May the 4th Be With You!

Happy May the 4th! Designated as the official Star Wars Day back in 2011, fans around the world celebrate this date by showing their love for this pop culture cornerstone.  My husband and I are fans because we are of an age that we remember what life was like for kids during the original trilogy’s debut in the 1970s and early 80s. In fact, just this past December, my husband unearthed his original action figures and Death Star and I found my full size Princess Leia doll. Still fans at heart, we also attended Star Wars Celebration in Chicago just a couple of weeks ago where we had our picture taken with the ever suave Billy Dee Williams and had a blast taking in all of the costumes and life size models. 

    

The very next day, I heard a Star Wars-themed song on Kids Place Live which led me to do some digging into children’s songs that would appeal to young Star Wars fans. Here are some of my favorites, what are yours?

Why is Dad So Mad?” by Board of Education
“Oh, Lando” and “Chewy to Your Han” by Recess Monkey
Yodeling Yoda” by Jack Forman

 

 

 

Under the Big Umbrella performed by Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

“Different is beautiful, just like a rainbow, just like the colors that shine. Different is beautiful, just let your colors show. Yours go perfect with mine.”
– “Different is Beautiful” from Under the Big Umbrella

Brady Rymer’s 10th studio album with The Little Band That Could is filled with important messages for every listener that are inspired by those striving to create cultures of kindness in their families, schools, and communities. The opening, title track, “Under the Big Umbrella” was written for Lincoln Center’s inaugural Big Umbrella Festival, a celebration for children with autism and their families. The perfect way to kick-off the album, this song invites everyone to sing and dance however they want under the accepting protection of the big umbrella.

The upbeat, positive messages continue throughout the album in a collection of original and cover songs that encourage listeners to be kind to themselves and one another as well as to do good out in the world. In a departure from his kindie rock style, Rymer is joined by Sonia De Los Santos on a country-tinged bilingual version of the Woody Guthrie tune, “Don’t You Push Me Down,” while on his groovy take on “I’m Coming Out,” Rymer fills breaks in the song with children’s answers to the question, “What do you want the world to know?” Additional covers include Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” and the Beatles “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

Children will enjoy the original songs just as much as the covers. From “You Do You” to “Thank You for Being You” the importance of being happy and confident in yourself is emphasized without ever becoming overly didactic or touchy-feely in sentiment. My personal favorite is “The Smile Shop.” I love the concept of a store that has aisles and aisles of smiles for every occasion – the school picture smile, the shy smile, the playing in the park smile. Backed by a rhythm that demands listeners clap along, this tune would be a perfect introduction to activities where children talk about, write about or draw those things in life that make them smile.

Rain or shine, families will find themselves right at home Under the Big Umbrella.

Kindred performed by Renee & Friends

I don’t know about you, but I’ve reached my limit for the negativity and self-righteous snarkiness that I encounter online. So, this past weekend, I took a break from the internet. I decided no social media, no email, no surfing the web. I was going to dedicate myself to the beautiful weather and those people around me. And you know what? The weekend was lovely, peaceful and restorative. Just what I needed.

I discovered something else that I needed. While looking for something this evening, I knocked over a stack of new music on my desk and before straightening it, I reached in and blindly grabbed a CD. And the album I pulled out was Kindred. This was just what I needed. What a beautiful collection of music! It is the perfect antidote to all of the things in the world that bring you down.

Those familiar with Renee Stahl’s first Renee & Friends album, Simpatico, will not be disappointed with these new collaborations. Kindred is filled with gentle, soothing songs that can be enjoyed by the entire family. The opening track “Kindness is Cool” sets the tone for the album. Performed by Renee & Jeremy, this reminder of the importance of being kind to one another is wrapped in catchy lyrics highlighted by the refrain, “I’ll be for you. You’ll be for me. Kindness. Kindness.” This is followed by the dynamite performance by Renee’s 12-year-old-daughter, Amelia, on “Super Fragile World” as well as a lovely cover of the Cat Stevens tune, “Where do the Children Play” with vocals by Renee and Ziggy Marley.

