Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 31, 2018

Lazy Boy – Franz Ferdinand
Anything For You My Love – Caspar Babypants
Science of Sleep – The Pop Ups
I'm Not Running – Vertical Horizon
Rock Island Line (Featuring Billy Bragg) – Dan Zanes & Friends
Over and Over and Over – Jack White
People Watching – Dean Jones

Kalantari and Jazz Cats Sound Out for Summer

What is it with children's recording artists and their dogs? The last three CDs I've reviewed have been chock full of impassioned declarations of affection for man's best friend. Raffi even put his dog Luna on the front cover of his new CD, DOG ON THE FLOOR. Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats continue the trend on their latest collection, ALL THE SOUNDS, with "Ain't No Dog Like Mister."

Young, impressionable minds are the perfect vessels to hear and interpret different genres of music. It's too late for me – world music makes me break out in hives. But my kids are still asking why I don't get any more CDs from Putumayo. So they clearly got a taste and wondered why that particular gravy train stopped. On the bebop and blues front, Lucy and crew dutifully direct a dozen ditties for your preteen brethren on ALL THE SOUNDS.

Speaking of passion, the Jazz Cats have taken on this purely American music form as their mission. The 10 tracks on ALL THE SOUNDS show the range of jazz stylings, from the bilingual "La Cosecha" to the swing of "Sounds of Summer" to the rep break by Grammy winner Secret Agent 23 Skidoo on "Are You Afraid of the Dark?"

Lucy has an affinity for the holidays (um, she released an EP called IT'S THE HOLIDAYS!). The Halloween-themed "Howl to the Moon" would have been right at home on that disc. And who couldn't use a little classical (for me, it has to be very little). Lucy's son Darius (5 1/2) contributes some cello on "I Know A Little Fellow."

ALL THE SOUNDS is a breezy, cheerful sprint through the jazzy reveries of your children's minds. New York (and Brooklyn, Lucy's home base) will never pass for New Orleans. But if you feel it's high time for ragtime and your kids are ready to dip their toes into Dixieland, ALL THE SOUNDS is an engaging gateway.

You can see Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats at Lollapalooza in Chicago this week! Thursday, August 2 at noon and Friday, August 3 at 1:30 pm. Click here for information.

ALL THE SOUNDS is available on August 3 from Lucy Kalantari's website, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the video for the song, "Our Garden":

Monday, July 30, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 31, 2018

My Barn Door Is Open – Red Yarn
Countin' On Me (Bison vers) – The Okee Dokee Brothers
The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Ode To Bed – Mo Phillips
Meadow – Stone Temple Pilots
Sunshine Sunny Sun Sunshine Day – Danny Weinkauf
Watch Petunia Dance – Caspar Babypants

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 30, 2018

Lay It On Me – Vance Joy
Superman – Bob and Luc Schneider
Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
Disco Hippo – Caspar Babypants
That's My Style – The Bazillions

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Raffi Returns, Doggedly Relevant After Four Decades

I had a very nice start to my secondary career reviewing kid's music. Occasionally, parents (and other people – yes, there are grown-ups without children) would say "Oh, you mean like Raffi?" So omnipresent was a figure like Raffi that even after he paused recording and releasing new material, his very name represented the entirety of "children's music."

During Raffi's hiatus, others such as Dan Zanes and Laurie Berkner filled the void, as I've written before. But then an interesting thing happened. Raffi awoke, and has now released his third CD, DOG ON THE FLOOR, in a four-year span. For the first five years of reviewing, I was able to tell people "I've written about everyone under the sun – except for Raffi." Now the reverse is true. In the past five years, there are have been few performers more proficient in releasing new material than 70-year-old Raffi Cavoukian.

DOG ON THE FLOOR tranquilly expands the Raffi catalog, with three songs inspired by Luna, his recent puppy acquisition. There are also plenty of other animals, from "Mary Had A Little Lamb" to "Listen To The Horses." And both of my sons instantly identified "Here Comes the Sun" from the first guitar strum. But the central theme behind any Raffi release is the ever-present notion that every child is deserving of love, as in "Love Grows Love":

Everybody knows what I'm talking about
Everybody knows it's true
Love grows brains and love grows hearts
Love grows me and you

The resurgence of Raffi has been intriguing, to say the least. He certainly has more than music on his plate. Specifically, he is readying a September debut of an online version of his Child Honoring program, which envisions restructuring teaching methodologies as part of a global movement to create sustainable, peacemaking societies. His fall tour is a shoutout to #BelugaGrads – parents who grew up on his music and are now sharing it with a new generation.

