the agreed day, we set up shop for three hours, with no notice or permission from anyone on campus. We sold everything and made $200.

I was business manager for the station and technically that money should have been deposited into our account. But I said, "Come on." Two board members piled into my car and we drove to Sounds on St. Mark's Place. We bought 36 albums – rock, blues, punk, funk, and comedy (I did a one-hour comedy show every week with classic and original bits).

We brought everything back to the station and marked all the covers and record labels "Property of WQMC."

The general manager watched us, then borrowed the copies of Prince, Springsteen, and a few more in the top 10. He burned new carts of the hit singles. "Why?" I asked. "Now we have the records."

He just nodded at me.

I left feeling elated. In less than a week, we had engaged in positive change. As I walked out of the station, the DJ was spinning tracks from six different brand new used records we had just left in the record library.

Two days later half of them were gone, including Springsteen and Prince.

The general manager quietly put the carts of the hit singles in the live studio. He patted me on the shoulder and said, "You fucked up. You trusted people." He paused, then added, "You're not thinking about running for GM next year, are you?"

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 7, 2017

Don't Grow Up To Fast – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
Little of Your Love – HAIM
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts
The Ultimate Frisbee – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Jazzy Ash Swings By With Hambone (video)

America is a melting pot. Independence Day constantly reminds us that this country, in its current form, was incorporated on the backs of immigrants. Peoples many nations brought their cultures, recipes, and musical tastes and mixed them into a jambalaya that stews to this day. Pun intended.

Jazzy Ash and Uncle Devin
New Orleans native Jazzy Ash is a living and breathing example of that mix – with a mom from NOLA and a father from Trinidad. Her upcoming CD, SWING SET, features reinterpretations of chestnuts from the American pantheon. But in the meantime, she has released a video previewing "Hambone," one of the 14 tracks.

Originally known as Juba (from Haiti), hambone is an American style of dance that involves stomping as well as slapping and patting the arms, legs, chest, and cheeks. With an assist from drumming pro Uncle Devin and stompin' Sarah Reich, Jazzy Ash demonstrates (briskly) what hambone is all about.

Since Jazzy Ash is mostly known for dixieland and NOLA rhythms, "Hambone" is a change of pace. And certainly not indicative of the rest of SWING SET (review to follow next week), which features the entire ensemble known as the Leaping Lizards. But it's part of Jazzy's further exploration of the soupçon that makes up the American experience, which should be an essential part of any children's musical education.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 6, 2017

How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
The Grass Is Always Greener – The Okee Dokee Brothers
By The Light – Red Yarn
Small Bird – Caspar Babypants
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
2 If I Ever Was A Child – Wilco
People Watching – Dean Jones

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Expo Line – Andrew & Polly
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
Rattlesnake – Caspar Babypants
Dodgeball – Justin Roberts
Down by the Riverside – Ella Jenkins

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Quick Hits: LARD Loves the Beatles, Uncle Dox Does Elephants

As you get older, staying regular is sometimes challenging. It's also challenging when you declare that you will release one song every month, much as LARD Dog and the Band of Shy are starting to realize. Their June song of the Month, "Who's Your Favorite Beatle?" arrives just in time for....July.

Steven Erdman goes old-school (early 1960s era) for the legendary feel of the song. It's probably the least wacky LARD song since his inception and more of a straight rousing rock number with "yeah yeah yeahs" and a limited selection of non sequitors (replaced by historical Beatles references). The download page includes nifty artwork from legendary illustrator Danny Hellman.

You can grab the tune from the website or stream it through this direct Soundcloud link.

Speaking of Soundcloud, you can also access Uncle Dox's new song, "Elephants," at the site as well. It's a veritable team effort (you've heard of herds, haven't you)? Guest choral artists include Lucas Miller, Lucy Kalatari, Vivi Melody, Heather Hirschfeld, and Jason Didner (of Jungle Gym Jam fame).


Minnesota's Uncle Dox has an animal affinity. Between the frogs and squirrels, his music is a mutlifaceted menagerie. And instead of taking a long drive and waiting in the hot sun to stare at animals staring back at you, you can just listen to the tunes in the comfort of your own air conditioning.

More songs are here on Soundcloud. What are you waiting for?



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, June 22, 2017

How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
One Day By The Riverside – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Perfect Places – Lorde
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf

JungleGymJam Says Welcome to the Pandagarten

New Jersey's Jason Didner is following the example of other children's musicians and beginning to self-produce his own material. As such, by streamlining the process, he is able to make it immediately accessible to his audience. Now he is planning a "single of the month," in the tradition of Mista Cookie Jar and Lard Dog and the Band of Shy.

The first release by Jason and the Jungle Gym Jam, "Pandagarten," tells the bouncy story of Bao-Bao the baby panda. "Pandagarten" is based on a family trip he and his wife Amy took with their daughter Holly to the Smithsonian National Zoo and a firsthand meeting with Bao-Bao.

Initially tentative about self-producing, Jason asked Chibi Kodama maven John Cullimore for tips and advice. I reckon things went well – in that Jason has embarked on such an ambitious endeavor (hopefully he has a bonus track hidden up his sleeve for a rainy day).

Now, you can stream "Pandagarten" or click through below to purchase it for $1. You can subscribe to the band's Patreon page for a monthly amount of your choice and get "Pandagarten" (and every future single) pre-release.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Unhuggable – Caspar Babypants
Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Popsicle – Bob and Luc Schneider
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones
Supercut – Lorde
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band

Back to Camp With Ella Jenkins

Remember your camp years? I remember mine – two years at two different sleepaway camps that no longer exist. Back in the 1970s, they were already starting the sad process of constricting...what used to be male/female cafeterias were merged and campers were served in shifts, to consolidate resources. Activities such as overnight campouts were rotated and restricted, to the point that since the kids in my bunk "misbehaved" and lost so many demerits that we were stripped of that experience.

