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.


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