Thursday, April 30, 2020

Quick Hits: New Video from Berkner and Brady; Wendy & DB's Big World

Long Island's Brady Rymer has been a proponent of special needs and children with disabilities over the course of his career as a kid's musician. His 2011 album, LOVE ME FOR WHO I AM, was dedicated to the concerns and triumphs of spectrum children and their families. Brady serves double duty as the leader of the Little Band That Could as well as bass player for the Laurie Berkner Band. For Autism Awareness Month, he and Laurie have teamed up for a version of his song, "Soft Things." Shot 'low tech' from their respective shelters-in-place, the video was edited by their children, Lucy, Gus, and Daisy.

Wendy Morgan and Darryl Boggs (Wendy and DB) are back with a new album of kindie empowerment songs from their base in Chicago. HEY BIG WORLD contains 15 mostly original songs covering the environment, childhood fears, rules, animals, and education.

A sprightly cover of "Let's Go Fly A Kite" turns any car ride into an instant singalong. "Giralephant" creates a fantastic new creature but also teaches a lesson about different and not fitting in. However, the next track goes right back to a more obvious message, "Stop For the Red Light." Wendy and DB have sincere concerns, know their audience, and delight in spreading their messages of love, inclusion, and peace. The CD is dedicated to DB's mother Addy, who passed away last year at the age of 95.  If you buy a physical copy of the CD (a novel idea these days), HEY BIG WORLD comes with an illustrated booklet with the lyrics to every song.

Ten percent of sales from HEY BIG WORLD go towards two charities – Jumpstart, which provides language, literacy, and social-emotional programming for preschool children from under-resourced communities and A Better Life for Kids, based on Ghana, Africa, which purchases food, medicine, and other essential supplies and equipment for the babies and children and funds education and literacy programs.

HEY BIG WORLD is available from Amazon and Apple Music.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Ben's #StaySafe Playlist - Thursday, April 30, 2020

All I Have To Do Is Dream – The Everly Brothers
All Star – Andrew & Polly
Early Bird – The Okee Dokee Brothers
hidin' and seekin' – caspar babypants
It's A Wonderful Life – Kepi Ghoulie
A Song that Makes Me Happy – Danny Weinkauf
I Had to Pee (On a Ferris Wheel) – Jack Forman

Debut of New Danny Weinkauf Video, Chibi Kodama Music

Danny Weinkauf (and his Red Pants Band cohorts, including lead vocalist Tina Kenny-Jones) have released a stop-motion video for "Dinosaurs on Roller Skates," the first track of his new CD, DINOSAURS AND METAPHORS. The video is the work of college freshman Madison Durand, a student of Tim Labonte (a Red Pants Band fan who created the band's “Cast My Vote” and “Tricycle” videos). According to Danny, Madison was learning basic animation and started working with him  back in high school. This is her third video for the band, after "Eyes in the Back of Her Head” and “Only One You":

John Cullimore's family band project Chibi Kodama is back with fresh music. Here's the new track released in 2020, "Energy." The song is about feeling comfortable in your own skin:

I don’t owe you a thing
And I don’t care if you like the way I sing the song of my life
It’s just me being me being me
I like what I am
I don’t have to pay any dues to anybody
Or earn the right to stand
It’s just me being me being me

Listen, pay for the download, and share the song here:

Monday, April 27, 2020

Ben's StaySafe Playlist - Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Clown Shoes - Ratboy Jr.
Hope Machine - The Okee Dokee Brothers
Mother Earth - Joanie Leeds
Perfect Day - Danny Weinkauf
termite - caspar babypants
Wake Up Little Susie - The Everly Brothers
With a Little Help From My Friends - Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Leaping and Learning With Jumpin' Jamie

Being a kid can make you want to scream. Or bounce up and down. Or bang your head (into a pillow, let's not get carried away here). Jumpin' Jamie (Jamie Theurich) knows how your kids feel and conveys their sentiments with the hard-charging, power pop tunes on his latest collection, NEVER MIND THE BLOCKS, HERE'S JUMPIN' JAMIE. And yes, bonus points if you think "That cover looks familiar."

The album roars to a start with an audio clip of esteemed teen influencer Greta Thunberg, leading into "Greta Says," which sets the tone for fun and games with almond milk, cookies, and enlightenment, with a chorus of "Wake up, stop stealing our future! We haven't enough time! The planet's on the line!" The following track, "I Don't Wanna Dance" kicks out the jams for individuality and not being ashamed of how the music makes you move.

