Thursday, June 27, 2019

Cowboy Andy and Salamanders' Spring for New Music

What's in the water in Montana? More to the point, around Missoula, home of kindie's own Cowboy Andy and the Salamanders? For Toy Story fans who remember Andy as the kid and Woody as the cowboy, it's a new morsel added to the "Salamanders" nomenclature. But it's the same brand of infectious fun from the western badlands.

Recently rebranded with frontman Andrew Hunt, the band's new PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR continues the dual messages of "fun" and "for everyone." If you've ever wondered how to get an Iggy Pop song onto children's radio, Andy has cracked that nut with a cover of "The Passenger," complete with sound effects and Andy keeping his shirt on. Fun fact: David Bowie sang backup vocals on the original tune. Not on the Salamanders' version, but your kids won't mind and neither will you.

"The Letter Why" asks and answers many common questions from youngsters, including "Why do I have to do what you say?" and "Why do songs always have to rhyme?" The instrumental "Already Great" comes with the lyrics on the CD sleeve (sorry, song downloaders). And you can use them to translate the Spanish version, "Tu Eres Lo Más Preciado," which is also on the release:

But you, my little one, you are not to blame.
And if you hear someone, who speaks with anger or hate
Remember, my child, you don't need to change.
Because deep inside, you're already great.

Cowboy Andy and crew look for different ways to interact with their audience and PUT YOUR ARMS IN THE AIR! is more than the typical call and response CD. There's storytelling ("Mom Only Counts To Three"), characters and comedy sketches ("Bowl Of Eggs" and "Countdown"), and just plain rocking out ("Snow!"). Kids across the country are not much different from yours and mine, the band sings, and that goes not just for Montana and the whole U.S., but this whole crazy world. PUT YOUR ARMS IN THE AIR! and join the amphibian merrymaking.

PUT YOUR ARMS IN THE AIR! is available from Cowboy Andy and the Salamanders' website, Bandcamp, Spotify, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the video of the band performing the title track, "Put Your Arms In the Air!":

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Ben's Graduation Playlist - Thursday, June 20, 2019

Anything For You My Love – Caspar Babypants
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Clown Shoes – Ratboy Jr.
Dozen Good Reasons – Danny Weinkauf
The Grasshopper – The Shake Ups
The Letter Why – Cowboy Andy And The Salamanders
Taco Tuesday – The Lucky Band

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Quick Hits: New Videos from Pointed Man Band, Ants On a Log

Dan Elliott's Pointed Man Band has released the first video for "Go!," a song from their new CD, AMONGST THE TALL TREES. Filmed, produced, and animated by Portland filmmaker Ben Popp (Noiseonfilm), the video enhances the dreamlike quality of the tune with children frollicking amongst illustrated and actual trees.

View "Go" for yourself and find the CD at Pointed Man Band's website:

Ants on a Log continue to challenge children with their music and educational lyrics. The video for "Air and Space" from their CD, CURIOUS: THINK OUTSIDE THE PIPELINE! is just out. And here it is! With dancing sock puppets!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Anything Can Be A Hat – Ratboy Jr.
Friendship Burrito – The Shake Ups
Helicopter Leaves – Ants Ants Ants
Me And You – Caspar Babypants
Mom Only Counts To Three – Cowboy Andy And The Salamanders
Thank You For Being You – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Monday, June 17, 2019

Disco Hippo – Caspar Babypants
New Pair Of Shoes – The Bazillions
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
Put Your Arms In The Air – Cowboy Andy And The Salamanders
Sunshine On My Shoulders – John Denver
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Quick Hits: 123 Andrés Teaches Alphabet, New Little Miss Ann Video

Nobody remembers the first time they heard the "Alphabet Song," but everybody knows it. It's just ingrained in world culture, something that transcends language barriers. 123 Andrés, comprised of the husband-wife team of Andrés Salguero and Christina Sanabria, don't cover the Alphabet Song on their new CD, CANTA LAS LETRAS, but it's not really missed.

Crafted as a musical learning tool for children to learn letters and letter sounds in Spanish, CANTA LAS LETRAS focuses on cheerful rhythms and melodies. The CD resulted from the partnership between 123 Andrés and curriculum designer Benchmark Education Company. The songs and their accompanying videos will be used in dual-language classrooms across the country this fall. So prepare yourself for more than a little repetition, as the 26 basic tracks all start the same way. "Hola Christina...." "Hola, Andrés..."

The 38 tracks (yes, 38 Spanish tracks) teach each individual letter, soft and hard letter sounds (C and G) as well as diagraphs and consonant blends. For basic reading and instructional purposes, 123 Andrés are right there to provide a friendly, comfortable lesson plan. As opposed to some other recent kid's music from Nathalia and Alina Celeste, CANTA LAS LETRAS is not really a bilingual release – this hour-plus of music and alphabet is strictly Spanish, so plan accordingly.

CANTRA LAS LETRAS is available from 123Andrés' website, Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon.