On DOG ON THE FLOOR, Raffi flexes his muscle as the world's best-selling children's entertainer. With four-plus decades spent evolving from local personality to worldwide phenomenon, Raffi sounds genial and comforting on DOG ON THE FLOOR. It's hard to imagine a world of children's music without Raffi. Luckily, there's still songs to be sung and children to be honored.

DOG ON THE FLOOR is available on July 27 from Raffi's website, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Enter "Raffi videos" in a search engine and you get an amalgam of curiosities and concert recordings. Here is one of his more recent works, "Owl Singalong":

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Randy and Dave Submerge Expectations with 'Snorkel!'

The age range for people producing music for children is certainly diverse. If you're skeptical, remember that a collection featuring unreleased Ella Jenkins (93 years old) songs came out last year. Then there are groups that feature kids – most recent, the Oot 'N Oots (four brothers and one daughter). In between, there are musicians with young children, college-aged children, children who perform on their parents' CDs and live shows, and even multi-generational groups (Like Father Like Son).

The result to this situation is that there is no equivalence between the age of the performers and the relevance to their audience. I'll be reviewing a new Raffi CD in the near future, and certainly nobody would dare call Raffi obsolete with all his charitable children's projects. Occasionally a CD comes out that sounds like "your father's children's music," which is to say, the songs sound like they were designed to appeal to kids but somehow miss the mark.

Randy Sharp and Dave Kinnoin have released their third collaboration for kids, SNORKEL! While it has some bright spots, I felt it hit some wrong chords as well. Not too many kids in the Ariana Grande generation have any idea what "Funny Papers" are, yet there's an entire song based on that premise. With the country divided politically, "Everybody's Ignorant" breaks it down to brass tacks – nobody can know everything, so why even try to be an expert on one thing. Their response to climate change – and the prospect that water levels will rise and flood cities like Miami – is addressed by the fears of the protagonist on the title track, who decides to wear a snorkel everywhere he goes, just in case. And with migrant families being forcibly separated – some never to be reunited – this is just the wrong time in history to release a fanciful kid's ode called "I Should Have Been Born in Mexico."

"Squirrel" is the stock "it wasn't me/blame a fantasy animal intruder for trashing the house" song. For the Google-savvy, the duo discuss some historical figures and their accomplishments in "Oh Wait, That Wasn't Me":

Twice I made a solo flight 
Where none had flown before. 
First Atlantic, then Pacific Oceans shore to shore. 
“Fly, Amelia, fly,” they cried, “Into history!” 
I got to meet the chief of state. 
Oh wait, that wasn’t me.

"Why Not" is a deceptively simple argument about challenging authority. At first, I thought Randy and Dave were singing from the perspective of a child trying to question a parent. But "Why Not" is a more general-application, growing-up, STEM-applicable mantra. On SNORKEL!, Randy and Dave present a genteel, middle American form of children's music that would not feel out of place in the 1980s or the 1960s. SNORKEL! is a remarkably sanitized, bubble-wrapped portrait of children's music from two genial, accomplished musicians.

SNORKEL! is available on July 27 from Randy and Dave's website, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Photo Finish for Recess Monkey on 14th Family Album

After more than a decade (mostly) together, Recess Monkey reached a turning point in 2016 – their Amazon Music exclusive release, NOVELTIES, received the band's first Grammy nomination for Best Children's Recording. It was a bittersweet moment for the trio; after all, it had taken 13 CDs to achieve that milestone. Then there was silence as the group went on hiatus after a promotional tour. Jack Forman remained a presence with his show on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live and released a solo CD, LIVE FROM THE MONKEY HOUSE. But the sturdy simian sweatshop had definitely lost its momentum. The question was, would the mojo ever return?

it turns out the fellows (Jack, Drew Holloway, and Korum Bischoff) needed a mature time-out to recharge their batteries. Their 14th CD, FAMILY PHOTO ALBUM, has dropped with 15 choice selections, led by the sneak-previewed "Chewy To Your Han" ode to friendship and "That Laugh" on Star Wars Day (May 4).