But there are some universalities of camp life, including the singalong. And 60 years into her recording career, Ella Jenkins, the "First Lady of the Children's Folk Song," has deemed us all ready for CAMP SONGS WITH ELLA JENKINS AND FRIENDS. It's intriguing that so many of the songs sounded familiar, and yet came from so many disparate sources. I recalled a few songs from Camp Cejwin, which were distinctly Jewish, but we also did a few American spirituals and European folk songs, it turns out.

Produced by Tony Seeger (yes, Pete's nephew), the one-hour-plus collection brings the expected ("Down in the Valley") together with the obscure – at least for me ("The Court of King Caractacus"). In between, Ella reminisces about her family and when SHE was a camp counselor. The only real misfire is an interminable version of "Everybody Loves Saturday Night." Explaining that children from different cultures were often asked to sing it in their native language, there are 12 additional verses that stretch it to nearly eight minutes.

Matt (6) is a year or two away from the sleepaway experience. But he still noted, correctly, "This is my CD?" as if to prepare him for the campfires. If you have a child nearing camp age, want to offer a pre-camp tutorial, or feel like taking a nature walk through your own memories, CAMP SONGS is like a lazy night around the campfire. Except with air conditioning and fewer mosquitoes.

CAMP SONGS WITH ELLA JENKINS AND FRIENDS is available June 23 from Smithsonian Folkways' website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, June 19, 2017

Green Light – Lorde
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Sunshine Sunny Sun Sunshine Day – Danny Weinkauf
Because I Love You – Caspar Babypants
Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Oh Island in the Sun – Aaron Nigel Smith

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Matt's 2nd Playlist - Thursday, June 15, 2017

Press Play – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
Everything I Didn't Say – 5 Seconds of Summer
Can You Picture That? – Sugar Free Allstars
Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wedneday, June 7, 2017

Only Angel – Harry Styles
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
To and Fro – Cat Doorman
Rattlesnake – Caspar Babypants
Press Play – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Shake a Friend's Hand – Andy Z
All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends

Mr. Dave's Feeling Good Vibes from Chicago

I've lost track of the number of press releases that tout a performer as "a local legend" or "beloved cultural figure of this region." And for good reason – many performers with discernible, tangible talent thirst for that next, seemingly logical step that will "break" them nationally or internationally. But for most of them, local or regional success will ultimately be the pinnacle of their recording career.

Once upon a time, Dan Zanes was a beloved cultural figure in the East. Laurie Berkner was a local New Jersey legend. Tom Chapin was just Harry's brother. Even Raffi was a coffeehouse performer somewhere in Canada. But for every one of these artists, there are a stack of able-bodied, full-voiced, credible musicians who never got past that "foot in the door."

Dave Hamilton is embarking on that next baby step. Known as "Mr. Dave," his new CD, FEELING GOOD, contains 10 songs to educate, amuse, and energize children in his native Chicago – and hopefully nationally and internationally. Dave operates a children's music studio (with his wife, Christina) and his music exudes the confidence of someone who has no fear of parking sunny SoCal white rap ("Pelican Kid") next to a Mr. Rogers' singalong ("Song In All Of Us").

Dave has a unique back story. He and three high school friends formed Second Look, a hip-hop dance/vocal group. After auditioning for Star Search (hosted by Ed McMahon), they were placed behind the Backstreet Boys for a slot on the show. After the Backstreet Boys signed a recording contract and dropped out, Second Look wrote and recorded a new song in a matter of days and became Star Search finalists. From there, Dave decided that in some form, music would be part of his future.

The fate of every children's music performer comes down to generating a new audience every 3-5 years, and whether or not the birth and growth of their own children conflicts with their aspirations. Some musicians choose to "age" their material with their progeny. Others bring the kids into the act and make it literally a family show. A majority of performers record a few CDs and then life takes them in other directions. But for now, Mr. Dave is a local legend seeking to make his mark on the larger children's music arena. You can hear clips on his website or YouTube channel. That'll make him feel good, if you like his FEELING GOOD.

FEELING GOOD is available from Mr. Dave's website, iTunes, Amazon, CDBABY, and Spotify.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Have A Good Day, Courtesy of LARD Dog

Right this way for a ride to New Orleans.
LARD Dog and the Band of Shy are back with their latest free "song of the month." The eclectic collection of characters has concocted a carefree confectionary treat, entitled "Have A Good Day." It starts with some Satchmo scat and horns and includes a celebrity cameo (no spoilers). 

Continuing the LARD Dog philosophy, there are a ton of throwaway mentions, from MAD Magazine to ping pong to "slurp the noodle" (an ongoing LARD tradition in the Band of Shy). 

Best of all, you can "Have A Good Day" for free this month. That's right, the song is FREE for download until June 22. So click on over, submit your email, and extract some peppy encouragement.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Matt's First Playlist - Friday, May 26, 2017

One – Aaron Nigel Smith
I Like – Lard Dog
Hey Jude  – Caspar Babypants
How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
I, Wood – Molly Ledford & Billy Kelly

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, May 25, 2017

Big Buncha Buddies – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Cow Cow Yippee – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
Matt Damon Magnetized Me – The Salamanders
Rattlesnake – Caspar Babypants

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 24, 2017

Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
The Great Divide – The Okee Dokee Brothers
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
People Watching – Dean Jones
Skeleton Rag – The Salamanders

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Whizpops Herald Endangered Species Day With Ensemble Extinction Song

"We Are the World" was more than a song title, it was the start of a movement.

Photo Credit: Buffalo Field Campaign
People fondly remember the 1985 mega-fundraiser that drew attention to poverty and hunger.
Many have attempted to recreate that ensemble and the sentiment of the charitable endeavor.

Now there's a kindie version focusing on preserving creatures in our national parks, animal sanctuaries, and in the wild. Just in time for Endangered Species Day, the Whizpops are debuting a video for their song, "Extinction Really Stinks."