It’s hard to imagine a rap by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo being overshadowed by anyone, but that’s exactly what happens on “Leaders of the World.” While Skidoo’s words are powerful and strong, it’s the beauty of the vocals of Addi Rose, Amelia Dektor and the Cold Spring School Chorus that truly capture the essence of this song.

Additional friends on this album include Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell who join Renee in their rendition of the classic, “High Hopes.” Finally, there are two tracks that allow Renee’s crystal clear voice to shine.  “Nothing and No One” focuses on the fact that there is nothing in the world that could take away a mother’s love for her children and could easily be used as a lullaby. The last track on the album, “How Did You Get So?” is a gorgeous song that asks a child – how did you get so sweet/smart/beautiful? It is the perfect ending to a much needed album. Every family would benefit from taking a few minutes, unplugging from the outside world and taking in the messages of Kindred.

New Music Monday

Welcome to the first Monday of Spring 2019! Or at least I think it’s spring. It’s still on the damp and chilly side here. But what better way to warm up than with new music from children’s performers who may be new to many of you? Let’s take a little tour and meet some of them.

First up I’d like to introduce you to Gro-Town. Danielle Carlomusto is a Detroit-based performer whose first album Motown is Gro-Town is filled with cute food and nature inspired songs that are perfect for this time of year. Each song clocks in around 1-1:30 mins., making them just right for storytime dance breaks. Covering everything from 1950s pop to kindie rock the entire album is enjoyable, with the polka-inspired “Pierogi” being an unexpected delight. Learn more at www.gro-town.com.

Moving now from the Motor City to southeastern Minnesota, here to entertain you is Louis and Dan & the Invisible Band. This duo of dads (who also happen to be professors) come to us from Northfield, MN. Their self-titled album crosses a variety of genres covering everything from rock n roll to country western. Topics vary from the clever imagining of what princesses do when they grow up to the very silly idea of underwear spaghetti.  Grade school aged children will really enjoy the lyrical word play. Check Louis and Dan out at www.louisdaninvisibleband.com. 

Heading back to the eastern Midwest, we come to Columbus, OH, the home of Jordan Lynch & Friends. Their debut album is a collection of fourteen covers that range from the traditional (“Skip to My Lou,” “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain”) to the pop of “Rainbow Connection” to the less familiar, “The Wild Mountain Thyme.” The album features a wealth of rich accompaniment that employs nearly two dozen different instruments.  The songs are often comprised of an Americana feel that will appeal to fans of Red Yarn and The Okee Dokee Brothers. Created for a great cause, get more information at https://www.facebook.com/PiecesCD.

And finally we stop by the studio to meet Sir Dapp & the Paw Prints. This fictional animated band includes Sir Dapp ( a silver-haired Schnauzer), his cousin Dollie, his nephew Duffie and their friend Grumpy Gertrude the goose. This album of catchy tunes about kindness and respect never veers into didactic territory thanks to the engaging lyrics that are brought to life by human artists Eli Jacobson and Rachel Potter. Each song is well produced and makes the album feel like it’s the cast recording of a stage show. Really enjoyable. Meet Sir Dapp & the Paw Prints at sirdapp.com.

Video Premiere – Taco Tuesday performed by The Lucky Band

For years we’ve enjoyed music from the Latin GRAMMY and Emmy Award-winning duo of Lucky Diaz and Alisha Gaddis. Now, after a decade of performing as Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, they are reintroducing themselves to audiences as The Lucky Band.  While their first album under this new moniker, Buenos Diaz, isn’t set to be released until April 5, The Lucky Band is giving fans a preview of their new bilingual music with the debut of videos for some of the tracks off the album.

With that in mind, there’s no better way to celebrate my favorite day of the week than with the video for The Lucky Band’s new song, “Taco Tuesday.” Infused with a retro-dance vibe, kids will love moving and grooving while learning the taco dance! Take a look.

