In Tempo with…Joanie Leeds

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, there is no better way to celebrate than with All The Ladies, the latest album from Joanie Leeds. Along with her band the Nightlights, Joanie made a name for herself on the kindie pop/rock scene with albums like Brooklyn Baby! and I’m a Rock Star. Filled with catchy lyrics and rhythms to get kids moving, Leeds’s music was surefire fun for the whole family. On All The Ladies, Joanie changes things up and takes her music in a new, welcome direction. The most obvious change is that, in a real departure from previous albums, on All The Ladies, Joanie performs without the Nightlights. But that doesn’t mean that she performs alone. Instead, she has gathered a whole crew of incredibly talented women from the children’s music industry to join her in making music to empower girls of all ages.

From the opening track, “If Girls Ruled the World” to the albums beautiful closer, “Half Of The World,” you still get that upbeat Joanie style, but with a more folk-pop twist. All The Ladies features songs about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, breaking the glass ceiling, the importance of lifting one another up and glorious Mother Earth. The messages in Ladies are clear and easy to grasp, but never didactic. Each song is filled with gorgeous harmonies that quickly become the hallmark of the album.

In order to learn more about the origins of this female-driven project (*from Joanie, “99% of the participants in All the Ladies – instrumental, vocal and all of the technical jobs including Producer, Engineer, Mixer, Master- even my photographer and graphic artist are women! “), I went right to the source. Even though Joanie is in the middle of preparing for Friday’s big music festival (more on that a bit later), she was kind enough to answer a few questions.

You collaborated with a lot of amazing women on All the Ladies. How did these partnerships come about? 
I knew that I wanted to work with all women on this project and it was important to me to utilize their incredible talents and lift them up. I had a very long list- one person being the amazing Lucy Kalantari. Once she was signed on as producer, we worked together to create a list and assigned everyone to the songs, taking into account with regional logistics (who has remote studio capabilities etc.) We didn’t get to use everyone but we did get a bunch of incredibly talented women involved and I am so happy with the outcome! {Ed. Note: That list of women who are part of the album includes Polly Hall, Suzi Shelton, Sonia De Los Santos, Lori Henriques, Lisa Loeb and Carly Ciarrocchi.]

You return to your folk music roots on this album. What prompted you to move in that direction?

After 10 years of singing with my band Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights, I wanted to switch things up and rebrand. I had a new logo created and am in the middle or redoing my website. I took a step back and realized, I’m not in my 20s anymore and while I love singing rock and pop (and still do) I have always loved just sitting behind a guitar and strumming along, it felt natural to return to my roots. 

When I was a teen I loved reading about fierce, strong, caring females with unbreakable spirits. I get that same feeling of empowerment from the music in your new collection. What advice do you have for the girls and young women of today?

Something I wish I could have known when I was younger was to be more confident and love myself more. With self-love, girls and women will automatically feel the confidence to raise their hand in class, put themselves into the room, be part of the conversation and speak out against injustice. If we come together as women and lift each other up and have each other‘s backs, the climate for inequality will surely diminish. Between the media and living in a patriarchy we are up against a lot- but together, I believe we can accomplish anything.

That we can! All The Ladies the album is set to be released this Friday, April 3. But that’s not all that is happening on Friday! From 12:30-4:00 pm, fans of children’s music can see some of the top female artists perform as part of the FREE Joanie Leeds Presents: All The Ladies Online Music Festival!  When asked about the origin of such a large undertaking, Joanie said, “All the Ladies album launch concert was supposed to be held on March 14th but was canceled due to the corona virus pandemic. It was to be a large gathering featuring many of the women from my album. One of the women who was supposed to perform (Tina Kenny Jones) dm’ed me upon cancelation about the idea of holding the concert online instead. I took the idea and ran with it, producing my first online Music Festival! All the Ladies Music Festival will be held this Friday from 12:30-4pm featuring every singer on the album. They will each play for 15 minutes and then as hostess, I will pass the baton to the next performer. You can attend for free on Facebook: @alltheladiesmusicfestival.”

 

Wild Life Performed by Justin Roberts

Three-time GRAMMY nominee Justin Roberts returns with his richest album yet. As a new father, Justin turns his attention from a child’s view of the world to a parent’s perspective on love, life and watching a child grow. Each of the ten original songs on Wild Life contains a new depth of emotion not previously found in Justin’s kindie pop music. This time around, the very personal lyrics focus on the anticipation and worry that come with the impending arrival of a new little one, and the many hopes and joys that a parent has for their children.

On Wild Life, Justin has surrounded himself with a skilled group of musicians including Gerald Dowd, Lisa Kaplan, and his longtime collaborator, Liam Davis. The melody for each track has its own unique sound, with many of the songs being on the softer side and potentially serving as lullabies. Justin’s wife, accomplished cellist Anna Steinhoff, joins in on several of the tracks, most notably “Be Not Afraid,” and the title track, “Wild Life.” Both of these songs are scaled back to Justin’s vocals and Anna’s gorgeous accompaniment, allowing their boundless love for their son Eli to come shining through.

Both new and experienced parents will relate to the universal moments in Wild Life while their hearts fill with the love embodied by each song. Need a little pick me up? Give Justin’s earworm-worthy tune “Glad You’re Here” a whirl. Enjoy this video that was produced by the SALT project, illustrated by Elena Skoreyko Wagner, and animated by Mariana López.

Celebrate Black History Month with Culture Queen

Jessica “Culture Queen” Hebron’s 2016 album, I Like The Me I See! is the perfect way to celebrate Black History Month. All 14 songs in this collection speak to a history filled with culture, traditions and royalty. The opening three tracks – “Culture Kingdom (Time To Have Fun),” “I’m A Culture Kingdom Kid!” and “I’m A Tower of Royal Power” and the closing track, “I Am The Future of Black History” call upon children to stand tall and embrace their heritage by learning about the past and working to create a beautiful future. Several additional songs including “A Wonderful Book,” “Culture Everyday,” and “I Love My History” encourage children of all cultures to be proud of who they are and the rich histories from which they come. Culture Queen’s beautiful voice is backed by a group of marvelous musicians as well as a chorus of talented, joyful young people. Also included are several songs that would work really well in storytimes. “Rise and Rhyme” features stretching and counting, “North, South, East & West” is a great jumping song, and “Super Shaker Song” (see video below) would be great with shakers or drums and as an overall movement song. 

 

Another excellent song for storytime is the title track, “I Like The Me I See!” The lyrics to this call and response tune encourage children to find every single thing about themselves (hair, eyes, feet, skin, tummy) beautiful. The chorus proclaims, “I like the me I see, I am who I’m supposed to be.” Paired with the picture book of the same name, written by Culture Queen and illustrated by Solomia Kovalchuk, “I Like The Me I See!” would be perfect to share, not just during Black History Month, but any day of the year.

 

 

Family Valentine Playlist

Ah, Valentine’s Day. That time of year when stores are filled with chocolate and roses, and chocolate roses. Red and pink hearts greet you at every turn and love is in the air. While you’re filling out those last minute valentines and trying to figure out where to go for dinner, enjoy the 16 songs in this family-friendly playlist. Whether your taste runs more toward a soothing song about love, a silly song about having a crush on your teacher, or a psychedelic tune about the special relationship between a unicorn and a princess, this list has something for everyone.

The playlist includes:
Josh Lovelace, “You Are Loved”
Lard Dog & the Band of Shy, “I Like”
KB Whirly, “You Are Love”
Michael & The Rockness Monsters, “A Life That’s Good”
Elliott Park, “All Ways”
Duke Otherwise, “Elementary Crush”
Gustafer Yellowgold, “Ellen Lemon”
KB Whirly, Mista Cookie Jar, “Love Light Shine”
Dan Zanes, “I Don’t Need Sunny Skies”
Vered, “Brothers & Sisters”
JoJo & the Pinecones, ” Dream a Little Dream”
Walter Martin, Karen O, “Sing to Me”
Billy Kelly, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart”
Bears and Lions, “I’m in Love”
Angela James, “Sailing”
StevenSteven, “The Unicorn and Princess Rainbow”

Jazzy January, Part 2 – Lori Henriques

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already arrived at the end of January. At the beginning of each new year, the passage of time tends to be a little disconcerting. In some ways, it feels like we were just raking up the leaves and worrying about the weather for Halloween, yet the pressures to find the right gifts and be filled with Christmas joy seem eons away. And here we are, turning to wave goodbye to the first month of 2020 while at the same time looking forward to the spring and summer and trying to figure out when to fit in that vacation because your schedule is already getting full. Not only is this time of year disconcerting, with the non-stop gray skies and weekly bouts of snow/rain/sleet/snow, it’s also exhausting. Luckily, I’ve found the perfect musical cure for what ails me!

For Part 2 of Jazzy January, let me present the delightful jazz stylings of Lori Henriques! Henriques, a pianist/singer/songwriter, began her children’s music career over a decade ago. Her earlier albums such as The World is a Curious Place to Live and Outside My Door feature her lovely voice accompanied by the piano. Then, on the GRAMMY-nominated How Great Can This Day Be, Lori introduces a whole band of amazing musicians who add even more bounce and depth to her music. A hallmark of Henriques’s music is its meaningful lyrics that encourage listeners to explore the world around them with eyes and hearts full of kindness and compassion. Nowhere is this message more evident than on her album Legion of Peace, a collection of original songs inspired by an incredible list of Nobel Laureates. When talking about some of the highlights of her career thus far, Lori immediately mentions being granted the great honor of performing for the incomparable Jane Goodall and Former President Jimmy Carter the songs that she wrote about, and for, them.

On her latest album, What Do You Wish, Henriques once again elevates her music by surrounding herself with some of the finest musicians from the Portland jazz scene including Dan Balmer, Dan Faehnle, Paul Mazzio and the great Reggie Houston. Henriques says that she named the group Sunbeam Collective because they were so incredibly joyful. Listeners can feel that joy in every upbeat note. This album also is a family affair. Her son Leo joins in the fun on trumpet and flugelhorn while her daughter Elsa, of “The Poop Song” fame (if you don’t know it, look it up!) supplies the precious echoes on the closing song, “Love & Gratitude.” Much as she has in her previous albums, in Wish, Henriques fills each song with lyrics about loving yourself, the Earth (including that Everlovin Water) and those around you through continuous learning and self-discovery. Backed by funky jazz rhythms and melodies, the tracks on Wish don’t plant themselves in your head like an earworm, but rather slowly soak in, becoming part of your internal songbook without you even realizing it.

Lori Henriques’s goal of “Elevating Curiosity and Wonder” through her music is certainly accomplished not just in What Do You Wish, but in all the music she creates. Take a listen. I promise it will brighten your day!

Jazzy January, Part 1 – Diana Panton

If you read my post about A Charlie Brown Christmas, I mentioned that as a child I didn’t have much exposure to pure jazz music. That was for a couple of reasons. One, musicals were on high rotation in our house and two, there wasn’t any jazz whose target audience was children. Unfortunately, a few decades later, and there still isn’t a lot of jazz music for children. This is why I decided to highlight a couple of my favorite musicians creating jazz for children who released albums in the last bit of 2019. 

For Part 1 of this two-part series, I’d like to introduce you to Diana Panton. Panton first came on the scene in 2005 as a performer for adults, but in 2017 she released I Believe in Little Things, her first album for children and families, which went on to win a JUNO award (the Canadian version of the GRAMMY). I was lucky to be able to interview Diana Panton for School Library Journal in July 2017 as well as review I Believe in Little Things.  

