Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 25, 2018

To Raise a Barn – Red Yarn
Ode To Bed – Mo Phillips
Saturday Sun – Vance Joy
It's A Wonderful Life – Kepi Ghoulie
Feels Like Summer – Weezer
Washington, DC – The Not-Its!

20 Hullabaloo Songs Raise Awareness for Childhood Illness

The circle of life includes death. When a child faces a life-threatening illness, an "all hands on deck" approach generally attempts to spin the situation into an affirmation of embracing life while you can lead it. One of the organizations tasked to meet that challenge is Happy Star Melodies. they seek to bring love, laughter, happiness, and healing through musical melodies to terminally ill children. Happy Star puts musical instruments in the hands of young minds to foster creativity, positive energy, and give comfort in often cold, lonely hospital rooms.

Inspired by the good works of Happy Star, Steve Denyes of Hullabaloo decided to augment their efforts. He solicited donations for the charity, with the caveat that he would honor 20 randomly-selected contributors with a song that matched a title or theme they submitted with their check or digital money order. The result is 20 SONGS IN 20 DAYS, Hullabaloo's 14th CD.

The "one song a day" concept has been done before. In fact, there have been instances where entire CDs have been produced in even less time. Most notably, John Mellencamp claims to have recorded one of his albums in less than two weeks – but that was with a producer and full studio staff. In a similar vein, Paul McCartney recorded his Fireman Project CDs as "one song a day," however the recording period was spread out for close to one year, whenever he had the time. So Denyes stalls tall with 20 SONGS IN 20 DAYS, accepting and meeting the challenge with a Jack Johnson-ish "Go Surfing" and the autobiographical "My Music Teacher," which comes full circle of life with his reflections on becoming a music teacher himself.

"Let's Play Telephone" is a modern-day Sun Studio version of an Elvis/Johnny Cash raver. And what are the odds of reviewing two CDs in a row – coming out the same day – that both have songs entitled "Supermoon"? Jessie Baylin's version on her CD, STRAWBERRY WIND, is a dreamy 1960s throwback. Hullabaloo's take is a slower, acoustic ode to summer stargazing:

Like a million sweet reminders sent from up above,
Cherish what we've got and hug the ones we love.
And I thank my lucky stars for just being here with you.
Here in our backyard, beneath the Supermoon.

Hullabaloo originated from the since-kindergarten friendship of Steve Denyes and Brendan Kremer. Decades later, they return to those halcyon days of childhood for "Bubble Gum Blues" and "Penguin in My Bed." Their songs relate the experiences of being silly or serious, lonely or surrounded by family. 20 SONGS IN 20 DAYS brings a pointed empathy to the struggles of challenged children with a gentle guitar strumming a friendly tune.

20 SONGS IN 20 DAYS is available from Hullabaloo's website, HearNow, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes. You can donate directly to Happy Star Melodies.

Here is their video for the song, "Worm With Wings":

Monday, April 23, 2018

Matt's Playlist - Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hanukkah Rocks – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
ABC – Jackson 5
Shrimp – Recess Monkey
Yellow Bus –  Justin Roberts
Everything I Didn't Say – 5 Seconds of Summer
Dog Park –  Jack Forman
I Like – Lard Dog & The Band Of Shy

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 23, 2018

The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
I Feel Better – Caspar Babypants
Happy – Spaghetti Eddie
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy
That's My Style – The Bazillions
The Beautiful Dream – George Ezra
Mystery – Dean Jones

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Jessie Baylin's Dreamy Throwback 'Strawberry Wind'

I've always said that parents are jugglers. It takes a remarkable skillset to hold down jobs while taking care of a family. To say that musicians with kids have it "easier" is a fallacy; the creation process may be the same, but try telling a touring musician that their life is "easy."

With that in mind, mother of one (expecting her second) Jessie Baylin is releasing STRAWBERRY WIND, her debut children's CD. And if you think it may be difficult to tour with two kids, imagine the juggling that goes on between her and husband Nathan Followill (of the band Kings of Leon).

STRAWBERRY WIND is a lush throwback to the 1960s sound of Shirley Bassey and Lulu. Picture Twiggy or Dusty Springfield on the set of some Technicolor variety show and you get the idea. Songs like "Supermoon" and "Dream Catcher" present a vibrant, imperial view of the world that's fully attune to what a youngster might picture. And the video for "Dream Catcher" should definitely be seen (below).

"Same Old Tune" could be a cover of a Boyce/Hart Monkees' song. "Sparkle Shoelaces" would not be out of place in the background of an episode of "Room 222." And the ethereal "We Need Each Other" is less of an anthem than a wistful plea along the lines of Buffy St. Marie. If these references seem cribbed from a '60s website, well, you get the picture.

More than anything, STRAWBERRY WIND feels less like a children's CD than a curio from another time. Baylin is offering selling vinyl copies through her own imprint, which adds to the mythology behind the music. Akin to Amy Lee's 20116 CD, DREAM TOO MUCH, Baylin's hyper-focus hits the bullseye, but you wonder will it also reach the audience it deserves? That should be one of the more interesting questions in kid's music in 2018.

STRAWBERRY WIND is available exclusively for pre-order through Amazon Music. The CD comes out April 27.

Here is the video for the song, "Dream Catcher":

Friday, April 13, 2018

Mr. Singer & Sharp Cookies Prepare to Party

Children's music is a "specialty" genre. Unlike pop and other mainstream formats, most consumers have to know what they're looking for. Sometimes an artist is so regional that their material isn't on Amazon and their website happens to be down (because the performer hosts it on his laptop and accidentally closed it).

When listening to local artists – those who send me their CDs or links to digital material – I am often reminded of two very disparate anecdotes. I was re-introduced to a college acquaintance at a party with the opener, "Jeff is reviewing kid's music now. Jim, aren't you RECORDING kid's music now?" Jim began to tell me that he and another dad wrote a dozen original tunes, played them as entertainment for their children's birthday parties, and suddenly were asked to perform at other parties. Then even recorded their songs for posterity on a limited print run. I explained that I knew of several venues that might widen their exposure and even a website they could use to book live gigs. Jim's response was to shrug and say, "Thanks but there's no money in kid's music."

