Thursday, April 18, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 19, 2019

Leaders Of The World – Renee & Friends
Doing a Stretch – Randy Kaplan
Clown Shoes – Ratboy Jr.
I Spy – Ants Ants Ants
You Can Get It If You Really Want – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Can You Sing? – Dan Zanes
Anything For You My Love – Caspar Babypants

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Curious Ecology of Ants on a Log

Music activism is a calling and a cause. Think of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Raffi. Wait a minute... Raffi? Yes, the beloved children's recording artist has spent the past 30 years building his "Child Honouring" program for educational purposes. Even Dan Zanes used his platform as a kindie visionary to promote community involvement and inclusion. Now Philly's Ants on a Long (Julie Beth and Anya Rose) have gone a step further and produced CURIOUS: THINK OUTSIDE THE PIPELINE!, a "climate musical" that is essentially a full-length episode of "Schoolhouse Rock."

First performed in 2016 as a theater piece (with a cast of 12), CURIOUS tells the story of sisters Clio and Taylor as they encounter pollution, inept government, and how to organize a community behind a cause. Their family moves to an industrial town where Taylor's chronic asthma is exacerbated and neighbors suffer from similar ailments. The old refinery wants to expand and they surmise these things are related ("Is This Normal?").  Grammy winner Lucy Kalantari guests as the "old wise woman" who clues them in that the Internet has some answers. They overhear two businessmen talk about changing rules (i.e., laws) to make money at the expense of people ("Make It Big!") and Google for answers ("Research"). This leads to writing letters, visiting City Hall, and using social media to engage the neighborhood.

CURIOUS covers all the bases, from kids wondering if they can enact change ("Anyone Can Write a Letter?") to frustration with the existing system ("The Man in Charge (Is Useless)") and ultimately a happy ending with big business and government acting in tandem (when does that happen?).

Anya and Julie continue to perform and educate, using their music as a platform for dissemination of information through entertainment and youth audience engagement. CURIOUS won't fix the world, but it just might open a few pairs of young eyes and get some kids to ask "How can I change something" other than the YouTube channel they're watching.

CURIOUS is available on April 19 on Ants on a Log's website and Amazon.

Here is the video for the duo's song, "Air and Space":

Monday, April 15, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Shine On – Dan Zanes
Stars – Ants Ants Ants
Anything Can Be A Hat – Ratboy Jr.
Super Fragile World – Renee & Friends
That's My Style – The Bazillions
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Under the Big Umbrella – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 15, 2019

The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Smile For Me – David Tobocman
How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Harmony With You – Jack Forman
It Hurts Me Too (Sitting on Top of the World) – Randy Kaplan
El Sol Te Siga -the Lucky Band – The Lucky Band

Friday, April 12, 2019

Quick Hit: Angela James Delivers On Quiet Nights

In some ways, I miss the days when my kids napped. Because now, they are older and complain when I want to nap. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate a good lullaby or point overwhelmed recent parents in the direction of such sweet netherworld whisperings. Chicago-based musician Angela James enters the calming fray with QUIET NIGHT, made for weary parents by weary parents.

By its definition, a lullaby is supposed to put a child to sleep. Weary adults, however, must pair off if one of them is going to attempt to stick the landing of taming a tantrumming child while operating a driving vehicle (sedan or SUV). James provides eight tunes, with the lilting and descriptive titles of "Goodnight, My Honey" and "Sweetest Bird," for those occasions when your little darling is acting like a sleep-deprived little monster.

QUIET NIGHT sprang forth from musical improvisation, instrumentation, and postpartum depression. Oh, what a dreamy triplex. And indeed, with collaboration from the experimental musical community, James found solace while raising her newborn daughter, Hattie. The mid-to-low range tunes deliver you to a stealthy dreamworld while opening the doors to imagination and classical music. Dreams are our nightly voyages into ourselves and there's nothing to fear, James coos into impressionable young minds. You will believe a crabby baby can sleep. As well as an even crabbier parent. Prepare for many a quiet night.

QUIET NIGHT is available from Angela James' website.