As an activist, Jamie wears many hats. The country-flavored "Same As You And Me" is about how cow's milk is for cows and there are plenty of dairy-free alternatives. I defy you to stand still during the straight-out raving "Honesty Is the Best Policy." He channels Devo and Men Without Hats on "Stand Up," quoting some Patti Smith "People Have The Power" at the end of the song. And "Whistleblower" indirectly addresses current Washington, DC

When something isn't right, blow that whistle blow
Let it out and fight the good fight, blow that whistle blow
You should just know there are consequences, blow that whistle blow
When you let it out, it's the only defenses, blow that whistle blow

Jamie continues the trend of promoting female role models. Joanie Leeds celebrated Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her 2020 release, ALL THE LADIES. Jamie sings the story of "Susan B. Anthony" and the women's voting suffragette movement. A big booster of free thinking and social justice, Jamie channels the rage of his punk and hard rock role models into messages of affirmation and personal growth. Kids will like Jumpin' Jamie because the music fun and loud and they can sing the hooks. There's an underlying dynamism that propels NEVER MIND THE BLOCKS to unanticipated, spirited heights. You're gonna rock out with your juice box out.

NEVER MIND THE BLOCKS, HERE'S JUMPIN' JAMIE is available from Jamie's website, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the video for the debut single, "I Don't Wanna Dance":

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Ben's Sheltering Playlist - Wednesday, April 22, 2020

All The Ladies – Joanie Leeds
baby's driving a car – caspar babypants
Even When....  – Ratboy Jr.
Garden of Your Mind – Andrew & Polly
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
Stars – Ants Ants Ants
That's What a Song Is – Jack Forman

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Ben's COVD Playlist - Monday, April 20, 2020

the ants go marching – caspar babypants
El Corazon – The Lucky Band
Flexible Brain – Ratboy Jr.
If Girls Ruled The World – Joanie Leeds
Thank You For Being You – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
Your Love is a Metaphor – Danny Weinkauf
The Sun Comes Up Again –  Jack Forman

Friday, April 17, 2020

Danny Weinkauf: Dinosaurs, Metaphors, and Red Pants

Hang on, you're not going anywhere. Neither are your kids. What's a parent to do in these turbulent times? How about giving your family more than 30 minutes of peppy, poppy, and preppy children's music? Danny Weinkauf and his Red Pants Band have released their fifth – yes, fifth – collection of tunes, DINOSAURS AND METAPHORS. Your sons and daughters may know about oversized, extinct creatures, but Danny and company introduce them to the latter concept.

A man who wears many hats, Danny plays bass for They Might Be Giants, who themselves put out a fistful of children's music CDs. Danny's tracks from those releases piqued his interest in furthering a sideline as a kids' recording artist. That brings us to DINOSAURS AND METAPHORS, with its 15 songs delivering direct messages. For instance, the moral of "Don't Want a Haircut" is "hey that wasn't bad." Similarly, "A Song That Makes Me Happy" is so infectious to the point that my kids were joining in by the second chorus. Which is the point. Of the song.

Danny pulls out a scratchy Louis Armstrong impression for "I've Got the Hiccups All Day." He fancies flatulence in the stink-tacular "Cut the Cheese." Homeschooled kids will find humor in the (now nostalgic) heavily ironic "Hooray It's Monday!" Former music composer Alf Clausen of The Simpsons receives a tribute on "Homer, Danny, and Alf." Danny conducts a perfect round (think "Row Row Row Your Boat") on "Boy with a Hole in his Heart" featuring bandmate Tina Kenny-Jones:

There once was a boy with a hole in his heart
Who felt like his world was falling apart
Then one day a bird sang a song from above
And the hole in his heart was filled up with love

Tina shares harmonies and delivers powerful lead vocals on many tracks, including "Lovely Lazy Saturday Morn" and "Dinosaurs on Rollerskates." The Red Pants Band trio is rounded out by drummer Steve Plesnarski, in the event we get to attend live concert events again in the future.

A child's world is a complicated place and Danny Weinkauf likes to poke around its nooks and crannies, like an english muffin with dripping jelly. With DINOSAURS AND METAPHORS, Danny  scrutinizes the mundane and the metaphysical from a kid's frame of reference and wraps everything in a handy dandy, enjoyable package.

DINOSAURS AND METAPHORS is available from Danny Weinkauf's website, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the lyric video for the new song, "Your Love Is A Metaphor":

Monday, April 13, 2020

Joanie Leeds Assembles All the Ladies

The overall theme of Joanie Leeds' anthemic new release, ALL THE LADIES, is optimism. She wants change, not in her daughter's lifetime, but her lifetime, and that shines through on her first collection in nearly three years. 