Little Miss Ann (and friend Amy D) are back with a new video for "The Senses Song," which teaches children about each of the five senses (as well as some alphabet letters that correspond to each sense):

I hear, I hear with my ears.
So many things to hear, start with the letter M
Like music and mama's boys, mockingbirds and melodies
Come listen with me.

It's been a few years since the last Little Miss Ann CD, and this track may be a hint of things to come. "The Senses Song" was guided by the steady hand of über-producer Dean Jones, so you're guaranteed good sound quality.

Here is the video for Little Miss Ann and Amy D's "The Senses Song":

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Scooby Snacks All Around for The Shake Ups

Some people think cartoons are for kids. Never mind that The Simpsons is the longest-running show in prime time television, and that if you've watched it continually, you could start as a toddler and now be considered middle aged.

The Shake Ups, on the other hand, have fully embraced their inner cartoon-loving spirits. Although the band formed in 2008, it wasn't until 2013 that their passion overcame their musical inhibitions. Listen, name one other band that's recorded four full-length albums devoted to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

Their latest release, MEDDLING KIDS, shows a lot of love to Hanna-Barbera's seminal series, SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? as evidenced by the title track, a cover of the theme song, and "Mystery, Incorporated," which runs down the characteristics of each of the Scooby Gang. But wait, there's more, including peppy pop tunes about He-Man and She-Ra ("By the Power of Grayskull" and the more acoustic "For the Honor of Grayskull"). Shaggy even gets a tender ballad about his culinary prowess, "Cosmic Sandwiches":

You would shake his hand, but he's too sublime
With butter he can cut like a hot knife
Caught all Pokemon using a landline
He can swim on land so now I must remind you
Of course you know who I mean
The one with stubble, in green

The Shake Ups are not afraid to stir some ridiculous notions into their mix. "Robot Arm" describes what life would be like with mechanical appendages. You may think purple, but no, the song title is "(Laughing in the) Pizza Rain." And the chorus of "Friendship Burrito" declares, "I'll never let you go, my little burrito."

It takes dedication and a straight face to deliver music this deliriously proud of its origins. MEDDLING KIDS is the right sort of festive bombast that Scooby-Doo deserves, as the show celebrates its 50th (!!!) anniversary in 2019. The Gang has outlived Casey Kasem (who provided the original voices for Shaggy and Scooby) and its indelible legacy includes the cliché catch phrase ("And I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you.... meddling kids"). To the contrary, the Shake Ups happily get away with it.

MEDDLING KIDS is available from The Shake Ups' websiteApple Music, CDBABY, and Amazon.

Here is the video for the song, "Meddling Kids":

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Jessa Campbell and the Saplings Feel the World

There's a fine line between precocious and precious. Musicians with a Message (that's a capital M) have to tread lightly to avoid turning off kids or alienating parents who suspect an agenda. Portland's Jessa Campbell and the Saplings want to be your conservation-loving friends on their new album, CAN YOU FEEL IT. Like the kid who brings full-size cupcakes and goodie bags for his school birthday party, they just need to try a little less hard.

CAN YOU FEEL IT started as a commissioned project from Oregon's "Wonders of Nature" class at the Village Home learning center, which provides curriculum for homeschooling families. There's definitely an alternative feel to the music, led by the glorious lead vocals and harmonies of the title track. Campbell's career spans Talking Heads tribute bands to opera to theatrical pop. Now she's taking the plunge into the two-foot-tall section of the musical community with these nine tunes.

Nature is all around us, and music as well. On such numbers as "How I Love You Sun" and the doo-wop tinged "Water Worth," you don't hear Campbell breaking a sweat. But the science-themed "Waltz of Trillium and Ant" is a mouthful and you can hear the gears grinding on "Fractals." The band does better on "Shadow Doo Dah," (a reworking of "O Susanna") and the countrified "The Great Happening." A highlight is the steel pedal guitar anthem/lullaby "Goodnight Pacific Northwest," which closes the album and makes smart use of simple, comforting repetition:

Goodnight little one
Goodnight, sleep child
Time to dream, time to sleep
Just like me
I'll be sleeping

CAN YOU FEEL IT brought forth memories of San Francisco's Charity and the JAMBand, who have promoted similar causes and sentiments for more than 15 years. At times they have sidestepped the same obstacles. It's a balancing act but then again, many adults find ourselves caught up in the conflicts between personal freedoms and the stifling policies of the current administration. Jessa Campbell and the Saplings know there's a big world out there; they're hoping your family wants to go play outside.

CAN YOU FEEL IT is available on June 7 from Jessa Campbell and the Saplings' website, Apple Music, and Amazon.

Here is the video for the song, "How I Love You Sun":

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Monday, June 3, 2019

How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Little Bit of Time – Like Father Like Son
Put Your Arms In The Air – Cowboy Andy And The Salamanders
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Friendship Burrito – The Shake Ups
In My Nintendo – Jack Forman