The second anecdote happened in the backyard of my brother's house more than a decade ago. His (then) wife was describing how her brother, a music educator, had put together a band and independently recorded their own CD. Again, I explained my meager connections. Her response was slightly different, "He's not ready to release the CD." Smash-cut to present day…that musician and group are Josh and the Jamtones. Perhaps you've heard of them.

Local artists are plentiful and don't necessarily "do it" for the money. Many make their living in education or related services. For some, the shift to children's music occurred when their own kids were born, as they segued from bar bands covering "What I Like About You" to writing original songs. And for every Justin Roberts and Frances England, who seem to come from nowhere to gain a national spotlight, there are dozens that toil in their region, build and maintain a dedicated audience, yet never catch fire.

So much for prologue - this all brings me to Mr. Singer & the Sharp Cookies, a fine ensemble hailing from (and proudly singing about "C-H-I-C-A-G-O" on their third CD, GOING TO A PARTY! Mr. Singer himself operates from LeftHaus Studios providing music and art lessons and running personalized children's parties. But their passion is the music – perfectly fine songs like "Gonna Ride My Bike" and "Ramble On Children."

I was a bit disillusioned recently hearing They Might Be Giants' John and John on Marc Maron's podcast disparaging (without naming names) a number of children's musicians. Their take is that many performers are attracted to children's music because it's easy or formulaic. "Kids love dinosaurs, write a song about dinosaurs," they commented. While that might be true of some local artists, fortunately I have either not stumbled onto them (or they onto me). Mr. Singer & the Sharp Cookies do not fall into this category, let me stress. And they've got added street cred with an appearance by another Chicago-area artist who has gained the national spotlight, Ralph Covert.

More than anything, GOIN' TO A PARTY! is a collection of simply-crafted and lovingly-produced children's songs. Whether or not the CD breaks into a wider public consciousness will be determined by a combination of luck and ambition. Either way, Mr. Singer will continue to teach and perform. Like most local artists involved with children's music, the goal is reaching an audience. The financial motivation is there, of course. But first come the smiles and juice boxes.

GOIN' TO A PARTY! is available from Mr. Singer & the Sharp Cookies website, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the video for their song, "Just For Fun":

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 13, 2018

Smile For Me – David Tobocman
Get What You Get – Bears And Lions
Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Paradise – George Ezra
Lazy Boy – Franz Ferdinand

Quick Hits: New Stuff from Ben Rudnick, Vered, and Red Yarn

Weird Al Yankovic has decided to eschew the process of waiting 2-3 years to compile enough material for a CD and is releasing digital singles. That blueprint has worked successfully for a number of children's recording artists, including Mista Cookie Jar, LARD Dog, and now Ben Rudnick and Friends. Their new single, "Little Bitty Critter" debuts this week with a video on YouTube. Rudnick promises more new music will follow...later this year!

Vered Benhorin is Kickstarting her upcoming release, SONGS FOR SISTERS AND BROTHERS. The launch was on National Siblings Day, so I missed the date, ironically due to being involved with my family. You can listen to the debut single, "Little Bit Tough" on CDBABY and Soundcloud. It's a bit Joni Mitchell and very amiable, with production by Jon Samson and a host of performers including drummer Marty Bellar.

Red Yarn (Andy Furgeson) returns to mine the sounds of rustic traditional American song with his fifth CD, RED YARN'S OLD BARN, later this month. In the meantime, the fuzzy bearded Portland resident teases its release with the first story video, the title track "Old Barn" (filmed in a REAL old barn):

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 12, 2018

Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
Setting Sun – Bears And Lions
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Don't Matter Now – George Ezra
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf

Journey to Nighttime Luna With 123 Andrés

Few parents willingly volunteers that they don't know something. Which is why I was mildly confounded by the new 123 Andres CD, LA LUNA. A genial and melodious fellow with genuinely good intentions and a clear singing voice, Andrés Salguero (and wife Christina Sanabria) have produced several award-winning Spanish (and English) children's music CDs.

Emphasis must be placed on Spanish first – which is why I was mildly confounded by the all-Spanish album jacket and had to quietly visit the website for English lyrics. Songs like "Un Elefante" are easy enough to figure out. But I needed a quick cheat sheet to determine that "La Pequeña Pilar" told the story of "Little Pilar," who only wants to grow up and have his own adventures.

With its accordion, "Benjamin" sounds almost French, which is why I was mildly confounded in explaining it my own son, Benjamin. Although the lyrics did almost quite describe him:

If you’d like to help him,
Have a dictionary handy,
And look for new words,
Just like Benjamin

A portion of the proceeds from LA LUNA benefit the Greater DC Diaper Bank, which aids families living below the poverty line. You can perform a good deed and put your kids to sleep at the same time – to use a third language, such a mitzvah. An English version of LA LUNA is planned for later this year. Depending on your level of fluency and the bilingual nature of your household, that may be innecesario. LA LUNA is a tranquil collection of bedtime-relatable songs that (with ego-saving web intervention) should entertain and fascinate inquisitive, tired toddlers.

LA LUNA is available April 13 from 123 Andres' website, Amazon, iTunes, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and  CDBABY.

Here is a video for several of Andres' songs:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 11, 2018

I Love The Night – Gustafer Yellowgold
Soar – Mo Phillips
Home – Spaghetti Eddie
Higher Higher – Justin Timberlake
Benjamin – 123 Andres
Kid Of The Week – The Not-Its!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

New Elevating Music from Laurie Berkner Band

The world of children's music constantly welcomes new performers and celebrates the contributions of legends. Sometimes a newcomer releases material that harkens back to a different era while the established artist seeks to carve out new ground. Other times, the songs feel like comfort food – exactly what you expect, happily ready for immediate consumption by young consumers.

Children's music standard bearer Laurie Berkner has released a new song, "Waiting for the Elevator," and you can see how it fits snugly into her pantheon of previous hits. It's a song about travel and patience and anticipation, all at the same time. And there's a chorus of chirpy youngsters, to boot.

To purchase the song, visit this page with links to iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Here is the video:

Two New Brady Rymer Singles for Autism Awareness Month

In commemoration of Autism Awareness Month, Long Island's own Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could have released two singles – a party mix of their inclusion anthem, "Love Me For Who I Am" and a brand-new cover of the Diana Ross classic, "I'm Coming Out."