Every Recess Monkey CD has its own theme, from THE FINAL FUNKTIER (2009) to WIRED (2014). FAMILY PHOTO ALBUM relates each song as a snapshot of family and friend relationships. Perhaps this concept occurred organically as the band reconnected earlier this year in the studio with producer Johnny Bregar. As Jack noted, "This particular moment in time seems to be in need of building community more than ever. Fundamentally, that sense of family is the overriding reason that the band made this album."

The monk-sicians courageously share some real family photos of their own on the sleeve of the CD. It's enlightening to see (and hear) how some of their bright-eyed innocence shines through decades later, on tracks such as "Wake Up," about spending a lazy summer/weekend day with friends and "Together," which examines how every activity is more fun when it's accomplished by more than one person. Imagination is on full display as Drew and his pal Leo shovel all the way through the planet on "Digging A Hole."

My own "family photo" incident happened – thankfully – decades prior to social media, when a few college friends visited my house and absconded with a distinctly ghastly school photo that my mother had framed for public consumption. Imagine my stupefaction when I arrived on campus the next day to see that picture on numerous flyers hanging around the student union building. After methodically destroying every flyer, I tracked down the possessor and retrieved said photo. It never returned to the previous place of prominence, lest it get re-abducted.

After 14 collections, Recess Monkey deserves an opportunity to bask on their laurels. There's no evidence of coasting on FAMILY PHOTO ALBUM. Songs like the anti-bedtime anthem "Just One More Thing" and the soloing of improvisator-anarchist Mister Noodles on "Make It Up As You Go" are as whimsical and inventive as anything in their existing catalog. The band remains one of the top family acts and it's a pleasure that they're still around making joyful sounds. With FAMILY PHOTO ALBUM, Recess Monkey opens desk drawers and attic boxes and turns it all into a boisterous omnibus of the less obvious.

FAMILY PHOTO ALBUM is available on July 20 from Recess Monkey's website, SpotifyAmazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the video for the band's song, "Wind Up Robot":

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Quick Hits: New Vid from Kira Willey, New Music from Father Goose and Mista CJ & Uncle Dox

"King of the Dance Party" Father Goose returns with his new self-proclaimed CD this week. It's a baker's dozen tracks featuring a bevy of special guests, including Dan Zanes, Josh (of the Jamtones), Aaron Nigel Smith, Danni Ai, and many more.

The music celebrates family, inclusion, and a multicultural world. Key tracks include the evergreen "Monkey Man," "Wanna Love U," and "Father Goose Time," the latter with Dan Zanes.

Father Goose manages to work in many styles to his musings, from sea shanties to English Music Hall, soul, North American and West Indian folk. Jamaican born Danni Ai, who toured with Shabbas Ranks and the Fugees, provides guest vocals on several songs.

You can find KING OF THE DANCE PARTY here to preview tracks or buy the CD.

Children's recording artist/mindfulness advocate Kira Willey has released a new video to promote her recent CD, EVERY VOICE.

The video for "Community" was created by multi-Emmy-award and winner Maciek Albrecht (also honored with a Peabody Award) and his company, MaGiKWorld Animation, in partnership with ArtsQuest. Much of the art was created during a collaborative arts project at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania's Southside Arts Festival.

Kira is part of the festival's music program in August (Aug 10), which also includes performances from Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke (Aug 3), Mil's Trills (Aug 9), Brady Rymer (Aug 11), and Joanie Leeds (Aug 12).

Here is the video for "Community":

Mista Cookie Jar brings the West Coast to the Midwest with Minnesota's Uncle Dox, on a new summer song, "Chillin'." It's a slow groove with some acoustic guitars and beats. What else do you want on a hot day in July? Find the song here:

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 18, 2018

True Illusion – Vertical Horizon
Popsicle – Bob and Luc Schneider
Story/Tellers – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
Can't Stop – Dave Matthews Band
Who, What, When, Where, Why – The Bazillions

Monday, July 16, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 17, 2018

I'm Not Running – Vertical Horizon
The Art of Letting Go – Stone Temple Pilots
Dreaming Again – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Solar Flares – Mo Phillips
Feels Like Summer  – Weezer
Saturday's a Sadder Day – The Oot 'n Oots

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 16, 2018

It's A Beautiful World – Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Breeze Off the Pond – Justin Timberlake
Red Hot Lava – Purple Fox and the Heebie-Jeebies
Magnetic – Phillip Phillips
Stickin  Right by You – Recess Monkey
Electric Jellyfish Boogaloo – The Oot 'n Oots

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Steve Elci and Friends Provide Joyful Puddle-Jumpng

American roots music is self-explanatory – a group of musicians playing infectious good-time pop tunes. Long Island has been gifted with Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could. But there are other acts on the East Coast – and around the country – who accomplish the same outcome. In Connecticut, Steve Elci and Friends have filled this niche since 2009. Their fourth CD, JUMP IN THE PUDDLES, showers young listeners with an array of basic concepts and declarations, such as "We're not so different or far apart."

