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":

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, February 17, 2017

Born – OneRepublic
Done With The Science Fair – The Not-Its!
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Perfect Illusion – Lady Gaga
Tiptoe Through The Tulips – Little Miss Ann And Amy D
2 If I Ever Was A Child – Wilco

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
The Honey Bunny Song – Lard Dog
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Out Standing – Hullabaloo
Rattlesnake – Caspar Babypants
Too Good To Say Goodbye – Bruno Mars

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Farewell And Goodnight – Jojo & The Pinecones
Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf
Mystery – Dean Jones
One  – Aaron Nigel Smith
Raise A Ruckus – Hullabaloo

Hullabaloo Celebrate 3,000 Shows With Volume 2 Of Best Songs

As the kindie movement rolls into its second decade, some venerable performers are reaching milestones. Hullabaloo, the team of Steve Denyes and Brendan Kremer (friends since kindergarten), finds itself approaching their 3,000th live show (slated for February 26). The date is conveniently slated as the release of the band's BEST OF HULLABALOO VOLUME TWO.

Usually children's music retains a regional sound. However the San Diego-based duo have given Hullabaloo a bluegrass/country feel. Steve's unique vocal stylings and their mastery of banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and other non-electric instruments have powered Hullabaloo to a sweet spot where few other kindie artists inhabit.

VOLUME TWO features 15 songs dating from 2009-2015. "Dog Song" frets over a lost pooch and bemoans that an ad in the paper won't help because "he can't read." The mournful "I'm Hungry" lists a litany of found food items in what must be the world's most unkempt couch. "Raise a Ruckus," the title track from their 2012 CD, is a countrified rocker that updates a Grand Ol' Opry standard.

The ode to camaraderie "Best Friends Forever" bridges the band into 2016's I CHEW, which celebrated inclusion and diversity at the same time. "I Wear Pink" is Steve's autobiographical take on growing up playing with his older sister's dolls. A host of kindie stars provided backup vocals, including Peter Alsop, Dean Jones, Laura Doherty, Papa Crow, Jim Cosgrove (Mr. Stinky Feet), the Singing Lizard, Randy Kaplan, Mista Cookie Jar, Red Yarn, and Dan Elliott (Pointed Man Band). The collection comes to a swift (35 minutes) conclusion with the ballad "You Are Loved."

Hullabaloo is what happens when two grown men decide that kid's music is just as much fun to perform as it is to hear. Steve and Brendan have stuck a pin this moment in time for them – 3,000 concerts and 13 CDs – but don't look to be slowing down any time soon. BEST OF HULLABALOO VOLUME 2 is a choice sampler of a band still figuring out what it wants to be when it grows up. Or if it's more fun to stay a kid.

BEST OF HULLABALOO VOLUME 2 is available on February 24 from Hullabaloo's website, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for their song, "You Are Loved," which features Steve teaching American sign language for the lyrics:

Friday, February 10, 2017

Quick Hits: Free Valentines Music and Video

Valentines Day and children's music are two concepts that don't necessarily go hand in hand.

But there are ways to make them work together and provide fun for all ages.

Justin Roberts has released a video for "Valentine (I Don't Want to Be Yours)," from his latest album, LEMONADE. View it here and enjoy:

You can download Justin's song as well as tunes from other artists such as Recess Monkey, courtesy of Beth Blenz and Sugar Mountain PR, through the actual day (February 14). Here's the playlist link.

Enjoy love-themed songs from Little Miss Ann, Raffi, and Frances England. And then go find some other stuff by those artists and share it with the little ones you love.

Erica Rabner is also offering a Valentines song for download – "Valentine's Day" (wonder where she got that title) is up for download at Soundcloud. You can also click through to her debut album, PB & JAMS.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Ben's Snow Day Playlist -Thursday, February 9, 2017

Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Dream A Little Dream – Jojo & The Pinecones
Expo Line – Andrew & Polly
Island in the Ocean – Bob and Luc Schneider
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones
You Better Believe – Train
12 Just Say Goodbye – Wilco

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Ann and Amy Keep On for the Kids

Contemporary kindie (children's independent) music is not just folk music. If your thoughts immediately drift to Dan Zanes, scan over to his supporting band – people like Elena Moon Park and Sonia De Los Santos. As much as Prez Trump and his ilk squeal and complain, the world is changing. And so is the complexion of the people making and performing for children.