The genesis of ALL THE LADIES (which we discussed in a lengthy Q&A) came post-divorce. While booking more performance as a solo artist, Joanie became aware she was culpable of surrounding herself with mostly male backup performers, to the detriment of an extraordinary collection of female artists in her extended children's music community. With assistance from Grammy winner/producer Lucy Kalantari, Joanie assembled a post-feminist Murderer's Row of performers, including Lisa Loeb (also a Grammy winner for children's music), Suzi Shelton, Sonia de los SantosCarly Ciarrocchi, Chava Mirel, and more.

The themes on ALL THE LADIES go remarkably deep for "children's music," including forays into divorce ("Rosie Darling"), gender inequality ("Half of the World"), and even miscarriages ("For You"). There's also an historical ode to Brooklyn's own Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ("RBG"). Joanie uses a deft touch, and the messages are not so heavy-handed that you feel compelled to switch to gangster rap on Spotify for less offensive material. The pro-life proponents will have have a hard time even reading the second meaning into the lyrics of "For You":

You don't understand how much I hoped for
A little girl like you who I could love more
And more with each rising sun
'Cause one smile had come undone

The primal mother-daughter bond is especially fierce with Joanie, sparking songs such as "Lioness," "Every Mother," and the sonic ballad "Beautiful" (not the Christina Aguilera tune). "If Girls Ruled the World" marches ALL THE LADIES into feminism and finishes with an all-star choir on "Half of the World" calling for unity, peace, and harmony.

Joanie is putting her money where her mouth is, sparking change in national culture in favor of women's rights. A percentage of the Sound Exchange royalties for ALL THE LADIES go to the National Women’s Law Center, which fights for gender justice by driving change in the courts, in public policy, and in society, especially for women facing multiple forms of discrimination.

Children's music is a breeding ground (excuse the current global situation) for engaging young minds with ideas and possibilities. ALL THE LADIES strives to transform that potential into actual change, with Joanie enlightening listeners that all children are created equal, even if progress happens one song at a time.

ALL THE LADIES is available from Amazon and Apple Music

Here is the video for the title track, "All The Ladies":

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Quick Hits: Ben Rudnick Attacks COVID, Dancing With Jumpin' Jamie

Ben Rudnick knows that kids can get stressed. And the best/worst time to stress is when the world is in disorder (a better kid-friendly term than chaos). To address those issues, he has released a new song called "Monster No." In this gentle acoustic tune, coronavirus becomes the monster who can be vanquished through hand washing, wearing a mask, and sheltering in place. You can stream (and purchase) the song through Soundcloud:

Individuality is celebrated by Jumpin' Jamie on his latest single, "I Don't Wanna Dance (Just Like Everyone)" from his upcoming release, NEVER MIND THE BLOCKS. You have your own special moves and 'tude on the dance floor? Then let's see some of your moves. Here's the video:

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Do the Five With Brady Rymer; Flor Bromley Celebrates Fiesta

Rules, rules, rules. That's all kids face with sheltering in place and homeschooling. Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could have now crafted a song to help make following health rules a bit more entertaining for kids. The "Do the Five" campaign inspired both his tune and video (featuring his daughter, Daisy). Follow these five important health tips and learn the dance at the same time:

1. (Hands) Wash them often
2. (Elbow) Cough into it
3. (Face) Don't touch it
4. (Space) Keep safe distance
5. (Home) Stay if you can

Diverse Latin American influences permeate Flor Bromley's newest offering, FlESTA GLOBAL. You will become familiar with Peruvian marinera, Mexican son jarocho, Brazilian batacuda, and Colombian cumbia. Just when you think you know a song like "La Bamba," Flor and collaborator Claudia Vega deliver a rousing new version.

Flor stresses bilingual fun as she tours through South America to discover where these rhythms were born, accompanied by her band, Sinuhé Padilla, George Sáenz, and Raphael Torn. Flor already released a "bonus" single of the song "Superhero" in English, but the CD contains the Peruvian version that she would have sung in her native country.

Flor performs bilingual shows throughout the tristate area (with her sidekick Kitty). Her agreeable style and infectious attitude shine on tracks like the pro-immigration "We Came to America," the Dixieland swing track "Balloon Party" with Jazzy Ash, and the Columbian ode to friendship, "Lalalalalá" with 123 Andres. Come for the celebration, stick around and possibly learn about world culture.

FIESTA GLOBAL will be released on April 24 on Apple Music and Amazon.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Ben's #StayHome Playlist - Friday, April 3, 2020

Give You a Call – Jack Forman
Helicopter Leaves – Ants Ants Ants
Inside I Shine – Danny Weinkauf
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
That's My Style – The Bazillions
Word Association – Dog On Fleas
You Can Get It If You Really Want – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could