"Love Me For Who I Am" was the title track of Brady's 2011 CD, which stemmed from a conversation with a special needs student (story is here). Longtime proponents of rights for disabled children, Brady and company have always stressed the point that music is a hallmark of inclusion.

Personally, my family has a decade-long history with the Rymers, starting at Kidstock in Brooklyn many years ago and continuing through 2018. Brady and Bridget graciously moved over so me and my kids could sit together at January's "Best of Childrens Music" Grammy showcase at Symphony Space. Long may they rock!

Hear "I'm Coming Out" on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon.

Hear "Love Me For Who I Am" on Apple Music, Amazon, and Spotify.

Watch the video for "I'm Coming Out":

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Reserve Your Bunk as Camp Andyland Returns

Andreas Zamenes (Andy Z) understands that children's music is best served with a certain level of camp appeal. That could explain why his latest CD, CAMP ANDYLAND, compiles songs from his previous three "Andyland" releases.

One of the most basic tenants of reviewing children's music is to keep reminding myself "this is not necessarily to amuse you; it's for children." That mantra came in especially handy with songs such as "Cecil (the Serpentine Dragon)" and "La Araña Pequenita," which feature characters not built for anyone over the age of 8.

CAMP ANDYLAND is pretty self-explanatory – a collection of tunes ranging from shopworn traditionals (this is the second consecutive CD I've reviewed with a version of "Row Row Row Your Boat") and originals "Sticky Bubble Gum." For me, the most engaging song was the 60s pop / Wonders (from That Thing You Do) feel of "I Love You Because You're You."

Andy Z has won a host of awards and produced a slew of kid-friendly material. CAMP ANDYLAND could be seen as either a "greatest hits" effort to memorialize songs that always generate a positive reaction in concert or a way to introduce tunes from CDs that may no longer be available from retail and online vendors. Either way, Andy Z is looking for early enrollment for youngsters and hoping that parents are eagerly counting down the days when camptime is a reality.

CAMP ANDYLAND is available on March 30 from Andy Z's website, Spotify, AmazonBandcamp, and iTunes.

The video for "Pirate Song" is here:

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Bears and Lions Navigate Friendship

One of my most memorable concert experiences in 2017 was seeing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers live at Forest Hills Stadium in July. Although it was the third time I'd see the band, a decade had passed since the last time. Plus Petty was billing the shows as their 40th and final tour. Prophetically, he was dead less than a month later. Another memorable live 2017 experience occurred in January at Jalopy where I witnessed Bears & Lions performing live as part of Hootenanny III. The connection between these disparate acts? Both hail from Gainesville, Florida, a hotbed of musical diffusion and confusion.

Bears & Lions have returned to make Gainesville proud with their sophomore CD, NAVIGATE. The band alerts us that the animals (including Gorilla, Moose, Giraffe, Bison, and Zebra) have escaped from the circus and have set out to break the rules and create music to inspire everyone to be more tolerant and free in everyday life. That's a tall order for a [SPOILER ALERT] bunch of guys in funky costumes. But don't tell that to the kids.

A loosely-themed concept album, NAVIGATE finds our menagerie virtually lost at sea as they attempt to save "Jonas the Whale" from captivity in Saudi Arabia. Along the way there are pirates, a "Merman Named Jim," and some lessons about friendship and nature. Some of this was explained in the accompanying press release – documentation that might help parents explain the adventure better to children who get the CD or download the tracks online.

Bears & Lions is more about the fun than anything else. That's what you should expect from a kid's group led by a bear with six-pack abs. "Pirate Pete" recounts the band's encounter with some sour scallywags as they embark on their voyage. "Lighthouse" is a pop-folk/Blues Traveler-esque ode that draws the parallel between a lighthouse on the ocean and a nightlight in a child's bedroom. With its horn section and singalong chorus, the track "Hercules" sounds like a throwback tribute to the Wiggles:

Swimming wild and free
Eats her zucchini and her broccoli
She's so strong
She's so strong

"Merman Named Jim" is a nautical rap track about the underwater denizen who finally leads the band to their ultimate destination. By golly, for a band from Gainesville, one wonders why there isn't there a gator in the mix. Perhaps one will stumble out of the woods for the group's next adventure. In the end, NAVIGATE lands our gang to "Animal Land," where everyone is a member of the same tribe, with the refrain "We all are one." If that means being one with bears and lions (and tigers, oh my?), I'm fine with it. And so should the junior members of your pride.

NAVIGATE is available on Bears and Lions' website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for Bears and Lions' groundbreaking song, "Pancakes":

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 26, 2018

Window – Gustafer Yellowgold
Why Does the Sun Shine? – Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer
Always Ascending – Franz Ferdinand
Popsicle – Bob and Luc Schneider
Why Can't We Be Friends – Josh and the Jamtones
Rock Island Line (Featuring Billy Bragg) – Dan Zanes & Friends

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 23, 2018

People Watching – Dean Jones
This Is How We Bring In The Sun – Justin Roberts
White Whale – Kepi Ghoulie
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Done With The Science Fair – The Not-Its!
Lay It On Me – Vance Joy
Too Good At Goodbyes – Sam Smith

Mitchell, Paz Plant Spanish Flowers for Children

The world is a messed-up beautiful place. And the American President is a very divisive figure; to the extent that I resent including him in any discussion about children's music. But music is a gateway to real-world issues for many children. Music is a way to gently show youthful listeners that evil can be overcome through unity.

Smithsonian Folkways has tasked Elizabeth Mitchell and Suni Paz with a mission to display this musical unity with grace, charm, and simplicity. Their CD, TU ERES MI FLOR echoes the name of Mitchell's website "You Are My Flower." The 17 songs are primarily in Spanish, although hints of other cultures stream through, including on Dan Zanes' "Hello."

I'll leave the CD's mission statement to Suni Paz, who emigrated to the United States from Argentina in 1965: "This recording is now – more than ever before – a necessity. We are living in an historic time, in which Latinos, Hispanics, and all immigrants are being disrespected and vilified, so honoring their language in songs is much needed."