Little Miss Ann (Ann Torralba) and Amy D (Amyliza de Jesus) share a common background – Filipino-Americans with backgrounds in music and education. Ann hails from Chicago and Amy is from Nashville. Working with children has given them a chance to incorporate world influences as well as local cultures into their songs. Their new CD, KEEP ON, let's them reach the little ones with "Shake & Sing" and "The Senses Song." But they dive deeper with calypso on "Hill and Gully Rider," featuring guest artists 123 Andres and Tim Sutton from Ratboy Jr. (Tim, Ben keeps asking when the next Ratboy Jr. CD is coming).

Once again, the sorcerer waving a wand over this production is kindie ├╝ber-producer Dean Jones. Much like an Uber driver, Dean steers KEEP ON clear of any potholes or false notes. As Ann and Amy point out in the liner notes, "Dean plays just about every instrument known to man." For anyone who grew up with (or only know) "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" as a Tiny Tim novelty ditty, the ladies forcibly and daintily reclaim it as a gentle love song, complete with a toy piano.

KEEP ON is not going to rock your world. It's not even going to rock your socks off. At a mere 29 minutes, it's an appetizer to get your child's attention or provide some gentle background to a family activity. Ann and Amy merge their voices into a sweet harmony that any amateur can use as a background refresher for "Where Is Thumbkin?"

The best children's music is kept simple, minus any bold-faced headlines or bald-faced alternative facts. KEEP ON encourages kids to "Keep On Keeping On" despite feeling sleepy or discouraged. The strong roots of the folk movement segue gently into the realm of kindie on its 10 tracks. KEEP ON singing, keep on playing, keep on learning, just keep on going forward.

KEEP ON is available on February 17 from Little Miss Ann's website, CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a video of "Someday, Some Morning" (lyrics by Woody Guthrie, music by Jeff Tweedy):

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, February 3, 2017

By The Light – Red Yarn
Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Dodgeball – Justin Roberts
How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
Kid Of The Week – The Not-Its!
Lost and Found – Train
The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could

After 40 Years, Best of Raffi A Long Time Coming

I'm going to keep this review as politically correct as I possibly can. Suffice to say that there are polarizing figures in all walks of life – political, sports, the arts. Amazing as it may sound, the uttering of one iconic children's music performer – Raffi – conjures up a whole host of emotions in adults. "Oh that's little kid music," "Today's kids don't want to hear that," "Wow - what a blast from the past, is he still around?"

It's hard to believe, yet at the same time it seems so obvious, that Raffi has been an integral part of the children's music scene for more than 40 years. So the release of BEST OF RAFFI would appear, on the surface, to be very overdue. Yet he took a long sabbatical from recording children's music, only to reappear in 2014 and release two CDs (LOVE BUG and OWL SINGALONG) in a 14-month period.

The saga of Raffi includes his sojourn into advocacy – In 1997, Raffi developed a holistic philosophy called Child Honouring. He cultivated A Covenant for Honouring Children (Raffi’s poetic declaration of our duty to the young), along with its nine principles. The Covenant and Principles are both circulated widely in public health and education circles. There's also Red Hood Project, a movement for online security for children and youth. Concerned about the effects of digital media, especially on children, Raffi wrote Lightweb Darkweb: Three Reasons To Reform Social Media Before it Re-Forms Us in 2013. The book offers three reasons for social media reform: safety, intelligence, and sustainability. Raffi highlights children’s developmental needs as a key missing consideration in the digital revolution.

While doing this review, I found myself singing along to such witty silliness:

Ring ring ring ring ring ring ring banana phone
Ping pong ping pong ping pong ping panana phone
It's no Bologna, it ain't a phony
My cellular bananular phone

It all comes around full circle to the music, and songs that bring a smile to generations, now referred to as Beluga Grads. "Bananaphone," "Everything Grows," "Down By the Bay," "One Light One Sun," and "Baby Beluga," his most well-known song. Raffi remained steadfast that he would not overly commercial his material and refused to produce a film based on "Baby Beluga," as well as other offers. It's conceivable that the world's best-selling children's entertainer could have made a mint with such ventures. But integrity, once sacrificed, cannot be repurchased. Unlike these classic songs, which you can now get in one simple collection.

BEST OF RAFFI is available February 10 from Raffi's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the title track from last year's "Owl Singalong":

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 2, 2017

Breakfast For Dinner – Jojo & The Pinecones
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Dancin' In Circles – Lady Gaga
Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts
Oh My My – OneRepublic
Play That Song – Train