In October 2019, Panton’s second album for children, ACheerful Little Earful was released. As with her previous album, Earful features Panton’s light and breezy solo voice, this time accompanied by George Shearing Quartet members, jazz greats Don Thompson and Reg Schwager. According to Panton, where I Believe in Little Things was a good way to unwind at the end of the day, A Cheerful Little Earful is “a sunny way to start the day!” And what better way to start the day than with opening track and South Pacific charmer, “Happy Talk.” Not one to shy away from unconventional song choices, Panton draws upon music from older musicals like “Look to the Rainbow” from Finian’s Rainbow as well as songs from classic films such as “It’s a Most Unusual Day” from A Date with Judy and the Academy Award nominee (1945) “Aren’t You Glad You’re You” from The Bells of St. Mary’s.

Along the way, Diana Panton further diversifies the selections on this fifteen track album, including “Red Red Robin,” the Cole Porter tune, “Experiment” and “ ‘A’ You’re Adorable.” Two not-to-be-missed tunes are the title track “A Cheerful Little Earful” which was originally made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and “All in the Golden Afternoon” from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland which Panton beautifully performs in both French and English.

A Cheerful Little Earful is the perfect way to not only introduce children to the warm, soothing sounds of jazz but to give them an introduction to the incomparable music from the Great American Songbook.

Choose Kind

“I believe the children are our future/Teach them well and let them lead the way.” ~Whitney Houston, “Greatest Love of All”

“I believe the children are our future…”
These lyrics have been running through my head for several weeks now. It first started in late November when I attended a meeting at our local school district. Several of the attendees were wearing really eye-catching t-shirts that said “Choose Kind.” A quick inquiry and several emails later and the entire Youth Services department at my public library were wearing the same t-shirt. To us the message is a crucial reminder to the young people (and the adults too) that in even some of the most difficult circumstances, we should always try to choose kind.

“Teach them well and let them lead the way…”
In the middle of December, I was once again reminded of the lyrics from “Greatest Love of All” when Greta Thunberg was named one of Time magazine’s persons of the year. Thunberg is just the latest in a line of young people, like Malala Yousafzai and the students of Parkland, who are more courageous than most adults by standing up for what they believe in in incredibly public ways. These folks are thoughtful and eloquent and push the rest of us to step out from behind our devices and be brave in our beliefs.

“Show them all the beauty they possess inside…”
Finally, a couple of weeks ago I received the “Love to end the decade” enewsletter from Alphabet Rockers. In the email they highlighted the incredible story of 11-year-olds Lily and Kaia who led children from around the world in making 15,000 origami butterflies that were displayed at the United States Capitol on November 20 in support of migrant children. The story of this undertaking is told through the beautiful, stirring video {see below} for the Alphabet Rockers’s song, “Until You’re Free” (feat. SaulPaul and 123 Andrés). The Butterfly Project proved that when children get together, the strongest message can be conveyed in the most beautiful, unforgettable way.

My goal for 2020 is to be like the children. To be brave and stand up for what I believe in, to act when I see injustices, and above all, to Choose Kind. For the children really are our future and it’s up to us to support and guide them as they lead the way.

Song Spotlight – “Hanukkah on Andromeda” Performed by Lard Dog & The Band of Shy

What do Hanukkah and Andromeda have in common? After listening to the new song from Lard Dog & The Band of Shy several times, I’m still not quite sure, but I am here for it. Just in time for the start of Hanukkah, this little ditty takes the joy of the holiday and turns it up to eleven. Filled with silly, yet informative, lyrics (where else will you hear the words menorah, dreidel, and Spock all in the same sentence) “Hanukkah on Andromeda” tells listeners of the eight days and nights that are the Festival of Lights during this humanoid holiday. Performed with quirky abandon by lead dog Steve Erdman and featuring a klezmer-esque guitar break, this song is a sure fire way to get kids on their feet and dancing. Whether you take a close listen to the tune to learn a thing of two about Hanukkah, or just enjoy the frenetic, fun beat, “Hanukkah on Andomeda” is definitely a song to give a whirl this holiday season.