Songs like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and Renee and Jeremy's "It's A Big World" take on whole new secondary meanings when performed in another language. Guest artists such as Sonia de los Santos enliven tracks like Paz's "Love and Care." Bob Marley's eternal "Three Little Birds" transcends language. For the inquisitive, TU ERES MI FLOR comes with a "reversible" bilingual booklet with lyrics and liner notes.

In its 70th year, Smithsonian Folkways makes nearly 60,000 tracks available in physical and digital format as the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, reaching 80 million people per year. While not explicitly part of its mission, TU ERES MI FLOR accomplishes its mission – using song to show the connection between Spanish and American folk music. Elizabeth Mitchell and Suni Paz demonstrate that sometimes a message doesn't have to be chanted at rallies or walked about on placards. Sometimes a song can provide hope for blue clouds or peace like a river. Sometimes a song is enough.

TU ERES MI FLOR is available on April 6 from Elizbeth Mitchell's website, Smithsonian Folkways' website, and iTunes.

Here is the video for Elizabeth Mitchell's song, "Sleep Eye":

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 22, 2018

Brighter Side – Gustafer Yellowgold
I Feel Better – Caspar Babypants
Sunshine Sunny Sun Sunshine Day – Danny Weinkauf
Move UR Feet – Josh and the Jamtones
Lost And Loving It – Kepi Ghoulie
The Nut Tree – Shawn Colvin
I Am Here – P!nk

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I Love The Night – Gustafer Yellowgold
The Huntsman – Shawn Colvin
Have Some Fun Out There – David Tobocman
Es Un Mundo Grande (It's A Big World) – Elizabeth Mitchell
Dodgeball – Justin Roberts
The Art of Letting Go – Stone Temple Pilots
Where We Go – P!nk

Cathy & Marcy Zoom With STEM Songs

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

Who among us with children has not heard that term? Yet it was a revolutionary thought in 1961 to record children's music examining those concepts. It took Hy Zaret and his partner, Lou Singer, to record "Ballads for the Age of Science," a six-record series. Decades later, the most notable reboot was a campy "Why Does the Sun Shine?" by They Might Be Giants. Until now, that is, with Cathy & Marcy bringing forth a new CD to revive those tunes – ZOOM A LITTLE ZOOM.

Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer buzz through the best of Zaret, including "Constellation Jig," "Bobo the Bear (The Hibernation Song)," "Vibration," and "Snowflake, Snowflake" (featuring midwest neighbor Justin Roberts). You can also download a PDF full of fun facts and experiments conceived by Lynn Baum, formerly of the Boston Museum of Science. The musical stylings include bluegrass, klezmer, classic rock, and 1950s old-school rock.

Zaret and Singer first experienced the civic responsibility that goes along with educational music in 1947 when they wrote a set of radio jingles about civil rights. Yes, in 1947. This is one of the more amazing footnotes in Zaret's career, which normally would have been thought to have peaked in 1955 when he collaborated with Alex North on the song "Unchained Melody."

Cathy & Marcy are trailblazers pioneers of children's and family music, with a career spanning more than 35 years. Their awards include two Grammys and others too numerous to mention. They were struck by the timeliness of the Zaret/Singer science songs, more than 50 years after their debut. And with the increased emphasis on STEM, as well as women in science, the results were a no-brainer. Or perhaps a double-brainer. ZOOM A LITTLE ZOOM won't make your children smarter. But they certainly won't squirm as much as they would from a full-on science lecture. Achieve a quiet victory at home, for zoom it may concern.

ZOOM A LITTLE ZOOM is available on March 30 from Cathy & Marcy's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here's the animated video to the title track from the CD:

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 19, 2018

Inkpot – Kepi Ghoulie
What About Us – P!nk
No Peace – Sam Smith
Is This Love – Josh and the Jamtones
Let's Get This Over With – They Might Be Giants
Meadow – Stone Temple Pilots

Friday, March 16, 2018

Colvin's Longform STARLIGHTER Video Debuts

Singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin has released a 24-minute animated short feature based on her interpretation of THE STARLIGHTER (based on LULLABIES AND NIGHT SONGS, by Maurice Sendak and lyricist Alec Wilder).

The music videos were created by the Manchester, UK/Los Angeles-based motion design studio WeFail. Each scene contains more than one hundred layered illustrations, and every element in the video was drawn using a digital tablet before being animated by hand. Colvin’s character in the videos consists of 30 individual hand-drawn pieces, each digitally painted before motion design was applied to create the complete figure.

You can view the video on Amazon Prime (free 30-day trials are available) or see the title track here:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

O-N-E Wonderful Rock Out With Josh & Jamtones

Josh (Shriber) and the Jamtones make you cry "uncle" by turning up the funk to 11 on their new children's music CD, WE ARE O-N-E!

The Boston-area musician/music educator breaks open a whole new box of crayons to paint some positivity and unity with ska tracks like "1 Of a Kind" and "Fun!" Guest stars come out for a cover of "Why Can't We Be Friends" (featuring Mista Cookie Jar) and "Move UR Feet" (with Secret Agent 23 Skidoo).

Josh and the Js judicial use of cover songs allows them to reinvent such relics as "Build the World a Home" (already a top hit on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live), Bob Marley's "Is This Love," and Paul Simon's "Me and Julio (Down By the Schoolyard)." Considering it's been a generation (or two) since those songs were first hits, Josh gets props for track selection and putting a (mostly)
new spin on the songs.

The Jamtones go back to their hebrew roots for the final two tracks, "Oseh Shalom" and "Mamaweyah," the latter repurposed from their 2014 CD, JAMMIN' WITH JEW VOL. 2. Like a Pied Piper Matisyahu, Josh will bring your kids kicking and screaming to the rhythm as well as the rock and redeemer. If you like your religion old school, there's a high-stepping gospel "Amen" mid-CD as well.

We Are O-N-E plays as a family party CD (Josh and I share a niece, so this is actual and factual). If you're ready to spare the reggae and kick out the jams, Josh and Jamtones have been waiting for you to groove.

WE ARE O-N-E is available from Josh and the Jamtones' website, Amazon, Soundcloud, and iTunes.