Last year, the Whizpops released RANGER RICK'S TRAIL MIX, VOLUME 1 to commemorate the occasion. This year, they up the ante with the video, featuring the talents of Aaron Nigel Smith, Jack Forman (Recess Monkey), Bill Harley, the Pop-Ups, and others).

Enjoy the music, listen to the message, and explain to your kids what the fuss is all about.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Quick Hits: Tim Kubart, LARD Dog Concert Dates

Once you win a major award, it changes how people relate to you. However it doesn't have to change the way you relate to people, especially children. Grammy winner Tim Kubart (see what I did there) continues his run of local performances this weekend at Flushing Town Hall at 2:15 pm. Next month, he has two concerts scheduled at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater in Peekskill, NY, on Sunday, July 9.

Here is a brand-spanking new 2017 remix of "Superhero," featuring Sunny Side Up cohost Carly Ciarrocchi:




LARD Dog and the Band of Shy will be doing an autism-friendly performance of their multi-media extravaganza at 11 am on Saturday, June 10 at the People's Improv Theater in NYC. While my son has handled regular gigs thus far with no issues, this special performance will be delivered in a relaxed atmosphere where guests can talk and vocalize, exits and re-entry will be permitted, and there will be a"Chill Zone."  House lights will be on (dimmed) and no flashing lights will be used on stage. No balloons or interactive props will be used at this performance. Here is a trailer of a regular LARD Dog show – picture with the aforementioned accommodations.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, May 12, 2017

Breakfast For Dinner – Jojo & The Pinecones
Bubbles – The Salamanders
Don_t Let The Boogah Bug You Out – LARD Dog
Ferry Nice – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Jersey Dinosaurs – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Mista Cookie Jar Amped on Serotonin

Forget Five Hour Energy drinks. Mista Cookie Jar (CJ Pizarro) knows that all the kids need is a boost of serotonin to get them motivated, pumped, and moving.

In fact, his new song is just that – "Serotonin."

Starting with a Li'l Wayne-esque auto-tune, the song deftly explains and illustrates how a person's body chemistry controls their emotions and physical state. In the event it sounds too technical, remember that the average age of the listener is not expected to be in double digits.

Chemicals. Dopamine.
Now what's dat
supposed to mean?
Dats a funny name
for the happy in your brain.
Serotonin,
like when somebody says,
"I'm golden!"
There's a joy when you keep your heart and mind wide open.

CJ has recently done some collaborative work, but I was surprised to learn that "Serotonin" is his first solo song in one year. It's kind of like watching someone (or hearing someone) flex a muscle. Click on over and hear for yourself. And prepare for more as he opens the cookie jar later in 2017.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, May 10, 2017

All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
By The Light – Red Yarn
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
Happiness – Wilco
So Gazed Upon – Cat Doorman

Monday, May 08, 2017

Joanie Leeds & the Nightlights: Back in Brooklyn, Baby

There is no starter's guide for childhood. And even if there was, babies would just gnaw at it. By the time toddlers would be old enough to read it, they'll have already ripped it apart. And would any writer really trust helicopter parents not to censor the parts about "over-sensitive and over-protective" mamas and papas at bedtime? The happy replacement is, of course, family music – albums with kid-friendly instructional or informative songs that possess a sly parental edge. With parenthood comes experience. Now-a-mom Joanie Leeds, and her Nightlights, have returned with their first post-child CD, BROOKLYN BABY.

Ms. Joanie has stated that she intended to write another collection of themed songs, similar to WHAT A ZOO. The obvious choice of her current borough, Brooklyn, was, well, obvious. A baker's dozen of loquacious location-conscious GPS-setting, toe-tapping tunes later, her quintet produced BROOKLYN BABY (the title itself a play on words for her toddler daughter, which is also often used as a common rap saying).

Cognizant of the old stigma of Brooklyn being an "outer borough," the Nightlights navigate listeners away from Manhattan via "Subway" and the first track, "Ferry Nice." It's almost like the group is kicking for a licensing deal to promote the new Waterways transit service. Songs for those who can walk untethered under a turnstile include "By Myself" and "Library Book," which carries a little "9 to 5" vibe. "Brooklyn Baby" is a ballad (one of three on the CD) penned as a love song (one of two on the CD) to Joanie (and drummer Dan)'s daughter. Taking the classic novel "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" as a starting point, Joanie sings:

There's a tree, wild and free
And it grows in Brooklyn,
It grows in Brooklyn.
You're my Brooklyn baby,
But you won't stay a baby.

The anthemic power ballad "Love Is Love" spoonfeeds the concept of inclusion as by-the-book as possible, right down to a verse with "It doesn't matter if you have one mom or two / if you're a Muslim or a Jew / If your clothes are old or new." Staying close to her PJ Library roots, Joanie sews a bevy of semitic terms into "Shayne Punim" (Grandma will plotz!). "Rainbow Bagels from Outer Space" channels 1970s punk icons Blondie. In terms of rebranded material, there's a remix of GOOD EGG's standout track, "Hipster in the Making," which fits snugly and smoothly into this CD's wheelhouse, as well as a dreamy, faithful cover of the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning" to close your mental road trip.

My kids provide the truest acid test for any new music. In a bygone era, Life cereal wasn't good enough unless "Mikey liked it." Driving around with my six-year-old (Matt) and having him pick up enough of the chorus to sing "Ferry Nice" or "Rainbow Bagels from Outer Space" is one thing. Watching him play with his wrestling action figures and break into "Library Book" helps make my recommendation a thumbs-up. BROOKLYN BABY shows there's no performing rust, no lack of imagination or ingenuity, and certainly no musical postpartum depression from Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights.

BROOKLYN BABY is available on May 19 from Joanie Leeds' website, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the promo video for BROOKLYN BABY, featuring "Ferry Nice":

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, May 8, 2017

Fantastic – Lucy Kalantari
Fourth Day Of July – Red Yarn
Superman – Bob and Luc Schneider
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones
11 We Aren't The World (Safety Girl) – Wilco
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama

Friday, April 28, 2017

Salamanders Stake Music Cred in Montana

Children's music is everywhere! It's not just a bicoastal phenomenon, with fly-over stops in Chicago and other major cities. The Salamanders, the pride of Missoula, Montana, are back with their second CD, BUBBLES, to stake their claim as the top kids act along the Clark Fork River (look it up). Is it facetious to declare that the Salamanders put Montana on the map? Well, as far as children's music is concerned, the answer is a resounding golly. As in "Golly G. Gus," a track from BUBBLES.

For new century children's music goes, the Salamanders are as engaging and original as any regional group. They put their own spin on a number of universal topics, such as opening track "Let's Sing a Song." But really, who else is penning tunes like "Matt Damon Magentized Me," which complains:

I thought it would be so neat-o
To have the power of Magneto

Head 'Mander "Cowboy" Andy Hunt clearly structured the CD to have a mix of predictability and wonder. "Pirate Santa" revisits the concept of holiday gift-giving and places it on the High Seas. The mirth of babyhood is celebrated on "Mancub." The group even has the audacity to throw in a spirited "Skeleton Rag" instrumental.

The heart of the CD is the title track, "Bubbles," with all the fun and anticipation of producing a bubble big enough to fly away over the entirety of the United States. Or at least to Pittsburgh. And in the end, everybody cleans up in time for a "Lovely Goodbye." Everybody worries about their children using video games or toy light sabres as gateways to trouble, smoking, or worse – civil disobedience. The Salamanders promote their music as a gateway to creative expression and wisdom. Perhaps they're onto something up there in Montana (It is up, isn't it)? Time to consult Google Earth...

BUBBLES is available from the Salamanders' bandcamp page, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is a live performance of the album-closing tune, "Lovely Goodbye":

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 28, 2017

Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Dance Like Yo Daddy – Meghan Trainor
Dodgeball – Justin Roberts
Feed The Machine – Nickelback
Island in the Ocean  – Bob and Luc Schneider
Only One You – Danny Weinkauf

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 27, 2017

Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
One After 909 – Caspar Babypants
Serotonin – Mista Cookie Jar
Why Did You Teach Me That Word – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Because I Love You – Caspar Babypants
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
L.A. Girlz – Weezer
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
Popsicle – Bob and Luc Schneider
Squirrel Fight – Michael & The Rockness Monsters

Monday, April 24, 2017

LARD Dog Unleashes Boogah Battling for April

LARD Dog and the House of Shy go big, big, big band for April's Song of the Month. The intrepid ensemble unleashes its exciting expected musical encounter, "Don't Let the Boogah Bug You Out" for listeners of all youthful ages.

The literal definition of a boogah is right on the tip of my finger. Or nose. Anywhere except my tongue. Yuck! The figurative definition of a boogah is anything that gets in your way, bums you out, or grosses you out. Dig?

The month is almost over so click now, don't wait for any further discounts or special offers.

Here is a link to the full (so far) four songs of the month from LARD and Company. "I Like," the first release, dug itself like an earworm into SiriusXM Kids Place Live's "13 Under 13."

You can even view an intensely surreal video for "I Like"! Where? Here!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 24, 2017

All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
Expo Line – Andrew & Polly
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
Lost And Loving It – Kepi Ghoulie
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Mr Pickle – Michael & The Rockness Monsters
That Way – Chibi Kodama

Friday, April 21, 2017

Rockness Monsters Pop, Bop, and Roll On

A decade working with the Blue Man Group gave Michael Napolitano an above-average dose of the surreal. After a 10 year stint (and five CDs) as the Preschool of Rock, he's twisted his vision into Michael and the Rockness Monsters. Their new CD, FUNNY FACES, pits the ordinary ("Babies Cry") up against the extraordinary ("Squirrel Fight"). Your kids won't know what's coming next.

"Mr. Pickle" is a 1940s boogie-woogie jazz number as engineered by Frank Zappa. The novelty tune "Elevator Song," currently getting airplay on SiriusXM's KidsPlace, harkens back to Mayor Monkey once forcing Recess Monkey to live in an elevator. There are still many handprints that FUNNY FACES is blueprinted for messy little hands, from "Feet for Hands" to the prototypical "you are special" song, "Everything Anything." Michael even enlists his 92-year-old Aunt Jo to participate on the family-themed "So Happy."

Assisted by a host of talents (including Tim Sutton from Ratboy Jr, Tracy Bonham, Sonia de los Santos), FUNNY FACES was helmed by children's music über-producer Dean Jones. Side note – I referred to Dean in a conversation using that exact term and received the response, "He runs Uber?"

Growing up is a confusing time. Adults say one thing and mean something else. What exactly is a double entendré? What is an entendré, for that matter? Michael and the Rockness Monsters deliver a safe space with songs that sounds like fun for intrepid minds. With FUNNY FACES, Mr. N delivers his valedictorian project as he graduates from the Preschool (of Rock). And he's still kidding. In this case, that's a good thing.

FUNNY FACES is available on April 28 from Michael and the Rockness Monsters' website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for "Cosmic Vacation":

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 17, 2017

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
It's An Adventure – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
One Day By The Riverside – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
White Whale – Kepi Ghoulie
09 I Love You So – Spring Bees

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spring Bees for Toddlers Of Any Season

Life – like everything else – starts at the beginning. Everything is taken care of. Stuff has to be learned, even basic things, like how to sit up. There are questions, so many questions (That man really doesn't have my nose, does he?).

Music – like everything else – starts at the beginning. You hear a song you like, you learn how to say "more" or "again." You start to hum the melody or sing along, even if you don't understand the words (or if it's even a child-appropriate tune).

Who starts you along the path of music appreciation is important. Music, like everything else, is best when shared with loved ones; patient people, willing to tolerate 50,000 choruses of "E-I-E-I-O" as if every time is the first time (thanks to Advil).