In Tempo with…Johnette Downing

“In Tempo With…” is a new feature that will be popping up on Kids Rhythm and Rock from time to time. It highlights a children’s performer and includes a short Q & A. As we reach the culmination of Mardi Gras, it is my pleasure to spotlight Johnette Downing and her Cajun celebration, Swamp Romp.

Downing is a prolific author and entertainer with almost two dozen picture books and a dozen albums to her credit. A New Orleans native, the folklore and culture of Louisiana is reflected in many of her books and lyrics. Downing’s latest family music album, Swamp Romp, is a collaboration with GRAMMY Award winner Scott Billington. The fifteen original songs in this collection grow from Cajun roots, featuring lots of brass and percussion and rhythms that beg for you to clap and tap along. Many of the tunes like “Mudbug Boogie,” “Bamboula Rhythm,” and “Get Ready, Get Set, Let’s Groove” are designed to get children up and moving and would be great fun to use in a storytime setting or for a Mardi Gras celebration. The chant-like song, “Mississippi River” will have children spelling Mississippi and jamming along in no time. While the entire album embraces Louisiana roots music, several of the songs such as “Who Got the Baby in the King Cake?” “How to Dress a Po’ Boy” and “Crawfish Étouffée” really place listeners in the heart of New Orleans life. Want to learn more about these engaging, entertaining tunes? Don’t miss the detailed liner notes which include background information on each song’s origins as well as some of the album’s guest performers.

Johnette Downing recently took some time to answer a few questions.

Swamp Romp is a celebration of Louisiana roots music featuring a wide variety of instruments, rhythms and subject matters. When you’re writing songs, which comes first – the music or the lyrics?
When writing songs, there is no set method for me. The muse sometimes delivers the lyrics first while other times the melody. For example, Scott and I try to walk three to five miles per day. On one of our walks, I just started singing, out of the clear blue, “When you walk down the street, you can feel it in your feet. It’s the bam-bam-bam-boula rhy-thm.” The beat of the words I sang, “bam-bam-bam-bou-la,” is the exact rhythm of the underlying beat of much of New Orleans music. We stopped immediately and recorded the song on a four-track app we have on our phones. We have this recording app on our phones for this express purpose of capturing melodies or lyrics when they come because you just never know when that spark will fire.

What is your favorite Mardi Gras tradition?
My favorite Mardi Gras tradition is the king cake party. At king cake parties, children (and grown-ups) enjoy slices of this braided pastry, but this is not just any cake. There is a lucky plastic king cake baby hidden inside the cake! Whoever finds the king cake baby in his or her slice of king cake is unofficially crowned king or queen for the day, and is required to host the next king cake party. This tradition ensures that the celebration continues throughout Carnival season. Partygoers will ask, “who got the baby in the king cake,” because they want to know where the next party will take place.

If you could only eat one meal in New Orleans, what would it be?
If I could only eat one meal in New Orleans, it would be charbroiled oysters from Drago’s Restaurant, where I believe the dish was invented. They grill the oysters over an open flame and dress them with butter, garlic, pepper Parmagiano and Romano cheeses. De-lish!

Finish this sentence: Children’s music is…
For me, children’s music is a celebration of childhood. It is vehicle for inspiring children to think, laugh, dance, sing, clap, question, inquire, move, create, express, bond, and learn. In many ways, music is at the very core of being human. It is our heartbeat, our breath, our connection, our comfort and our joy.

**For a taste of Mardi Gras New Orleans style, take a peek at the video for “Bamboula Rhythm” from Swamp Romp. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Now That We’re Home performed by KB Whirly

Album cover for Now That We're HomeKB Whirly’s fourth studio album for families is a collection of lullabies and love songs celebrating the concept of home and the ones who live within it. Written as a love letter to his daughter as she grows up, the nine songs in this collection take a look at the little, daily moments of life through the eyes of the parents and child.

Produced by Dean Jones, acoustic accompaniment perfectly pairs with Whirly’s folk, at times almost country, sound while frequently eliciting a Jack Johnson vibe. The lyrics are filled with love and care for family and the world around them. Now That We’re Home is a great addition to those quiet times, nap time or bedtime.