Here is "Build the World a Home" from the new CD:

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 9, 2018

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Who, What, When, Where, Why – The Bazillions
One Day By The Riverside – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Free Couch – Caspar Babypants
Sunshine Sunny Sun Sunshine Day – Danny Weinkauf
Smile For Me – David Tobocman
Breeze Off the Pond –  Justin Timberlake
Window – Gustafer Yellowgold
Mystery – Dean Jones

Ruth & Emilia's Spaceship Plays Best in the Backyard

The concept of the "family band" goes way back in time before the era of the Partridge Family. I'm not even referencing the Jackson Five, the Osmonds, the Cowsills, or any number of modern performers including the Nields. There are also famous patriarchs and matriarchs who usher their offspring into the musical realm – witness the Chapin Sisters, Rufus Wainwright, and many others (more famous) who would only distract or change the subject at hand...children's music.

Ruth Weber and Emilia Lopez-Yañez have known each other quite a long time (since before birth, actually). Emilia was featured on her mother Ruth's CD, ME AND THE KIDS, when she was three years old. They have reteamed, much later, for the new concept CD, THE SPACESHIP THAT FELL IN MY BACKYARD. It's the busy story of URR, an alien from the planet Goodpa, who crash-lands on Earth and captivates a girl named Emilia (the part sung by Emilia).

The jauntily-paced story is energetic, to say the least, with earnest guitar and keyboard riffs that scream "positive reinforcement" for young listeners. Emilia's strong singing voice keeps the story moving, despite some detours in the cutesy with "Everything Is Better With Some Bubbles" (a bathing song) and preachy "Repair the World" (yes, you heard that correctly...the world). SPACESHIP... works best when it sticks to the parameters of the main characters and the life of a girl (and her visiting alien friend). For instance, "Just Inside This Classroom" and "Dancing In Our PJs":

When morning comes we’ll start our day
But other kids real far away
Will brush their teeth to go to bed
But just before good night is said
They’ll be dancing in our PJs

Ruth and Emilia have created a small world filled with quirky characters they want to share. Their family band may not have the level of notoriety of many that I've listed, but they certainly have made an earnest effort. For parents whose young tykes have active imaginations and an interest in extra-terrestrial life, THE SPACESHIP THAT FELL IN MY BACKYARD delivers a thoughtful playtime diversion.

THE SPACESHIP THAT FELL IN MY BACKYARD is available March 23 from Ruth and Emilia's website and Amazon. One dollar from every purchase goes to Ronald McDonald House.

Here is the video of the title track:

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 8, 2018

Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Peace Be To All – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
That's My Style – The Bazillions
Hey Jude  – Caspar Babypants
Rock Island Line (Featuring Billy Bragg) – Dan Zanes & Friends
Say Something – Justin Timberlake
People Watching – Dean Jones

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Cotton Fields (The Cotton Song) (Featuring Sonia De Los Santos, Elena Moon Park, & José Joaquin Garcia) – Dan Zanes & Friends
I Feel Better – Caspar Babypants
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Holiday Jam – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones
Into The Wild – Phillip Phillips
Higher Higher – Justin Timberlake

Siama and Auntie Dallas Travel Back to Africa

Siama Matuzungidi's story is an immigrant's tale – fleeing Zaire as a young man with his guitar strapped to his back. Due to political unrest, he and his band relocated in Uganda and became a favorite of dictator Idi Amin, who would routinely wave his hand for them to continue to play. The musicians wore sunglasses to avoid eye contact because Amin's soldiers would beat their band leader for trying to avoid performing for him. Amin once even made a surprise visit to the band's home, wanting to hang out. When he left, the neighbors demanded the band move, fearing what Amin could do if he became a regular visitor.

Siama's song, "Sisili," became a hit for the legendary African performer Moni Mambo. Ultimately, Siama relocated to Minnesota and long story short has released THE LAND OF YANGALELE with children's music educator "Auntie" Dallas Johnson. The album introduces kids to African culture and rhythms.

The disc works as companion piece to Putamayo's African compilations. But Siama is also a master technician in the field of African music stylings, which allows him to work in different languages, such as Swahili, Lingala, and Kikongo. His harmonies and warm byplay with Auntie Dallas also differentiate their music from traditional "third world" artists. But that should be expected, since Dallas hails originally from North Dakota, not exactly a dark continent.

THE LAND OF YANGALELE demonstrates why Siama has ably showcased his talents in Minnesota since the 1990s. Perhaps 2018 is his opportunity to truly go worldwide and influence a new generation with his music and story.

THE LAND OF YANGALELE is available on March 23 from Papa Siama's website and Amazon.

Here is a video of Papa Siama and Auntie Dallas singing "Vicky Shama Shama":

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Quick Hits: Cathy & Marcy; Fancy Pants & Mista Cookie Jar

The most frustrating designation for any recording artist is to be deemed a "one-hit wonder." Many musicians may spend a lifetime in the studio and on the road, only to be constantly reminded of a singular accomplishment at one point in their career. Hy Zaret experienced that peak in 1955 when he collaborated with Alex North on the song "Unchained Melody."

But Zaret also wrote educational songs with Lou Singer – and now Cathy & Marcy are devoting a new CD to reviving those tunes – ZOOM A LITTLE ZOOM (coming later this month). In the meantime, here's the animated video to the title track from the CD:

It's been a quiet few weeks, so that means it's time for another collaboration for the eponymous Mista Cookie Jar. This time, he has teamed with Amy Hersey (Fancy Pants) on the undeniably bouncy and beat-filled "Disco Dancing Mama," which espouses:

A little carpool karaoke action.
The little ways to make the most of traffic.
This mama she be disco dashin’
all tha way through tha day.

Mark White (Spin Doctors bassist) provides backup on the track, which is now available from MIsta Cookie Jar's Bandcamp page. Drop by for a listen, before he gets busy and starts dropping beats on his next joint project.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Proper High Five for Laura Doherty's Fifth Kids' CD

It seems like only yesterday that we first heard about Laura Doherty, but she's been recording children's music since 2009. That's an indicator of how quickly time passes – back then, Ben was only eight (the age his little brother will be much later this year). By the same token, it felt like Laura's new CD, HIGH FIVE, passed by in the blink of an eye. Turns out the 10 tunes race by in a breathtaking 27 minutes. So yes, in that instance, time certainly flew by.