Kansas City musician (by way of Texas) Monte Holman built his first CD, SPRING BEES, like he did with his family – from the ground up. After the birth of his daughter, Bea, Monte found himself drawn into the process of children's music and thus amusing and educating through children's music. Which created that snake-eating-its-own-tail scenario as he began recording that music with friends (some from Royal Forest, Old Crow Medicine Show, and other bands).

The songs of SPRING BEES – like everything else – start at the beginning. "Used to Be" asks the universal question, "Have we met before?" as in "Were we destined to be parent and child?" The album doesn't stay quite so profound, as "Poopy Dogs" and "Burp" attest. "I Love You So" reminded me of Forest Hills, Queens-based comic/musician Davy Andrews with its incorporation of "Hey Diddle Diddle" and luscious chorus.

SPRING BEES – like everything else – start at the beginning. Since SPRING BEES are in their infancy, so to speak, it will be interesting to chart their progress. I recall a conversation I had with Roger Day about the genesis and evolution of his children's music career. "When my kids were little, I wrote songs about jumping up and pointing your finger," he said. "As my kids got older, I wrote about topics for bigger kids." Monte's Bea is still a little kid and that phase will be wondrous. We'll be waiting and watching to see her development, as well as what develops in the world of SPRING BEES.

SPRING BEES is available April 21 from their website, Amazon, and Soundcloud.

Here is the debut video, "Used To Be," by filmmaker Cody Ground:

Spring Bees - Used to Be from Cody Ground on Vimeo.

Monday, April 10, 2017

No Lack Of Musical Knack for Benjamin, Princess Backpack

There's a fine line between precious and precocious and Brooklyn's Benjamin Weiner (a fine name) jumps back and forth several times during his new children's music CD, PRINCESS BACKPACK AND BENJAMIN!

A large number of performers get into children's music after the birth of their own children. Exceptions exist, such as Raffi. There are other ways, however. And teacher/writer Weiner found mentorship from (Good Ms) Anna Padgett and Lloyd Miller. His concept is pretty simple – an ancient talking backpack (Princess Backpack) spends some time with us, rapping and listening to Benjamin sing. The backpack is from Backpackia but sounds British – with an indistinguishable accent pretty close to Weiner's actual voice (some vocal distortion might help, but might not have been practical for live shows).

Benjamin's acoustic tunes are the ones that stayed with me and felt the most genuine. Album-closer "When You Come Home" reminds the listener that "I'll be awake," no matter when the protagonist returns. "We Are Pandas" sounds like an innocent "come play with me" plea, until you realize that eating bamboo is not something that normal youngsters do – even ones with a full set of baby teeth. "Griffin as a Pet" somberly and gently informs kids that there are fantasy animals too fierce to be domesticated, even if they did exist.

Every month, 10% of album proceeds from PRINCESS BACKPACK AND BENJAMIN! go to a different children's charity. March was Free Arts NYC, providing arts programs and mentorships to kids who need them most. I'm waiting to see which charity gets the designation for April.

Weiner earnestly enters the children's music fray with a character companion (although not a full menagerie like Red Yarn. New York's kindie scene has a lengthy reputation of welcoming characters of approachable repute. Rather than badmouth Princess Backpack, I'm going to zip it. Any negative thoughts, I mean. Let's see what Weiner can pull out of this backpack and whether or not his act will indeed prove to be a charmer. At the very least, he can fill it with snacks and drinks for his young audiences.

PRINCESS BACKPACK AND BENJAMIN! is available from their website, Amazon, BandcampSpotify, Google Play, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the tune, "Princess Backpack Raps":

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 7, 2017

Inkpot – Kepi Ghoulie
Island in the Ocean – Bob and Luc Schneider
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
The Ultimate Frisbee – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
Unhuggable – Caspar Babypants
Wind in Our Sail – Weezer

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Don't Fence Me In – Andy Z
It's A Wonderful Life – Kepi Ghoulie
Loving Cup – Cat Doorman
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Just Say Goodbye – Wilco

Monday, April 03, 2017

Quick Hits: Rockness Elevates, Wendy & DB Celebrate Earth

Michael Napolitano from the Preschool of Rock is all grown up. Well, he's as grown up as any grown up doing children's music can be. Now he's taking his burgeoning Rockness Monsters out for a second spin with their upcoming CD, FUNNY FACES. In the meantime, the first single, "Elevator Song," is available for purchase. It's the equivalent of a toddler tease, in that it's mostly a novelty tune. But it gives you an idea of Michael's sensibilities and what he tries to accomplish (movement, encouragement, humor) encapsulated in, well, an Otis elevator.

You can purchase "Elevator Song" at iTunes and listen at SoundCloud.

Here is the FUNNY FACE preview video:


When Charity and the Jam Band produced EARTH, their ecologically-conscious CD a few years ago, I figured that might be the tail end of the trend. In fact, it was only a resting stop. Now Wendy Morgan and Darryl Boggs (Wendy and DB to you) have released their entry, HOME/EARTH.

The 13 tracks include the title song, "Bugs That Give Hugs," "Plant A Seed," and other message-laden tunes for the very young. "Girl Superhero" kind of breaks away from the central theme, although not far enough that its parent couldn't scoop it up before it got too far.

The Wendy & DB Band averages about 25 years of professional experience, so they have the production chops to skillfully deliver the material. And a total of 20 percent from the proceeds of sales of HOME/EARTH will go to the Jane Goodall Foundation, VH1 Save the Music, and A Better Life for Kids.

It's hard to root against people with such good intentions, whose goal is to entertain children in the Chicago region and perhaps raise some money for charity while they "work." Wendy & DB seek to make their musical world a place that children can relax while they learn. They want everyone to feel at home since it's everybody's HOME/EARTH.

HOME/EARTH is available at on April 22 from Wendy & DB's website, CDBABY, and Amazon.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 31, 2017

California Kids – Weezer
Cow Cow Yippee – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Hammer – Aaron Nigel Smith
I Can See Clearly Now – Jojo & The Pinecones
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Our Lucky Day: Lucky Diaz Back at Symphony Space

Two years makes a tremendous difference.

