Montana-based Cowboy Andy and the Salamanders follow their celebrated album Bubbles with their new collection of rollicking, kid-friendly tunes. Much like on their previous albums, each song has its own personality and clever lyrics abound on tracks such as “Mom Only Counts to Three” where a child tries to best the mom who is giving him to the count of three to get ready and “Snow!” that celebrates the end of summer and the impending change in the weather. “Snow” also includes a groovy snow dance break and snow chant that children in areas that experience a lot of the white stuff will be sure to use in the hopes of conjuring a snow day or two. In addition, “Countdown” calls to mind old variety shows where a song would begin then the performers would take a break to chat before diving back into the song. In this case the countdown goes from 20 down to 2. Before they get to one, funny breaks occur where favorite foods like ice cream, frozen bananas and s’mores are discussed but Cowboy Andy just can’t seem to remember that one essential ingredient (chocolate!). Listeners will have a great time filling in the blanks and laughing at the twists.
Two tracks that would work well in programs are the title track and “The Letter Why.” “Put Your Arms in the Air” would be a good addition to storytimes or music programs (or any program that needs a movement break). While it clocks in at just over four minutes, the variety of tempos and movements will keep listeners engaged the entire time. Pair “The Letter Why” with the Pop Ups song, “How Do We Know” to explore all of the crazy, wacky, everyday things kids want to learn more about.
Cowboy Andy’s music on the nine original songs on the album features so much more than clever lyrics. There also is a beautiful musicality to the songs, especially those that work as wordless music breaks. “Already Great” has a lovely bossa nova feel and is followed three tracks later by “Pitfall” which almost has a Santana feel to it as the electric guitar and flute take center stage. The last break, “Tu Eres Lo Más Preciado” is Spanish spoken word with a musical backdrop. The final song on the album is “The Passenger” which originally came to fame performed by Iggy Pop. This time around, to make the song a little less Iggy and a little more kid friendly, the song begins with train sounds and cello accompaniment before easing into a new arrangement with a jazz vibe that features a stellar set of horns.
Put Your Arms in the Air is a wonderfully eclectic collection of musical genres and fun, relatable lyrics that families will want to listen to again and again.
I’ve always loved pictures that tell a story, and that is exactly what the cover art for Oran Etkin’s album Finding Friends Far from Home: A Journey with Clara Net does. Etkin is the founder of the Timbalooloo Method for learning music in which each instrument comes to life, adding character, humor and emotion to music. This album cover captures that methodology by depicting several instruments from around the world as characters who are sharing with one another and building a friendship.
This beautiful cover art was created by Mexican artist Lynda M. Tovar. In working on the project, Tovar says
“While listening to the album and doing the sketches and different explorations of the characters I got to know Clara, her brother, the Bass Clarinet, little Mbira and the rest of the characters. As they were presented to me through the music, the designs of the characters grew in me like they were present. I could listen to them while creating them and that helped me while creating their images and personalities.
While working on it, it also brought a certain feeling of nostalgia. I thought of my childhood and how when I was little I listened to an album with my parents, everyone humming, whistling or singing to it with a very different perspective, and me, as I imagine the children could also do with this album, looking at the cover of it and getting every detail of the characters and imagining all the scenarios the songs tell. It made me smile every time I thought of this and how the kids would be able to do that with this cover.”
Finding Friends Far from Home
was a project several years in the making. Etkin, a clarinetist, traveled the world, recording the songs on this album with artists from the countries that he visited. One of the tracks, “Tumbalalaika,” is a riddle-filled tune featuring the balalaika – a triangular, three-stringed Russian instrument. Take a listen here
. Finding Friends Far from Home
will be released on August 30.
In 2017 Alphabet Rockers landed far outside the realm of traditional children’s music with their groundbreaking GRAMMY-nominated album Rise Shine #Woke. Named to School Library Journal‘s Top 10 list of 2017 that album taught listeners that you are never too young to start a conversation about social justice. Filled with powerful lyrics and engaging rhythms and rhymes, it was the must have hip hop album of the year. Now, almost two years later, Alphabet Rockers are back and better than ever with their new album, The Love.
Recorded on land originally inhabited by the Ohlone people and produced at Zoo Labs in Oakland, California, The Love is a massive musical collaboration incorporating more than 60 guest artists who perform alongside Alphabet Rockers founders Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd. The themes of love and belonging continue from Rise Shine #Woke to The Love but this time rather than the focus being social justice, the group is turning their attention to gender justice with the goal of the album being to honor the diverse identities within our society. Once again featuring well-thought out, powerful lyrics, The Love is an album that everyone should listen to.
Today it is my great honor to debut the track, “I Know You See Me.” Written as a response to the daily harassment experienced by a transgender/gender non-conforming parent of a four-year-old, this song takes that experience and makes it into something positive. “I Know You See Me” begins and ends with a gorgeous string performance that captures the emotion of the main character in the song. At the beginning of the track, they are walking down the sidewalk when someone says horrible things to them. Rather than giving that person the power, they embrace their belief in themselves and when Tommy’s character breaks into a hard driving rap, he flips the script and rather than harassing them, tells them, “You’re the powerful one/All assumptions be gone/You’re the ultimate you just do what you do and I’ll see you thru.” It’s a powerful message of love, acceptance and understanding. A message that we all could stand to hear and to share, no matter how we identify. Learn more about the Alphabet Rockers at www.alphabetrockers.com and listen to “I Know You See Me” on Spotify or Amazon. The Love is available to stream now, and will be available on CD beginning August 8.