HIGH FIVE opens with the easy singalong chorus of "Hide and Seek," and steps right into "Muddy Puddles." Speaking of little brothers' ages, 2017 Grammy nominee Justin Roberts stops by to duet on "I Can't Wait to Turn 8," which turned into an immediate household favorite. Youngsters will also enjoy "Lucky Charm" and "Make a Friend," as well as the instructional/hunger-inducing (and spell-check enraging) "Pasta Noodles":

Spaghetti linguini 
fettucinne cappellini
Macaroni and cheese rigatoni 
Say please
Mastacholi for me 
Ravioli in my bowl

Laura Doherty is one of those recording artists whose steady presence serves as a reminder that not everything needs to celebrate the spectacular or monitor the melancholy. Sometimes its just enough to be there and pay homage to the details of an everyday childhood. In that respect, Laura deserves a proper high five for her music and certainly for the aptly-named HIGH FIVE.

HIGH FIVE will be available on March 2 from Laura Doherty's website, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and CDBABY.

Here is a video of Laura Doherty and the Heartbeats performing the title song, "High Five":

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Quick Hits: Weekly Kids Music from Banana² / New Shawn Colvin Video

Amy Hersey (Fancy Pants) likes chocolate. Well, it's almost redundant to ask "Who doesn't?" Joe Sullivan (Uncle Dox) likes lots of things. At this point, it's redundant to ask "So where are you going with this?"

Together, Amy and Joe make Banana², releasing kids music singles every Friday. The over-riding theme of Banana² is power dance pop. Don't come looking for ballads. Their singles include "Sweet Tooth," "Playground," and "Get Crazy." You can also download Amy's kid's CD, IMAGINE THAT, through her website.

Here is the audio for Banana²'s new single, "Potluck":

Find Fancy Pants music on Soundcloud. The Banana² singles are most accessible on Spotify and iTunes.

Shawn Colvin continues to release videos in support of her new children's music CD, THE STARLIGHTER, available exclusively through Amazon Music. Here is the video for "Hush Little Baby":

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bazillions Beguile Juveniles of All Ages

With the threat of a wimper of winter weather wandering across our area, it was time to trek into Manhattan this past Saturday to see The Bazillions' triumphant debut at Symphony Space as part of the Just Kidding Kids series. Lead singer Adam Marshall pooh-poohed the prospect of "a couple of inches of snow," pointing out that the band hails from Minneapolis, where "a couple of inches of snow is what we call November."

Married educators Adam and Kristin Marshall were joined in this scaled-down performance by guitarist Mike Senkovich. They played to a packed Nimoy Theater (literally SRO) that seemed to alternately amaze and excite the trio, who went through tunes from all four of the band's CDs (according to Ben, who is my source for such fact-checking).

The Bazillions have used "educational rock and roll" as their mantra, although they attempted to push a more general "fun for all" family motif, picking their spots to actually teach without preaching. To that end, we had "Q and U," with audience participation (including a birthday girl whose party helped fill the auditorium) and "Silent E" (not the Tom Lehrer version).

Old favorites "Tommy Got in Trouble" and "Career Day" from their debut CD, ROCK-N-ROLL RECESS, helped anchor the set. But the Bazillions have never strayed far from their bread and butter (or is that peanut butter), so the songs all sounded fresh and fine, especially to one fan who traveled all the way from Buffalo, New York to finally see the band in person.

One of the most entertaining parts of going to a children's music concert is watching the reactions of kids who are clearly attending a live show for the first time. Many just sit in shock – amazed that such a thing actually occurs, not just on TV. Others dive right in, scrambling for a toy shaker or scarf, so they can join in the fun. But it's an unforgettable short-term memory that helps wire them for other musicians (and live arts) down the road. I don't know for sure how many kids qualified at the Bazillions – but many more were too happy to shout the names of their favorite action stars for "Superhero Rock Band." And many more will be happy to return for a different concert on another day.

Just Kidding Kids continues through March at Symphony Space with upcoming performances of The Joshua Show (Saturday, February 24) and the Not-Its (Saturday, March 3).

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 15, 2018

Peace Be To All – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
This Is How We Bring In The Sun – Justin Roberts
Soar  – Mo Phillips
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
Here For you – Spaghetti Eddie
Dance With Me – Phillip Phillips

Shawn Colvin Revisits Childhood on 'Starlighter'

Maurice Sendak inspired many a children's dream, as well as a nightmare or two. His illustrations are evocative and fanciful; smart and welcoming yet hinting at great menace and peril. Among his best-known work is LULLABIES AND NIGHT SONGS, accompanying music and arrangements by lyricist Alec Wilder. The book has enchanted and given flight to many imaginations. Among the best-known of those is singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin, who brings forth THE STARLIGHTER, her interpretation of many of those same works.

Over the course of her 27-year career, Colvin has been honored with three Grammys (two for 1996's “Sunny Came Home”). But she's better known in my household for her fourth album, 1998's HOLIDAY SONGS AND LULLABIES, recorded while she was eight and a half months pregnant with her daughter Caledonia. The album became such a regular nightly routine for my older son, Ben, that we wore out one copy and had to purchase a second.

LULLABIES AND NIGHT SONGS struck a childhood chord in Colvin. She returned to it once her daughter was born. And she returned to it again for THE STARLIGHTER. The 14 tracks range from "Hush Little Baby" to "Minnie and Winnie" (video also available from her web site) with lyrics by Alfred Lord Tennyson. If this was a one-off, THE STARLIGHTER could be dismissed as a cynical attempt to take advantage of public domain collateral. However Colvin has made repeated – and admirably sincere – visits to this well. And has a lengthy, demonstrated love of the source material.

THE STARLIGHTER succeeds dramatically as a musical equal to its parents, both Colvin and LULLABIES AND NIGHT SONGS. I conducted several listenings, attempting to ensure that I stayed awake throughout the process. I was mostly successful, drifting off during "The Journey" and "Bobby Shaftoe" at one point. But that's more a reflection of the dreamy nature of the fully realized and orchestrated arrangements and my own occasionally spotty sleep patterns. Colvin strove to be true to Wilder's vision and voicings. And if she can catch one lone reviewer unaware, imagine the stunning effect THE STARLIGHTER could achieve on many a child. Among them, your own. As poet William Blake wrote (now the closing track, "Cradle Song,"):

Infant wiles and infant smiles
Heaven and Earth of peace beguiles.