Steve followed his father (a musician in big bands for 50 years) into the family business. Steve certainly doesn't lack in confidence, as his bio describes his outstanding characteristics as "charisma, leadership, and compassion." The comparison to Brady is fitting, though, as I became aware of the Little Band That Could around the same time that Steve Elci began his children's recording enterprise. While listening to JUMP IN THE PUDDLES, I kept picturing Brady's voice singing this collection of songs – and wondering what Steve would sound like singing Rymer compositions. Maybe a summit/kindie convergence is in order at some future festival.

"Shine On" draws parallels to Rymer perennial "Shine A Little Light." "Supersonic" has the similar harmonies and singalong power of "Who Wants to Wear Shoes." It's a little bit of a stretch, but "The Three Chord Song" falls into the same camp as "One Day By the Riverside." Okay, enough of the comparisons. The question remains, do Steve Elci and Friends succeed on their own merits?

The answer, most assuredly, is with charisma, leadership, and compassion. One can almost envision Steve and bandmates imploring kids to bat "Balloons" around in the air during their live shows. "Hello Song" was so thoroughly agreeable that both kids began singing "konichiwa" and "bon jour" almost instinctively (Or maybe because I started singing along before they did). The CD does have its tender moments, with "Teddy Bear" and "Baby Get Up" aimed directly at the under-three set. But "The Three Chord Song" rocks out like Bon Jovi Junior, a sentiment Ben (a hard rock concert vet) affirmed.

JUMP IN THE PUDDLES is the first of Steve's CDs to reach my desk, which is almost surprising considering I've been at this for almost as long as he has. Now that I've encountered his music, it will be interesting to see if Steve Elci and Friends become more of a live presence in this region. I have a few precious live kid's music years left in me, and JUMP IN THE PUDDLES offers a tantalizing taste of what the band offers in concert.

JUMP IN THE PUDDLES is available on July 13 from Steve's website, Amazon, Apple Music, and CDBABY.

Here is the video for the song, "Good Morning," featuring Mista Cooke Jar:

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Fun Is the Flavor for Jelly of the Month Club

The most people I've ever seen onstage during one performance was at Kindiefest 2013, when the Dirty Sock Funtime Band (DSFB) engaged at least 15 people for "Dino-Soaring." In retrospect, that was almost a swan song for the band, who now operate sporadically (including last summer as a trio at Kidstock sans Mr. Clown).

Families who loved the noisy, goofy, inside baseball nature of the DSFB will kvell and swoon for their SoCal brethren, the Jelly of the Month Club, and their second CD, ENJOY THE SHOW. The Jelly fellows divide the chaos between the four main members, Mic Dangerously, Bert Susanka, Mr. Crumb, and the deceptively-named Todd Forman.

On ENJOY THE SHOW, the band introduces outlandish characters like "Charlie the Polliwog," with a definite
Cab Calloway/Minnie the Moocher vibe, a Borscht Belt-infused "Boris the Butcher," and a "Shelfish Elf" who reports back to a lactose-intolerant Santa on your child's behavior. "Food Fight" is a delightful, messy number with overtones of Madness. Speaking of the early '80s, "Fun Facts for Kids" is rollicking rockabilly that'll teach ya something (my son also yelped "That's Mr. Sandman," making me beam with parental pride).

What outfit with members hailing from Chicago doesn't want to celebrate the World Series victory of their beloved Cubbies? "Cubs Cubs Cubs" references so many major league references that kids will be googling for hours and viewing clips – with a Harry Caray game call at the fade-out. Got a math geek in your clan? "Pi" quotes to the 26th place and then delivers a pop quiz:

Is it 90210?
No that's a 90 show.
25 or 6 to 4?
No that's Chicago
Is it 867-5309?
What no that's Tommy Tutone
Is it 562-321-4365?
No that's my cell phone number
Please nobody call me

Jelly of the Month Club is a high energy, high concept ensemble with members using children's music as an outlet from their day jobs in other bands - such as Sublime. ENJOY THE SHOW immediately turns any routine drive into a singalong and panel discussion. It's been four years since they raised the curtain on new material, so let's give them a hand. Put some Jelly in your rotation; it won't rot your kids' teeth or their minds.