The last time I saw Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, it was the summer of 2015 in Philadelphia at KindieComm. Matt was only 3 1/2 and although he's seen the videos I shot of the performers, he has virtually no memories of the event.



So when the group announced their East Coast 2017 tour would make a stop at Symphony Space, it was not much of a stretch to circle the date on the calendar.  We trekked uptown last Saturday and they did not disappoint. The five-person ensemble led a rousing full house through a selection of dance tunes (although not from their Spanish-language catalog).

The audience seemed familiar with the "greatest hits" slant of the 50-minute set. In fact, the band was pushing their GREATEST HITS CD (and nothing else, surprisingly) after the show. Ben was delighted to talk about Billy Joel, of all people, with Lucky. I guess I blame myself for wearing a "Billy Joel – Last Play at Shea Stadium" shirt.


The band enjoys playing the material and the banter seems friendly and focused. The interactions with the kids in the audience drew in the crowd, to the point that kids were crowding the aisles in attempts to win the dance contest. In that sense, a good time was had by all ages.

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band are taking their act on the road to China in May. But have no fear, they will be back and touring the midwest in June and July, with a return engagement to Manhattan to play in Madison Square Park on July 27!

Quick Hits: Friday is Goose Day, Wayne Ready to Party With Kids

You can make it a good Friday, regardless of your faith.

Father Goose has released his new single, "Friday" and it's available for immediate download through iTunes.

Goose cuts a groove and guest performers (Elena Moon Park, Yami Bolo, and Itimo) join along. Father Goose calls himself the "King of the Dance Party" and he's set out to maintain that title, one song release at a time, this year.

Download "Friday" at iTunes.

I confess. Every now and then a children's musician crosses my desk with a long resumé who I've never heard about. That's the complexity of any genre but children's music in general. The majority of the performers do it for the music and for the kids. Fame and fortune do not magically land at the feet of every musician. And that's especially true when your audience truly believes the creatures in your songs, such as  "Willy the Wooly Mammoth," really exist.

Wayne Potash fits that description and his new CD, ROCK AND ROLL PARTY, is 16 tracks that will entertain and amuse young listeners. This time out, Wayne has re-envisioned the Who's "Boris the Spider" and the Aerosmith blues classic "Train Kept A-Rollin" for the post-diaper set.

Wayne seeks to teach some lessons along the way. The message gets a little muddled if you stop and think too hard though. I remember Sigmund and the Sea Monsters on Saturday mornings. Is that the inspiration for "Clawzy the Sea Monster," who "never tells a lie"? Otherwise, it's just a way to end the chorus with a rhymable tag.

You won't exactly come away from ROCK AND ROLL PARTY with a new appreciation for children's music. Wayne is not reinventing the wheel. Here's found a niche and an appreciative Massachusetts audience and is looking to expand his base. You can visit his site for samples of his other CDs as well.

ROCK AND ROLL PARTY is available March 31 from Wayne's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here's a video of Wayne singing "New Shoes":

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dana Jumps and Jams With Juniors

Aah spring, when children's recording artists seek to release new music to integrate into their live shows. This year is no different and I've received a trove of new CDs that I'll be writing about over the next month or two.

Starting at songs for basic listeners, Washington State's Dana Cohenour returns from a maternity break with her sixth album, DANA'S BEST JUMP & JAM TUNES. The 12 songs range from country to jazz to bluegrass. The tracks invoke animals ("Fish Tale" and "Barnyard Hoedown"), physical fitness ("Jump and Jive" and "Wiggle Workout"), and responsibilities ("Do My Part").

There's a tendency to shrug off performers who aim at the youngest among us. They aren't the most discerning critics. So Dana makes sure to lyrically target parents as well, as "Wiggle Workout" can attest...

Let’s take a breather, you know I’m older than you! 
Workin’ out gets sweaty and maybe smelly, too!
But that’s OK, we’re getting healthy as can be 

We eat things that are green, we even drink green tea! 

An educator as well as a parent/performer, Dana "road-tested" her material on her Music Playground students and is now poised to entertain new audiences. By new, I mean children under the age of 7. But those kids have parents as well. Otherwise, what brung ya here!?! Dana now falls firmly into that camp as well. DANA'S BEST features a Nashville studio full of top session players. She's busting to get back to work, which means getting kids back up on their feet. Listen, you can do it 24x7 or enlist Dana and take off an hour early. Your call. She's waiting.

DANA'S BEST JUMP & JAM TUNES is available on April 14 from Music Playground and Amazon.

Here is the video for Dana's song, "Jump and Jive":

Friday, March 24, 2017

Chibi Kodama: The Kids Are All Rock

Chibi Kodama is all about girl power. The band practically overdoses on pre-teen estrogen, despite the best efforts of titular head of the family John Cullimore. Long story short, he and his kids bonded over some age-friendly Weezer songs. And happily ever after, they've been producing Powderpuff Girlz power pop.

The Cullimore Family (John, wife Yvonne, and five daughters) have made music in this fashion since 2013. Their new CD, BETWEEN MAIN STREET AND NEVERLAND, smashes the line between listening to your parents and listening with your parents. The songs, including "Believe," "All That," and "Face and Fade" deal with the intra-personal dynamics of family and friendship, childhood fears, growing up, and why it's alright to just be yourself.

As the Cullimore clan expanded, the brood relocated to Knoxville, Tennessee. The girls are now facing a whole new series of challenges, which may seem pedestrian to typical listeners. Going from home-schooled to public school home rooms is indeed a new experience. The empowerment lyrics in "Me" serve as a mantra for anyone who steps foot into the social minefield of elementary and middle school for the first time:

I am not the sum of my mistakes
I am who I choose to make myself today
And I choose to see the world this way
Fresh and new with every step
Live this moment with forgiveness on your breath

Ben asked me "Where do I file Chibi Kodama?" and I had to explain that the band is a concept – there is no actual Chibi. It's akin to asking "Which one's Pink?" for the band Pink Floyd. BETWEEN MAIN STREET AND NEVERLAND (with guest producers including Jason Didner, Lucy Kalantari, and Heather Rosenberg Hirshfield among others) is uncommon rock for kids. That's not bad, it's different, and that difference makes Chibi Kodama kinda unique for the genre.