Below is the handmade arts and crafts video for the track, “Just Us Three” which describes small moments during a family outing. If you want to hear more lullabies from the album, watch the album release celebration KB Whirly Facebook live concert on Friday, February 22 at 6:30 pm EST.

Get Ready to Explore Dana’s Music Playground!

Beginning February 16, there is a new YouTube channel that any grown up who lives or works with children needs to share with the little ones in their lives. Created by Dana Cohenour, or Miss Dana, Dana’s Music Playground is set to be the weekly musical  treat that everyone needs. Drawing on her 20 years of experience entertaining families across the country, Miss Dana has crafted an exciting new program that will keep children engaged and entertained while also learning a thing or two.

While each week features a different theme – February 16 (Monkeys), February 23 (Happy), March 2 (Birds), and March 9 (Cows), every episode incorporates songs, musical instruments, fingerplays, sign language and much more. Miss Dana’s gentle, welcoming nature will draw children in at the same time that her energy and enthusiasm will get them up and moving. Get a sneak peek at what is in store in this trailer for Dana’s Music Playground, then mark your calendars for the February 16th premier.

Want to learn more about Miss Dana? Check out this review of her 2017 album, Dana’s Best Jump and Jam Tunes which was named one of the Top 10 Albums for Children by School Library Journal.

It Takes a Village Performed by Ginalina

Vancouver-based Ginalina’s latest album for families is a delightful, up-tempo celebration of love. Beginning with the opening track, “Welcome to the Neighbourhood,” It Take a Village draws listeners in by emphasizing the importance of community and opening our hearts and embracing one another. This theme continues in the title track, “It Takes a Village” all the way through the final song on the album, the beautiful, “Goodnight Lullaby.” In between are songs that let children know that change doesn’t have to be scary, that they can be anything that want when they grow up, and that doing things together is better than doing them alone.

Ginalina continues her tradition of writing songs that honor nature with tunes about the winter weather, the arrival of spring, and the life cycle of bunnies. Also included on the album is the French tune, “Dans la Rivière (tous Connectés) and the multi-lingual song “Apple Apple Seed” which is performed in English, French and Chinese. Ginalina’s folk-pop sound is accentuated by uplifting melodies and lyrics that encourage audience participation. “It Takes a Village” is a true delight.

UPDATE: It was announced today that It Takes a Village is nominated for the 2019 Juno (Canada’s Music Award) for Best Children’s Album.

Building Blocks Performed by Tim Kubart

Welcome to the first post of 2019! What better way is there to start the year than with Tim Kubart’s joy-filled album, Building Blocks? Released in fall 2018, this GRAMMY-nominated album is packed with Kubart’s signature upbeat pop sound. Many of the tracks speak to milestones in a child’s life – the first time jumping in the deep end, riding a bike without training wheels, and getting a pet – but with lyrics that stretch beyond that experience. A great example of this is the boppy “Jump Right In” which details a child mentally gearing up to leap into the pool while his whole family looks on and includes the lyric, “nothing to be scared of, when you’re surrounded by love.”

Kubart skillfully, positively affirms all of the experiences of childhood. Released as a full-length picture book in 2018, and now a track on this album, the lighthearted “Oopsie-Do!” let’s children know that it’s ok to make mistakes while “Day One” speaks to a child’s first time leaving for school. Told from the child’s point-of-view, this will tug at every parent’s heartstrings. Take a look.

Several special guests pop up including Steve Burns (Blues Clues) on the construction-themed “It’s Going Up,” the Woodward Parkway Junior Chorus on “We Are Growing” and Genevieve Goings (Disney Junior’s Choo Choo Soul), Carly Ciarrocchi (Sprout House) and Drue Davis (Postmodern Jukebox) on the celebration-filled final track, “Block Party.” Building Blocks is a pure delight that families will enjoy listening to again and again.

Enjoy the video for “Ready For You,” a tale of children who have been proving they are ready to take on the responsibility of a pet, below.

 

 

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