Here is the video for Angela's song, "Saling":

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 12, 2019

Watching You Grow – Frances England Boogie Chillen – Randy Kaplan Hey Face – Ratboy Jr. Hanukkah Rocks – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could Disco Hippo – Caspar Babypants Have Some Fun Out There – David Tobocman Dozen Good Reasons – Danny Weinkauf

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Renee & Friends Stay Kind and Collaborative

Renee Stahl Dektor has some pretty awesome friends. When they drop by and open their mouths, you'd better sit back and listen. They're totally apolitical and totally tuneful. Renee & Friends' new CD, KINDRED, features Grammy winners Lisa Loeb and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo among the hoi polloi.

It's the second release that started with 2016's SIMPATICO, a similarly-themed collection of family-oriented soft pop songs with a modern spin. KINDRED's "Leaders Of The World" features a rap break that name-drops Peter Yarrow and Frida Kahlo by Skidoo. Renee also reunited Loeb and Lisa's college roommate Elizabeth Mitchell to sing the classic "High Hopes."

Jeremy Toback and Renee began recording children's music more than a decade ago (as Renee & Jeremy). That collaboration morphed into "& Friends" as they brought in talented personnel to augment their song selection. These gentle, engaging ballads are seductively simple – the nostalgic duet ("Where Do The Children Play?") by Renee and Ziggy Marley reinvents Cat Stevens' original recording, which holds a secret message about society and freedom:

Will you make us laugh?
Will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live?
Will you tell us when to die?

I know we've come a long way.
We're changing day to day.
But tell me, where do the children play?

Most of all, KINDRED allows Renee to sing praises about her children (daughters Amelia and Isadora make their debuts on the CD). "Nothing And No One" affirms "everything is how it's supposed to be" for her family, while closer "How Did You Get So?" wistfully describes every parents' lament about the fleeting nature of childhood. Whether you're a parent, a future parent, or a parent adjacent, KINDRED should strike a genuine chord of recognition for its emphatic declaration of kindie-dependence.

KINDRED is available April 12 from Renee & Friends' website, Amazon, Apple Music, Soundcloud, and Spotify.

Here is the video for Renee & Friends' song, "You Were Meant to Be," featuring Glenn Phillips (from Toad the Wet Sprocket):

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Me And You – Caspar Babypants
Perfect Tuesday Afternoon – Frances England
El Corazon – The Lucky Band
Boogie Chillen – Randy Kaplan
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
Inside I Shine – Danny Weinkauf

Monday, April 01, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Shake It and Break It – Randy Kaplan
Inkpot – Kepi Ghoulie
Taco Tuesday – The Lucky Band
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
Summer's Here – The Bazillions
#Goals – Jack Forman
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones

The Lucky Band Says Buenos Diaz With New Music

Happiness is contagious. I write these words sitting with a housebound child getting over a cold. Hence, he too is contagious. But he'll get better soon (I hope I hope I hope) while Lucky Diaz will never, never stop being contagious. His music, I mean. Such is BUENOS DIAZ, the latest release from the newly-rebranded The Lucky Band.

Latin Grammy (and Emmy) winner Diaz, wife Alisha Gaddis, and a space-age flock of contributors (including Andrew & Polly and Nathalia) have produced a new collection of bilingual ballads and danceable ditties for children of many ages. BUENOS DIAZ opens with (naturally) "Buenos Dias," to greet newcomers and returning fans alike. "Wake Up" follows, ironically not the (eye) opening track on the CD. "Nacho Song" tells the totally true comic story of Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, the man who created serving nacho cheese over chips.

"Taco Tuesday" is bound to be a perennial favorite on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live and even ends with a riff from "Funkytown." The xylophonic "Zapatitos" delights in shoes, don't you know. "Como Se Dice?" is full of call-and-respond translations of basic English-Spanish words and phrases, such as "good morning" and "taco" (no big surprise there).

Xenophobic parents who are put off by song titles such as "El Corazon" and "El Sol Te Siga" (a cover of a Pianosaurus song) don't know what they're missing. Luckily, that's what audio samples are good for on streaming sites. For those of us who've met Lucky (in person or through his previous releases), these 11 songs generate multi-culture good will and good times. What else should you expect from über-producer Dean Jones (Dog On Fleas and dozens of other CDs)?

The world has finally got wise to The Lucky Band. Last year, the group added China to their touring checklist and they're headed to Tokyo and Shanghai in April. If they're not coming to your city any time soon, you can still say BUENOS DIAZ in two languages and enjoy their distinctive, upbeat música.

BUENOS DIAZ is available April 5 from the Lucky Band's website, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the video for their song, "Taco Tuesday":