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.