ENJOY THE SHOW is available on Jelly of the Month's website, Soundcloud, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the video for Jelly of the Month's song, "Cubs Cubs Cubs":

Friday, July 06, 2018

Splash and Bubbles: Reef Music for Tots

Splash and Bubbles debuted in 2016 on PBS Kids.

My younger son stopped watching PBS Kids in 2015.

I just missed this one.

The series was created by John Tartaglia, a Muppets legend who joined the Sesame Street puppet squad full-time at age 18. After exploring performance post-Sesame, Tartaglia has returned to the Jim Henson Company to helm Splash and Bubbles and its interstitial series, "Get Your Feet Wet." The soundtrack CD, RHYTHM OF THE REEF: SONGS FROM SEASON ONE has just been released.

Without the Henson and Tartaglia pedigrees, Splash and Bubbles could be seen as an attempt to piggyback on the success of FINDING DORY. However it was undoubtably several years in development, and Tartaglia did create an Off-Broadway show called "ImaginOcean" with characters named Ripple and Bubbles (Dorsel or Tank have been rebranded as Splash for marketing purposes, I guess).

In any event, you will recognize several familiar Henson performers from their more famous Sesame Street creations. And the songs are generally inoffensive, and probably catnip to the kids who have been devouring these episodes since they debuted last winter. So RHYTHM OF THE REEF is no doubt a slam-dunk for many listeners. Splash and Bubbles and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood may be the shows to carry PBS Kids for the next 3-5 years. I wish them well. I'm out of that loop and moving on to growing pains.

RHYTHM OF THE REEF: SONGS FROM SEASON ONE is available from Amazon and iTunes.

Here is the "Get Your Feet Wet" segment on horseshoe crabs:

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 6, 2018

I Feel Better – Caspar Babypants
Lost And Loving It – Kepi Ghoulie
Here For you – Spaghetti Eddie
My Barn Door Is Open – Red Yarn
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Soar  – Mo Phillips
Finally – Franz Ferdinand

Hot Peas 'N Butter Back to Land With 8th Kids' CD

In the Old West, there were homesteaders – people who staked a claim to previously-uninhabited land to raise their families. In children's music, there are also homesteaders – performers who stake a claim to previously-uninhabited genres for people raising their families.

American roots music holds a fascination for many artists. Alan Lomax turned his passion into an obsession, making many recordings of the folk music of the early 20th century. Seventy years of Lomax tapes were acquired by the Library of Congress to augment their collection. One of the leading children's musicians mining the deep folk vein is Red Yarn (Andy Ferguson), following the example of pioneering Dan Zanes (with last year's LEAD BELLY, BABY!).

Hot Peas 'N Butter (HPNB) are now entering the frayed overalls fray with their eighth CD, BACK TO THE LAND. The title track pretty much delivers the mission statement:

There's so much more we have to grow
Back to the land
'Cause it gives back the love that we sow
Back to the land
And between us
It will flow
Back to the land.

The point is hammered home with guest appearances on "Back to the Land" by Dan Zanes, Peter Yarrow, and Laurie Berkner, who also duets of "Big World Kid," about children being comfortable and at home wherever they live – the city, mountains, or in a small town. And since my family is familiar with Alex and the Kaleidoscope's "I'm So Glad," we already know the song it originally sprang from, "Funga Alafia," here given a sprightly Liberian HPNB spin.

Five albums of roots tunes from Red Yarn have predisposed me to hear "Little Fox" and naturally assume it's a cover song. Nope. It's an original genre number by bandmates Danny Lapidus and Steve Jabas. After dedicating the first half of BACK TO THE LAND to folk music, HPNB get back to their bread and tomato with Caribbean beats and handclaps on "Come To My Kitchen" and "Ven Conmigo Para Esta Tierra." The latter translates to "Come with Me For This Earth," affirming the CD's affinity with affection for the world we live in.

