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: