Made in LA Performed by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band

The newest album from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band,¬†Made in LA, is a joyous celebration of their home base, Los Angeles. Joined by fellow children’s artists Mista Cookie Jar, Andrew and Polly and Frances England, Diaz and his wife Lishy Lou (Alisha Gaddis) create a great mix of songs specific to LA as well as those that are easily relatable to children no matter where they live.

A delightful picture of LA is painted with songs such as the airy “Silver Lake Stairs,” the ethereal “Echo Park,” and the kindie rock “Fiesta De La Brea.” The title track “Made in LA” includes shout outs to all of the people and things that make LA, L.A. and contains uplifting lyrics such as, “Hey-ey we are made in LA. We come from different places but come together as one.” And then there is “Paletero Man,” a catchy tune about the Mexican ice cream man selling frozen treats from his push cart. Check out this article from Billboard about this bilingual immigrant anthem and take a look at the video below.

The tracks “Traffic” (which there is a LOT of in LA) and “When It Rained” (which happens so seldom, it’s mythical) really resonated with me after having visited LA for the first time this past February. Coming from the depths of a Chicago winter, I was really looking forward to the warmth of California. In my vacation state of mind, I wondered, how bad could traffic in LA be? And then we landed.

Welcome to sunny California! Enjoy the 2.5 hour, rainy drive to your hotel. (Don’t worry LA, I shall return some day! ūüôā )

Along with all of the love for LA, there is lots of general fun to be had on this album as well. The earworm “L+A,” the story of the 12th letter and the first letter of the alphabet pairing up, will have you singing the chorus all day long. And with hard driving beats that accompany lyrics like, “I got the peanut butter, so don’t be jelly, jelly,” it’s impossible to not sing along to the Lucky/Mista Cookie Jar collaboration, “Jelly.”

No matter where you live, this album will be in high demand from every member of the family!

World Premiere – “Eh La Bas” performed by Jazzy Ash

Debuting on Friday, July 21,¬†Swing Set is the follow-up to Jazzy Ash’s fantastic album,¬†Bon Voyage¬†(2015). Each track on¬†Swing Set¬†is at least 90 years old and found a place on the album after years of research by Jazzy Ash regarding early recordings and songbooks of African-American music. With her new arrangements for a modern generation, the songs and rhymes on this album will be enjoyed by children of all ages.

 

 

In the studio

Premiering today is “Eh La Bas,” the debut single from¬†Swing Set.¬†A traditional New¬†Orleans song that was originally sung in Creole, it was later translated into French, and is performed here with additional verses in English. The video is shot in the recording studio which gives a fun mini-behind-the-scenes look at how a song is recorded, while capturing all the joy of Jazzy Ash and the musicians as they perform the tune. A choir of children is also in the studio and provides a depth to the call and response chorus.¬†Beware, “Eh La Bas” is infectious and may cause spontaneous sing-a-longs to occur. A great kick-off to a fantastic album! Enjoy!!

 

 

Bubbles performed by The Salamanders

The Salamanders are back with the follow-up to their 2015 self-titled debut album,¬†The Salamanders.¬†This positive-thinking, Missoula-based quartet (Matthew Nord, Cowboy Andy, Russ Gay, and Antonio Alvarez) use their veritable skills as performers to once again offer up an album of songs that are enjoyable and empowering. Cowboy Andy, who wears two hats in the group, is responsible for the clever lyrics and original melodies in this collection that is billed as rock ‘n’ roll, but often has hints at other genres like the touch of Cajun in “Poppy” and the smooth jazz trumpet in “The Cat.” Parents will appreciate the messages of tracks like “Let’s Sing a Song” which celebrates everyone’s sameness and talks about the fact that even though we may look different,¬†“We all like snacks and cuddles, we all like playing games/We all like to be hugged and loved, tucked in our bed at night.”¬†The title track, “Bubbles,” is a soft, gentle song that addresses the issue of not everything in life lasting forever, that many things are temporary…like bubbles. While there are important lessons to be learned on this album, there is also plenty of fun to be had. The song “Golly G. Gus” is a great tune to sing along to, while silliness abounds on a pirate ship at Christmastime in “Pirate Santa” and in the cautionary tale about a brush with fame in “Matt Damon Magnetized Me.” Share this one with the families at your library who are looking for something new.

“Mozartistic” – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

How do you make classical music cool? Or, is it cool already? I think it’s all a matter of perspective. Way back when I was in fifth grade, I thought playing in the orchestra was going to be cool. I was lured in to playing the cello by a high schooler who played “The Pink Panther Theme Song” on his. From the first note of that iconic tune, I knew the cello was the instrument for me.

One thing they failed to tell little fifth grade me however, was that the cello very rarely plays the melody. In fact, when we finally played “The Pink Panther Theme Song” in eighth grade, it was the violins, not¬†the cellos who got to play that most famous tune. Not cool. But, that was ok because I had grown to love the cello and orchestra really suited me. I was a quiet, shy, child so it was a perfect fit. If you wanted to have fun, join the marching band. If you wanted to be “cool” play the trumpet or join the drum line. If you wanted to be a serious musician, play in the orchestra. Sure they tried to make the music “fun” by having us play orchestra arrangements of pop songs, but in the end we were still a bunch of sedate girls in long black skirts and geeky boys in bow ties playing a screechy arrangement of a Peter Cetera song. Cool? I don’t think so.

Luckily, over the years classical music has undergone an image makeover as musicians like violinist Vanessa Mae in the 90’s and more recently pianist Lang Lang and the 2Cellos have built images and fan bases that used to be reserved for rock stars. They dress cool, look cool and rock out on their instruments in ways rarely seen before. And the result is awesome. But while their music can definitely be listened to by kids, how can it compete with the Top 40 music they listen to on the phone and watch on YouTube?

That’s where GRAMMY-winner Secret Agent 23 Skidoo comes in. This year, as part of the Asheville Amadeus Festival, hip-hop artist Skidoo joined with the Asheville Symphony, under the direction of conductor Daniel Meyer, to create “Mozartistic.” This totally unique composition includes an arrangement of some of Mozart’s most famous pieces, melded with Skidoo’s original hip-hop stylings, to tell the story of young Mozart while also encouraging kids to pursue their dreams, to be “Mozartistic.” The end result is an amazing performance by the Asheville Symphony featuring Secret Agent 23 Skidoo with guest appearances by pianist Orion Weiss and DJ Marley Carroll. Now when I wonder, is classical music cool? The answer is, “Absolutely!” After listening to this piece over a dozen times,the fifth grade cellist inside of me is still yelling, “I am the Mozartistic!” Take a listen and you will be too!

 

 

I’m Going On a Trip and I’m Taking…

This list of fantastic songs! Are you looking for just the right music to listen to during a summer family road trip? From today through Sunday, June 11 the wonderful variety of songs listed below are available as free downloads. There’s a little something for everyone. Pass it on!

“Transportation” – Danny Weinkauf – Red Pants Band
“Moon Star Pie (It’s Gonna Be Alright)” – Lisa Loeb
“Superhero 2017 REMIX (feat. Carly Ciarrocchi)” – Tim Kubart
“Rolling Down the Hill” – Justin Roberts
“Paletero Man” – Lucky Diaz
“She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain” – Jazzy Ash
“Five Green and Speckled Frogs” – Dana
“Mockingbird” – Red Yarn
“The Senses Song” – Little Miss Ann

Brooklyn Baby! performed by Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights

Joanie Leeds is back and better than ever with her eighth (8th!!) children’s/family album. While the album as a whole is an ode to Joanie’s beloved Brooklyn, the majority of songs can be enjoyed by listeners, no matter where you live. From the opening line of “Ferry Nice,”¬†/It’s ferry nice, It’s ferry good/, the lyrics will get in your head and have you singing along (I woke up with the song “Subway” rattling around in my head just this morning).

Mixed in with the songs that celebrate the things that make Brooklyn so great, are tunes about topics such as children gaining their independence in “By Myself,” all the great things you can learn in your “Library Book,” and eating food that is good for you in “Apples in my Apples.” Joanie has a lot of fun with lyrics and genres on this album on songs such as the punk infused “Rainbow Bagels from Outer Space,” the hilarious “Hipster in the Making (Remix),” and the Yiddish filled “Shayne Punim.”

Her softer side comes out on the beautiful song of acceptance, “Love is Love” as well as her cover of Lou Reed’s “Sunday Morning.” Backed by the Nightlights, Joanie creates a delightful album about a place that she loves that families wherever they may be will want to listen to again and again. Check out the video for “Ferry Nice” below.

Dana’s Best Jump & Jam Tunes

Just in time for planning summer programs comes¬†Dana’s Best Jump & Jam Tunes. This high octane album is filled with songs that would be perfect during library storytimes, summer camp dance breaks or just getting the wiggles out at home. Dana Cohenour’s 20+ years of experience working with children is evident in the way that she crafts each song to engage children from beginning to end. The opening track, “Jump and Jive” is perfect to get kids up and moving while songs like “Jumping Beans,” a fun freeze dance will keep the kids (and you!) jumping to the beat for almost three full minutes. The only song not written by Dana is the traditional, “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” which in this case is set to a rousing bluegrass beat. Also included are the story song “Fish Tale” and the beautiful closing track, “I Love Mommy” which sends love to all members of a child’s family circle.

There are several songs from this album that would be great additions to storytimes. My favorites are, “Follow the Leader” which gets kids moving like a wide variety of animals, and “Legs,” a funky tune that has kids counting the legs and moving like a different group of animals than are found in the previous song. (With a running time of 4:10 min. you might at first worry that this is too long for storytime, but never fear, it keeps kids very engaged and waiting to find out what the next animal is going to be.) Also on the album is a new shaker song, “Shakin’ Things Up.” It has a moderate tempo which helps children follow the instructions, and works to get much of the body moving. Finally, there is “Wiggle Workout.” This may be a bit much for storytime, but could work well in a home or exercise/movement class setting. Take a look below.

Dana’s Jump & Jam Tunes¬†is an excellent resource for librarians and teachers and would make a great addition to circulating children’s music collections.

Lard Dog’s Song for April

Did you know that Lard Dog & the Band of Shy is releasing one new song a month during 2017? Take a listen to their song for April, “Don’t Let the Boogah Bug You Out!” And what exactly is a Boogah? According to Lard Dog, it’s “anyone or anything¬†that gets you down. It might be a not-so-nice friend, a not-so-helpful coworker, a not-so-fun tax season, or a not-so-honest politician. ¬†Or, it might be a sticky booger you can’t get off your finger or that¬†nuisance of a pebble that’s stuck in your shoe.” While you’re there, catch up on the songs already released this year. Learn more about Lard Dog at www.houseoflard.com.

My First Raffi Concert

I have to admit, I didn’t listen to Raffi as a child. Somehow his music didn’t make it to our tiny corner of the world so I was raised on a steady diet of Sesame Street and Broadway musicals. Once I became a librarian though, I quickly became acquainted with storytime staples¬†like “Shake My Sillies Out” and “Down By the Bay” and was soon a Raffi fan. Over the years I have enjoyed each of Raffi’s albums and appreciated the way he has always remained true to himself and his style of music. Then, last year I¬†interviewed Raffi¬†via phone for School Library Journal and my admiration for him only increased. Raffi is not just an amazing musician but a strong advocate for children and childhood and being able to have a conversation with him was a great honor.