HPNB wrap up their multi-cultural environmental theme with "Somos El Barco," or "We are the boat" that carries civilization, built by many hands and touching many lands. It's a laudable "we are the world" message aimed at children in a post-9/11 and zero tolerance culture. On BACK TO THE LAND, Hot Peas 'N Butter literally go in many directions, from the Old West to South of the border, as well as back to another time when indoor plumbing was a novelty. In trying to connect so many dots, the CD is a bit of a structural mess. But ultimately it's children who will be the arbiters of whether or not BACK TO THE LAND sticks the landing and effectively and mellifluously delivers its verdict.

BACK TO THE LAND is available on July 6 from Hot Peas 'N Butter's website, SpotifySoundcloudAmazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the video trailer for the CD:

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 5, 2018

How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Holy Mountain – Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Ode To Bed – Mo Phillips
The Beautiful Dream – George Ezra
Shadow – The Pop Ups
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Josh Lovelace Pulls No Punches for Young Folk

I have a deeply personal connection to vinyl. It's an experience about which most young audiences have no concept. My kids, sure, but that's because every home I've ever resided in came with a working turntable and a bookcase full of records in the living room. This week, I acquired my first NEW piece of vinyl (as opposed to found at a rummage sale or charity shop) in 20 years. I renewed my faith that vinyl is a tradition worth pursuing, thanks to Josh Lovelace and Friends Present: YOUNG FOLK.

If you want to go over Josh's bio and credits, he's got a neat Wikipedia page that fills in all the blanks. He's a nice guy. Family man. Solid citizen. Bandmate. But like many of us, Josh has a soft spot for something that wrecked him as a kid – a form of music that would not go of him. And Josh was able to capitalize on his opportunities and good fortune and share that form of music with listeners; in modern formats as well as vinyl. YOUNG FOLK delves into the culture of the second generation of folk music. This is not your grandfather's Woody Guthrie collection, it's your parents' Sharon, Lois, and Bram records.

As you might expect from an inaugural release, Josh sets his parameters on the basic notions of family, playtime, and imagination. "Eat Your Vegetables" fills in the blanks for some category of nourishment that every child avoids at some point. "Your Love Is On My Heart" is a sweet ballad to banish the most fearful bedroom apparition. "More Time With You," featuring Nashville singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb, is a wistful reminiscence delighting in all that's right in the world about parenting.

Paraphasing HL Mencken, "nobody ever got rich singing children's music," which is one reason you've heard of only a handful of performers. Pursuing music as a vocation indicates character. Pursuing children's music as a career indicates you're a character. On the other side of the picket fence, I've seen Grammy nominated artists attempt to crossover, only to flounder or look ridiculous. Josh, however, "has been in training to be a children's music artist his whole life," according to Rolling Stone contributing writer Rob Tannenbaum, on the back cover notes (back cover notes!!!) for the record.

YOUNG FOLK is a family affair, with Josh being joined on vocals by son Henry (and infant Margo) and wife Whitney, who also provides flute on "You're My Very Best Friend." You get a full-throated glorious chorus singing "I believe in a brand new day" as the refrain on "Climb A Tree." And if you're looking for gospel, there's a twangy sincerity to hometown boy Josh singing "Going to Knoxville" with the Spirit Family ReunionBen Rector provides vocals for the seriously silly "A Bear in the Woods (Ate My Underwear)" and Sharon and Bram guest on the weepy "Sing a Song for Me":

Daddy won't you sing a sing for me
You take the lead and I'll take the harmony
I've been waiting for you to come back home
So grab your guitar, strum along
Daddy won't you sing a song for me

In a world that struggles to celebrate diversity while the most vulnerable are persecuted, I ponder the future for YOUNG FOLK. Josh has a full schedule on his plate, with his day job in  NEEDTOBREATHE and its upcoming tour. It's also tough to advocate for continuing his passion project without the backing of much more than SiriusXM Kids Place Live and a host of outlier radio programs and podcasts devoted to children's music. Once again, the bottom line comes from the mouths of babes. Whenever I find myself on the other side of that picket fence, I am reminded that this music is not primarily for me. Yes, I derive the "purchasing power." But true parenting comes from sitting – in the front seat or in the living room – and listening to actual young folk enjoying a record like YOUNG FOLK. Since I've pursued reviewing children's music as a secondary vocation, that indicates I'm a character. Do you have enough character to schedule a playdate with YOUNG FOLK?

YOUNG FOLK is available from Josh Lovelace's website, Amazon, Apple Music, and Spotify.

Here is the video for the song, "Eat Your Vegetables":