BETWEEN MAIN STREET AND NEVERLAND is available April 1 from Chibi Kodama's Bandcamp page, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the album's title track:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 24, 2017

Bop Bodiop! – Cat Doorman
Expo Line – Andrew & Polly
From Here You Can Almost See the Sea – David Gray
Ground Food – Ratboy Jr.
Save Myself – Ed Sheeran
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
2 If I Ever Was A Child – Wilco

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 23, 2017

How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
King of the World – Weezer
Oh Island in the Sun – Aaron Nigel Smith
Only One You  – Danny Weinkauf
Supermarket Flowers – Ed Sheeran
Unhuggable – Caspar Babypants

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
Tae Kwon Do – Bob and Luc Schneider
What Do I Know? – Ed Sheeran
The Word – Caspar Babypants
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lucky Diaz Lands at Symphony Space

Symphony Space continues its season of multiculturalism this Saturday, March 25 with an East Coast performance by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band. We saw the band play as a trio at KindieComm in Philadelphia almost three years ago, so it will be a completely new experience for my six-year-old.

Centered around the musical stylings and chemistry of real-life married Lucky Diaz and Alisha Gaddis, the Family Jam Band has won a Latin Grammy Award (for Children's Music) as well as a local Emmy for their PBS kids' series "Lishy Lou and Lucky Too." They are taking their show on the road again and traveling cross-country for a stop on the Upper West Side.

Just Kidding Kids has emphasized a world beat this winter, with appearances by Sonia De Los Santos and Elena Moon Park, Nation Beat, and 123 Andres. They have saved some of the best for the end of the season, with the easily-embraceable and instantly accessible songs of Diaz and Company.

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band are appearing for the Just Kidding Kids series on Saturday, March 25 at 11 am at Symphony Space. Tickets are $17 ($14 for members).

Here is my video of Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band performing "Viva La Pachanga" at KindieComm 2014 at Philly's World Cafe Live:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 20, 2017

Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Feels Like Summer – Weezer
The Grass Is Always Greener  – The Okee Dokee Brothers
One After 909  – Caspar Babypants
Perfect – Ed Sheeran
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
Rocketship – Stacey Peasley

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Quick Hits: LARD Dog Goes Flatiron, Okee Dokees Go Countin'

LARD Dog and the Band of Shy are back with their third entry in this year's "Song O' the Month" project. "Ode to Flatiron" depicts the enduring architectural splendor of one of New York City's true landmarks. I have a personal connection to the Flatiron building, as I used to pass it every week in my trek to pick up my son from his afterschool program on the lower East side.

The psuedo-classical/crypto-Depression song features opera stylings by guest vocalist Rebecca Pitcher (who played Christine on Broadway in "The Phantom of the Opera"). "Ode to Flatiron" gives a mini-history lesson...look out Lloyd Miller, LARD Dog is nipping at your Deedle Deedle heels.

The preview page includes many factoids about the Flatiron Building. When it was built (1902), the Flatiron was considered one of the world's tallest structures... at 22 stories. And its location (23rd Street) is the basis of the saying "23 skidoo." Although there's no proof there were any spy organizations on the premises, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo included.

Best of all, you can stream the song or download it for free (for the pittance of your email address). Simply go here and read all about it, during the month of March. Who knows what April will bring from the Band of Shy.

The Okee-Dokee Brothers have a new song "Countin' On Me," commissioned by the Minnesota Zoo. The lilting tune has a preservation and conservation theme. With the current Trump administration preparing to dismantle many environmental regulations, now it a particularly good time to pay attention to such matters.

The Brothers (Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing) have a history with the Minnesota Zoo going back three years, to their first appearance at the opening of a nature play area. "Countin' on Me" describes three species native to the State that the Minnesota Zoo has restored or is working to restore in the wild – bison, butterflies and trumpeter swans.

The single is available for purchase on iTunes. All proceeds from the purchase of the single will support the Minnesota Zoo and its wildlife conservation efforts. The Okee Dokee Brothers will be performing a special single release party on Saturday, March 18 at the Zoo.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 10, 2017

Castle on the Hill – Ed Sheeran
Hold on to Your Dreams  – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Popsicle – Bob and Luc Schneider
Shake a Friend's Hand – Andy Z
Sleeping Dogs  – Randy Kaplan
The Word – Caspar Babypants

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 9, 2017

Born Again –  Red Yarn
Don't Grow Up To Fast – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
Eraser –  Ed Sheeran
That Way – Chibi Kodama
The Ultimate Frisbee –  Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Because I Love You – Caspar Babypants
Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf
Mockingbird – Red Yarn
Thank You (feat. R. City) – Meghan Trainor
This Is How We Bring In The Sun – Justin Roberts

Kids Smitten With Kaplan's Mitten Trippin'

What if your only problem with a children's recording artist was that they were too damn clever? By that I mean, putting in stuff that not only goes over the kids' heads, but goes by so fast that most adults would miss it. They stare blankly even after hearing it a few times, or tracking back a few seconds in iTunes to make sure something was heard correctly.

Aside from that kerfuffle, I have no reservations about Randy Kaplan's new CD, TRIPPIN' ROUND THE MITTEN. He's been a longtime favorite ever since my older son was my younger son's age – for the uninitiated, that's more than a decade. Randy's MITTEN runs close to an hour and is filled with wacky and wonderful stuff like "Supernude," about a clothes-adverse youngster and "Comb Your Ear," a wistful remembrance of a mutt from Kaplan's past.