THE STARLIGHTER is available February 23 exclusively through Amazon Music (pre-orders being taken now).

Here is the video for the title track, as depicted by Victorian paper theatres in the illustration style of children’s books from the same era, created by WeFail, the Manchester, UK/Los Angeles-based motion design studio. Every video element was drawn using a digital tablet before being animated by hand. Colvin’s character consists of 30 individual hand-drawn pieces, each digitally painted before motion design was applied to create the complete figure.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I Love The Night – Gustafer Yellowgold
The Man Who Built The Moon – Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Man of the Woods – Justin Timberlake
Ode To Bed – Mo Phillips
Happy – Spaghetti Eddie
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Bazillions Coming to Symphony Space - Sat., February 17

Chuck Berry once sung about "School Days" and learning the golden rule. Continuing in that tradition of rock and roll and learning something in the process, The Minneapolis-based family band (headed by married teachers Adam and Kristin Marshall) The Bazillions are making their way to New York's Symphony Space this Saturday, February 17 at 11 AM. It's part of the Just Kidding family program and helps the band promote their fourth CD, ROCK-N-ROLL YEARBOOK – a years' worth of family curriculum in 12 songs (and 35 minutes).

As I wrote when I reviewed ROCK-N-ROLL YEARBOOK in 2016:

The Bazillions know the kids they're targeting will grow up and away from their music. However they want the information to penetrate those developing noggins. And the best way to do that is with music that sticks in the cranium like a pervasive earworm. Um, of the best kind. And I mean that in the best possible way. Give your child a sandwich and they'll ask you to cut off the crusts. Give your child ROCK-N-ROLL YEARBOOK and maybe they'll ask for guitar lessons. Live and learn, right?

Just Kidding is consistently one of the best music series for children in the metropolitan area. If you're around on Saturday, February 17 at 11 am, drop by Symphony Space and say hi. Click here to buy tickets. Enter code Yearbook2018 at checkout for $3 discount on general admission tickets!

ROCK-N-ROLL YEARBOOK is available from the Bazillions' websiteAmazoniTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the video for their song, "Back at School." Full disclosure - my kid made the cut:

Monday, February 05, 2018

Frances England Livens Up LICM

A key difference between major touring musicians and kids musicians is the touring. The vast majority of children's recording artists are regionally-based and tour extensively within the surrounding real estate. It's similar to the old territorial days of pro wrestling, where the McMahon family "controlled" the East Coast tri-state area and Roy Shire ran the West Coast San Francisco area. Speaking of touring and San Francisco, SF resident Frances England made a NY swing this past weekend.

After two shows at Lincoln Center, England and musicians Stew Peck and Chris Chan dropped by the Long Island Children's Museum for a pair of performances. We made able to see the 2 pm concert along with a small contingent of attendees, muted no doubt by that afternoon's Super Bowl.

The timing was unfortunate, but the concert was intimate and fanciful. England's songs are up-close and personal, and that's exactly the experience that everyone received. From Chris Chan leading a conga line of children around the auditorium to kids shouting out their favorite toys and even one emboldened tyke attempting to abscond with her water bottle.

England spanned the scope of her recording career, with key selections from the Grammy-nominated EXPLORER OF THE WORLD and MIND OF MY OWN. There were even videos running behind many of the songs, which turned the concert into a full multimedia presentation (as you can see from the selections here).

The LICM does fewer children's music shows than other metropolitan venues. However that works, as location-wise they draw more of an audience from Suffolk and Nassau County then the New York city-based facilities. The theater remains a delightful, hidden pleasure to see a diverse selection of national musicians doing their "due diligence."

Coming in March to the LICM: Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band (Sunday, March 4 at 11:30 am and 2 pm)

Friday, February 02, 2018

In the Bazaar With Falu

World music comes in many forms. For children's music, that sometimes means the most basic rhythms and "this is our country" mannerisms. At other times, the artist jumps right in with both (oftentimes bare) feet and there's a sparse sprinkling of English language to satisfy parents who want their kids to "understand."

Indian performer Falguni Shah (aka Falu) has been working with American audiences since her emigration to Massachusetts in 2000. She was appointed Carnegie Hall's ambassador of Indian music in 2006, among other career honors and highlights. Her new children's CD, FALU'S BAZAAR, speaks with an authentic South Asian voice and guides listeners through a fictional Indian marketplace.

Opening track "My Name" is completely misleading; presenting her five-year-old son Nishaud speaking Hindi to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." The album segues into a more traditional-sounding "Tararum Pumpum" with English and Hindi street-crossing directions. FALU'S BAZAAR proceeds from there with "Shapes," "Pots and Pans," and concludes with "Nishaud's Lullaby." FALU'S BAZAAR a world music delicacy if you're seeking to whet that specific appetite for your kids.

FALU'S BAZAAR is available February 16 from Falu's website and iTunes. You can also hear her music on Soundcloud.

Here is a video for "Let's Sing About Indian Spices":

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, February 2, 2018

Rewrite The Stars – Zac Efron & Zendaya
Lost And Loving It – Kepi Ghoulie
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Keep On Reaching – Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
I Dare You – Phillip Phillips
Kid Of The Week – The Not-Its!

Quick Hits: New Videos from Shawn Colvin and the Salamanders

Grammy-winning artist Shawn Colvin has delivered a music video from her upcoming album, "The Starlighter," a collection of songs adapted from the children's music book "Lullabies and Night Songs." The CD will be released on February 23 via Amazon Music.

The video for "Minnie and Winnie" is based on Victorian paper theaters and the illustration style of children’s books from the same era, and was created by the Manchester, UK/Los Angeles-based motion design studio WeFail.

Big kids music news from Montana! The Salamanders received a helping hand from Uncle Dox to deliver a video for their quirky song, "Matt Damon Hypnotized Me." Do you really need to know more than that? I didn't think so.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 1, 2018

Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
It's A Wonderful Life – Kepi Ghoulie
Summer Days – Cosmic Park
Holy Mountain – Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Home – Spaghetti Eddie
Magnetic – Phillip Phillips

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Hold the Sauce, Not Applause, for Spaghetti Eddie

Every now and then a children's music act goes completely under the radar, generally acknowledged inside their region of the country but otherwise an unknown entity. That's the case with Brendan Parker, who has just released the fifth volume of SPAGHETTI EDDIE! AND OTHER CHILDREN'S SONGS.