Album Spotlight – “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio

I love Christmas music. As a kid, we always started listening to Christmas records (a Readers Digest compilation album, Burl Ives, Bing Crosby) right after we watched the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving Day and didn’t stop until after dinner on Christmas Day. And every year we anxiously awaited for the night that our favorite Christmas song-based holiday shows would be on – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Frosty the Snowman, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. 

It’s hard to remember now, but A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) was the first television special based on the Peanuts comic strip. Every year my sister and I would scour the TV Guide for it because we didn’t want to miss Charlie Brown trying to put together a community Christmas play and Linus telling us about the true meaning of Christmas. As a kid, I didn’t know what jazz music was exactly, but I knew that I loved the music in this show. From the iconic “Linus and Lucy” to the lovely “O Tannenbaum” to the unforgettable “Christmas Time is Here,” every note perfectly matched the tone and message of the special.

One of the greatest things about the music that the Vince Guarldi Trio created for A Charlie Brown Christmas is the fact that the music can stand all on its own. While listening to the soundtrack does at points evoke scenes from the show, overall it goes beyond just being a soundtrack for a TV special and instead becomes the soundtrack for the season. As the days leading up to Christmas take on an even more frenetic pace and everyone’s patience becomes thin, take a few minutes to sit back and enjoy the soothing sounds of A Charlie Brown Christmas. (Oh, and speaking of albums, have you seen the LP for this one? It’s on green vinyl!!) 

2019 Children’s Music Roundup

Welcome to the second annual Kids Rhythm and Rock Children’s Music Roundup! Oh what a year 2019 was for children’s music with a cornucopia of sounds, fantastic messages and moments of fun combining for a true wealth of musical riches, Whether you check the CDs out from the library or listen to them on your favorite streaming service, all of the albums below are definitely worth a listen (or two, or three…). 

 

Best Animal Album Covers
Come for the covers, stay for the amazing music!
Swamp Romp Performed by Johnette Downing with Scott Billington   
Winterland Performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers

 

 

Be Mindful, Be Kind     

   

 

 

 

The Love Performed by Alphabet Rockers
Kindred Performed by Renee & Friends
Under the Big Umbrella Performed by Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
Ageless: Songs for the Child Archetype Performed by Jon Samson

 

Unique Musical Stylings

    

 

 

 

Finding Friends Far From Home: A Journey with Clara Net Performed by Oran Etkin
Shake It and Break It Performed by Randy Kaplan
Earworm Performed by Sean McCollough

 

Based on a Podcast

 

Backstroke Raptor Performed by The Story Pirates

 

 

 Regional Superstars You Should Know

                                                                         

 

 

 

Put Your Arms in the Air Performed by Cowboy Andy (based in Montana) 
Kith & Kin Performed by Duke Otherwise (based in Wisconsin)   

 

Bilingual/Spanish Albums

          

 

 

 

Canta las Letras Performed by 123 Andrés
Love is Te Quiero Performed by Alina Celeste
Buenos Diaz Performed by The Lucky Band
En la Radio Performed by Nathalia

 

We Only Have One Earth
These albums each contain several songs that celebrate the flora and fauna on this rock we call home. 

     

 

 

 

Can You Feel It? Performed by Jessa Campbell & the Saplings
It Takes a Village Performed by Ginalina
Positronic Performed by Marsha and the Positrons

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Dads

      

 

 

 

Which One Am I? Performed by Howie D
Growing Up Performed by Josh Lovelace

 

The Long and the Short of It

      

 

 

 

All I Do is Hop Performed by Grin Brigade (29 tracks)
The Robot Performed by Ants Ants Ants (4 tracks)

 

Thank You, and Goodnight!

Album cover for Now That We're Home

 

Now That We’re Home: Lullabies & Love Songs Performed by KB Whirly

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