Randy is not adverse to the occasional cover song as well and his choices are remarkably diverse. There's the 1950s novelty "Mr. Bassman" with a science-oriented epilogue, "Mr. Spaceman," where he explains time/space travel dynamics to his car-trip-tired son. And the recent Maroon 5 tune "Sugar" gets a kid-centric rewrite about confectionary concoctions.

MITTEN is full of Kaplan-esque wordplay and unique situations. "Cat & Mice" allows Randy to rap about all the rotten things he and his friend (the prototypical kid who lived down the block) are gonna do when left unsupervised. Hence, a rap that includes Stardust Memories, A Night at the Opera, and Star Trek. "In "My Frigerator Broke," a desperate Randy tries to use perfectly good food for other purposes under dire circumstances:

Got tuna fish in my pocket
Butter up my sleeves
Eggs tucked in my dungarees
Socks are full of cheese
You might call me crazy
But this is not a joke
My frigerator, frigerator, frigerator broke
My frigerator, frigerator, frigerator broke

MITTEN wraps with the apocryphal "On the Phone on the Toilet,"  the Kids Place Live favorite, a child's paean to parents living immersed in the age of social media, and "Mommy Love Song," one of two charming songs featuring lead vocals by Julie May. Randy is entering the eleventeenth year of adolescence and we're all the better for it. You may take better-planned trips, or family trips, but Kaplan's MITTEN is one of the funner trips you can take your kids on.

TRIPPIN' ROUND THE MITTEN is available from Randy Kaplan's website, Bandcamp, Amazon, CDBaby, and iTunes.

 Here is the video for his song, "Crew Cut":

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 6, 2017

Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Big Buncha Buddies – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
Colors – OneRepublic
Fantastic – Lucy Kalantari
Mr. Bassman – Randy Kaplan
Old Mother Goose – Red Yarn

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 2, 2017

Babylon – David Gray
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Love You Always – Lucy Kalantari
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Sugar – Randy Kaplan
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Red Yarn Births More Deep Woods Music

American folk music has served as a storytelling and history preserving mechanism for generation. Its subcategories, including bluegrass, wistfully conjure up memories of mountain ridges, shady brooks, and running through the forest with your friends.

Red Yarn (aka Andy Furgeson), the roots revivalist/puppeteer (look up that hyphenate on LinkedIn) returns with BORN IN THE DEEP WOODS, his fourth CD and the conclusion of his Deep Woods song cycle trilogy. The CD chronicles music recorded during the pregnancy of his wife, Jessie Eller-Isaacs, of the couple's second child. Thus the presence of "Little Baby Born Today" and "Old Black Dog," which ends with the lyrics:

Big boogerman come flying 'cross the meadow
Swallows the world in his deep dark shadow
"Go away man, go away, man"
He can't have my baby
Cuz mama loves you...

BORN IN THE DEEP WOODS mixes six original songs with six covers of traditional songs, all presented in new arrangements with a first-rate ensemble of musicians, including multi-instrumentalist Dean Jones (tho not the album's producer). The CD was helmed by Adam Selzer, whose credits are a laundry list that includes Peter Buck (R.E.M.), the Decemberists, and John Wesley Harding. I would urge getting a hardcopy of the CD, which comes with full artwork and illustrations by Ryan Bruce.

Red Yarn infuses BORN IN THE DEEP WOODS with a harder edged sound than his past releases. There's more of a southern rock influence and guitar sound on "Born Again" (Allman Brothers) and "Old Mother Goose" (Black Crowes). Perhaps Andy wanted some more modern dance numbers to play at his concerts. But they are a welcome diversion from the somber reverence attributed to "Birdies' Ball" and "Leatherwing Bat."

Inclusion is a familiar refrain around the world, and children's music is no exception. American folk music is part of this country's frontier history. Red Yarn is on a quest to make sure root revival music doesn't become mired in amber, permanently crystalized and never explored. He has invested much time and passion into a deep dive to bring the past present, to make music for the future, his own progeny first and foremost. Dare you come for a run through the forest, by the crook, in the shadow of the mountains? If you do, be sure to bring the kids.

BORN IN THE DEEP WOODS is available March 10 from Red Yarn's website, Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp.

Here is a teaser video for Red Yarn's song "Born in the Deep Woods,":

Friday, February 17, 2017

StevenSteven Clue In Mind-Bending Kids Tunes

Okay so wait, that's Steve Burns, I mean Steve from "Blue's Clues," and like, he's singing about poop. Yes, pooping in the toilet bowl. And it's a kid's song. Well, yeah, it is. Thankfully not blue poop. That would be weird, right?

The psychedelic fairy tale that has been Burns' career takes a new turn this month as the multi-faceted performer teams with Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd to launch StevenSteven and their debut CD, FOREVERYWHERE. That's where you can find the aforementioned "OK Toilet Bowl," as well as the also pseudo-informative "If You're Ginormous And You Know it."

The Steves hyperactive imaginations have gone into overdrive, with the surreal '70s sound sensations of "Mimic Octopus (Secret Wizard Of The Sea)" and "The Happy Then Sad Then Triumphant Spider." If you were a fan of Harry Nillson's "The Point" or Donovan or more recently, Bob Schneider's THE L or Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's Grammy-winning INFINITY PLUS ONE, then your mind will readily grasp the phantasmagoric concepts behind FOREVERYWHERE.

Friends for a few decades now, the Steves decided it was high time to aim both barrels of their musical arsenal at children worldwide. Burns has a few generations of Nickelodeon acolytes giving him cred and the Flaming Lips draw listeners from the deep end of the indie pool. Working together, FOREVERYWHERE is trippy and tuneful and a thoroughly unexpected treat.

The duo are performing at an exclusive album release party on Sunday, February 26 at the Brooklyn Bowl (click through for details).

FOREVERYWHERE is available February 24 from StevenSteven's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is their debut video for the song, "The Unicorn and the Princess Rainbow":