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.