The concept is fairly simple – the first CD introduced Spaghetti Eddie, but it wasn't a song cycle. Indeed, it was merely a clever collection of amiable tunes for tykes and early education students. Over time, Parker and company have added characters but the formula has remained charmingly and disarmingly consistent.

Perhaps the best-kept secret in Oklahoma City (unless there's some Twin Peaks craziness that hasn't broken loose yet), Spaghetti Eddie falls into that fine divide between the Sugar-Free Allstars and Mo Phillips – a solid foundation of wordplay and musicality that doesn't talk down to kids or make their parents want to "disappear" the CDs.

Brendan and bandmate Erick Alexander don't tackle any overtly heavy subject material (although that may happen down the road). Spaghetti Eddie instead mines the minutia of everyday kid life, such as "Wonder Where Everybody's Going," " Let's Go Explore," and "Forts," with the refrain:

My fort can be anything I want
Be careful not to knock it down

Perhaps it's time for Spaghetti Eddie to get cooking and prepare for wider exposure. The first time I heard of them was when Parker contacted me directly (a common story). With more content giving their backstory on the Website or Facebook, and a little friendly radio play on podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, or SiriusXM Kids Place Live, Spaghetti Eddie could add some meatballs to their saucy selections.

SPAGHETTI EDDIE! AND OTHER CHILDREN’S SONGS VOLUME 5 is available from their website, Soundcloud, iTunes, and Amazon.

Here is the video for the song "Kitty Cat Town":

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Symphony Space Hosts Best of Family Music - Saturday, January 27, 2018

Full confession: I thought this blog post would serve as a reminder for people to buy tickets to this event. However I have since learned that it is sold out. A SOLD OUT children's music event in Manhattan! This is a milestone, people. As such, it will serve as a reminder that such things do happen in this generation.

Symphony Space's Nimoy Theater will be hosting a Best of Family Music showcase on Saturday, January 27 at 11 am. With the Grammy Awards returning to New York City this weekend, it's an opportunity to hear from four of the five acts nominated for "Best Children's Music Recording." I was privileged enough to review all five; the four appearing this weekend are Justin Roberts (Lemonade), The Alphabet Rockers (#RiseShineWoke), Lisa Loeb (Lullaby Girl), and Gustafer Yellowgold (Brighter Side).

Yes, you won't get to hear Ladysmith Black Mombaza. But I've already had that experience quite a while back (Paul Simon retrospective show at the Theater at MSG) and honestly a showcase appearance of 10-15 minutes is about all I could take of them.

SiriusXM Kids Place Live's "Absolutely Mindy" Thomas and "Animal Farm" host Kenny Curtis will emcee the program. It's a good opportunity to mingle with the performers (who will likely be signing stuff and taking photos) and let your kids see that musicians are reg'lar people. And also build the notion that if they ever want to play music, some day people may come and see them. Or maybe nominate them for an award.

Like I said, the showcase is sold out. But there's still time to get tickets to upcoming Just Kidding Club events, including musical performances from Alastair Moock (February 3), The Bazillions (February 17), and the Not-Its (March 3).

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 19, 2018

All These Years – Camila Cabello
It's Been A Long Day – Caspar Babypants
Summer's Here – The Bazillions
Feels Like Summer  – Weezer
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
Hammer – Aaron Nigel Smith

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, January 18, 2018

Midnight Train – Sam Smith
Play That Song – Train
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Another Head Hits The Pillow – Caspar Babypants
New Pair Of Shoes – The Bazillions

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Just A Kite – Caspar Babypants
Sourwood Mountain – Red Yarn
Drink Up  – Train
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 5, 2018

How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
Superman – Bob and Luc Schneider
First Star – Caspar Babypants
Kid Of The Week – The Not-Its!
Millionaire – Chris Stapleton

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Back to Sleep With Caspar Babypants

Caspar Babypants is working at cross-purposes on his new CD, SLEEP TIGHT! He's performing enthusiastically, with ingenious verve and determination, to put your children to sleep. Which kind of defeats the purpose of producing a full-length musical work, doesn't it?

Chris Ballew's alter-ego is known for his dextrous wordplay ("Bird in An Airplane Suit" comes to mind) and creating a child-friendly playspace. On SLEEP TIGHT, he adds such compositions as "Sleep Mister Sandman" and "Another Head Hits The Pillow" to his pantheon of singalong favorites. He even give the traditional "Do Your Ears Hang Low" a slumber-oriented theme with "Does the Moon Hang Low?"

Chris is big on going you the scoop on what's behind his music. His "Stories Behind the Songs" page delivers paragraphs with big insights. For instance, "So Slow Sluggy" was originally written for a car travel game app he worked on with Jack Forman. "It's Been a Long Day" dates back to his college days and was included (1) because of its unique synth line and (2) because Chris always loved the feel of the tune. You also find the chords to learn to play his music, for instance, the sweet and sadly nostalgic "All Of Your Life":

You spent a little while in the belly of your mom
And someday soon you'll be grown and gone
Just follow your feet and it will not go wrong
For you cause you've got time you've got all of your life

There's always a place for interesting, different bedtime/quiet time music. For instance, Lisa Loeb also released her own kids slumber CD, LULLABY GIRL, this past fall. And the songs on SLEEP TIGHT! harken back to Chris' first lullaby release, NIGHT NIGHT, in 2015. With his 14th (!!) release as Caspar Babypants, Chris seems to be getting a second wind; an interesting respite coming on the heels of his newest nifty naptime nocturne. Adults can always put up another pot of coffee and listen to all 14 tracks. I double dog dare you. Sleep tight.

SLEEP TIGHT is available January 19 from Caspar's website, Amazon, Easy Street, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the song, "Underground":

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Grass Is Always Greener – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Brighter Side – Gustafer Yellowgold
That Way – Chibi Kodama
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
King of the World – Weezer
Inkpot – Kepi Ghoulie