At this point in my career, I’d listened to Raffi’s albums and talked to him on the telephone (not the bananaphone), but had never seen him perform live. Until this past Sunday. It was a beautiful spring day in Chicago and Raffi was in town as part of his 40th Anniversary tour (yes, 40 years of Raffi!) and I was fortunate enough to get a couple of tickets. Not having any small children to accompany me to the concert, I decided to go to the other end of the spectrum and took my 76-year-old dad with me. And what a great time we had.

Before the concert, mothers and fathers could be heard throughout the theater saying, “Raffi’s going to sing,” “Raffi’s coming out soon,” “Are you excited to see Raffi?” And then, at ten minutes after 1:00, there he was, the man we had all been waiting to see. The only things on the stage were a stool, a chair, a glass of water, a microphone, a guitar stand, and some bananas, but from the moment Raffi stepped on stage he had the attention of every big one and little one in the house. He jumped right in with some traditional songs weaving his own songs in as well. He sang all his classics including “Apples and Bananas,” “Baby Beluga” and “Love Bug” and with every song, the audience sang along. At one point, my dad leaned over and said in awe, “The children know all of the words.”

There were a couple of really poignant moments during the concert. The first being when Raffi paid tribute to his friend Pete Seeger with a beautiful rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” He sang the first stanza using the landmarks of Canada (Raffi calls Canada home) and the rest of the song using the traditional American landmarks. The second moment was when the whole building quieted down while he sang “Thanks A Lot.”

The concert ended with a quick zip through any of his classics that he hadn’t already performed and a rousing singalong of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” The concert may have only been an hour long, but it was by far, the best hour of the whole week.

I was very fortunate on Sunday because my Raffi concert going experience didn’t end there. I had the great honor of participating in the meet and greet following the concert. My dad and I stood in line behind a couple of dozen families as they each took their turn meeting their idol. Raffi’s meet and greet is a very personal experience. He doesn’t sit behind a table putting a barrier between him and you. He sits in a chair with another beside him for all of his new friends. He takes time to talk with each family, give hugs where they are wanted, signs books and CDs and poses for pictures. Raffi is soft-spoken, humble and kind. It was such a pleasure to meet him. Much like my first concert, my first Raffi concert is filled with memories I will never forget.

HomeEarth by Wendy & DB

Out just in time for Earth Day program planning,¬†HomeEarth by Chicago duo Wendy & DB, is a real treat. The album opens with the title song “HomeEarth,” a fun introduction to the planets and the galaxy, then takes listeners to ground level where the importance of living things is explored. “Olly the Orca,” “Bugs That Give Hugs” and the joy of growing a garden and giving to others in “Plant a Seed” are all given their moment to shine in the sun.

Many of the tunes on this album could easily be incorporated into programming or storytimes. The songs “Buzzin’ Bee Be Happy” and “I Like Bees” would be great tunes to build a bee awareness program around. After sharing information about bees, attendees could make bee themed shakers then “perform” to one or both of these songs. Need to get the kids up and moving? Try “Hopscotch” which pays tribute to the classic children’s sidewalk game, or “We Bop” which instructs listeners to Take two steps hop one back/Turn it around jump off the track/and STOP We Bop.¬†Quick tempoed, these songs will help children get the wiggles out and be ready to listen.

Also included in this collection are several songs that would work great as conversation starters in classroom or family settings. “Water Song” talks about the importance of the availability of water and digging wells around the world while the themes of diversity and acceptance are emphasized in “People are People” and “It Takes All Kinds of Trucks (Folks).” On a very basic level, “It Takes All Kinds” is a comprehensive list of the wide variety of trucks that are used throughout society and will be of great interest to those really young ones who are going through a truck phase. At a higher level, older listeners will hear the message of acceptance woven in among the trucks.

The upbeat tempos, catchy melodies and smart lyrics highlighting the importance of loving the Earth and everything on it, makes this an album that librarians, teachers and parents will all love.

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