Album Cover Art – Swamp Romp

Last year I had to buy a new car. While the vehicle is great and a real step up from my 12 year old two-door sedan, there is one major flaw. It doesn’t have a CD player. They just didn’t offer it. I keep hearing that this is the wave of the future. That CDs are on their way out. While that may be true, we still have a really long way to go and that is why album cover art continues to be so important.

While many parents are now either streaming music for their kids or playing children’s music videos on YouTube, there is still a large number of families who are buying albums, or in many cases, checking them out from the library. Much like books, people often check music out based on how the cover looks. In the case of Swamp Romp, the new album from Johnette Downing with Scott Billington, the cover is completely delightful.

Created by Heather Stanley, the whimsy and joy of the cover art perfectly captures the Louisiana roots music featured on the album. Stanley, who works as the Director of Creative Services at the Audubon Nature Institute, also illustrated two of Downing’s books (Petit Pierre and the Floating Marsh and Mademoiselle Grands Doigts). She works in many mediums from watercolor to digital technology, often showcasing nature and the animals who inhabit it.

Swamp Romp will be released on February 15, 2019.

Best Children’s Album 2018 GRAMMY Nominees

This past year was another amazing one for children’s music. Whether you like the more traditional kids music, jazz, rock, folk, EDM, pop, world music and more, there was something for every family. To be considered for the 61st GRAMMY awards, albums had to be released between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018. Below are the five albums that are nominated for Best Children’s Album (click on the blue titles to see my reviews). The GRAMMY awards will be announced on Sunday, February 10.

All the Sounds performed by Lucy Kalantari & The Jazz Cats

 

Building Blocks performed by Tim Kubart

 

Falu’s Bazaar performed by Falu

 

Giants of Science performed by The Pop Ups

 

The Nation of Imagine performed by Frank & Deane

New Holiday Playlist

I love the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. While it can be filled with lots of special events, extra cars on the road and crabby shoppers, it’s also the only time of the year when I can curl up in my softest, coziest blanket, sip a cup of hot cocoa, turn off all but the twinkly lights and relax while I enjoy some of my all-time favorite music. This year, the folks at Sugar Mountain PR have compiled a free list of new songs and perhaps new-to-you songs from 16 different children’s artists. Click here to take a listen. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite or two!

 

The playlist includes:
“Blankets of Snow” – The Okee Dokee Brothers
“Christmas Time” – Ants, Ants, Ants
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – The Not-Its!
“My Holiday” – Alphabet Rockers and Genevieve Goings
“Baby It’s the Holidays Again” – Kira Willey
“Holiday Jam” – Brady Rymer
“Silver Bells” – Suzi Shelton
“Must Be Santa” – Raffi
“Light” – Lisa Loeb
“Christmas Time is Here” – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
“I Got a Cheese Log” – Trout Fishing in America
“Welcome to Christmaswood” – Ralph’s World
“Snow Day” – Justin Roberts”
“We Are Growing” – Tim Kubart (feat. Woodward Parkway’s Junior Chorus)
“Jingle Bell Rock” – Lucky Diaz
“Bembelé” – 123 Andrés feat. ClaraLuna

 

 

 

Video Premiere – “Funny Papers” performed by Randy & Dave

Veteran songwriters Randy Sharp and Dave Kinnoin return with their third delightfully silly and fun collaboration, Snorkel. Each song tells a story using lyrics that respect the children’s ability to listen closely. The stories may be about a lumberjack who gives his rather large dog a bath, a child who was just trying to be nice and let a squirrel inside, or an ode to the family cat. In with all of the silliness, Randy & Dave also cleverly weave important messages. In “Everybody’s Ignorant,” the emphasis is on the fact that we can’t all know everything while in “Why Not” the main character, rather than simply accepting that something is not possible, decides to use his inquiring mind to figure out “why not” instead. Randy & Dave don’t shy away from using difficult vocabulary on occasion, incorporating terms like hirsute, distortion and consternation into their songs. They provide all of the words and music from Snorkel here, along with a sample of each song so that they can be performed with or without the CD.

Here is the debut of the so-cute-you-can’t-help-but-smile video for the song, “Funny Papers.”

Winterland performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers

This fall The Okee Dokee Brothers returned with Winterland, the follow-up to their “Adventure Album Series.” This new album finds the GRAMMY Award-winning duo of Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing celebrating the cold and snowy winter season. This collection of 16 songs is a beautiful combination of music that embraces the wonders of this unsung time of year as well as some important life lessons. The album opens with “Blankets of Snow,” a great reminder that the cold weather outside is what leads to the warmth and coziness inside. On the opposite end of the cozy spectrum is “Ice Fishin’ Shack” an ode to a past time that is not for the winter faint-of-heart. And don’t miss the tale of the poor, misunderstood “Abominable Yeti,” who it turns out is an upstanding citizen and overall nice creature.

Musically, the entire album, produced by GRAMMY Award-winner Dean Jones, is a treat to listen to, with The Okee Dokee Brothers signature Americana folk style evident throughout. A few of the unique standouts include “Keep Me Warm” which is inspired by the community singing of traditional Irish songs in local pubs, “Slumberjack,” a song that is a nod to the shanties of Canada’s Maritime Provinces and is their first a cappella number, and the raucous “Howl,” a tune influenced by a dog sledding trip in the Boundary Waters.

Along with the songs lauding winter and all that comes with it, are songs that provide important life lessons. The song “You, You, You” is the most pop sounding track on the album and encourages children to be true to themselves, “And you you you, you were you-ing like/ You do. I just love it when you you.” The circle of life is addressed in “Great Grandmother Tree,” which allows children to talk about death in a less frightening way. And finally, there is “Snowpeople” which asks whether or not we have to “wear” our genders.

Winterland is filled with so much depth. It entertains while also teaches us to love nature and one another all year through.

 

View the video for “Snowpeople” below and read this interview The Okee Dokee Brothers did with Fatherly about the origin of the song.

2018 Children’s Music Roundup

Welcome to Kids Rhythm and Rock’s first ever Children’s Music Roundup!! Throughout the past year I thought a lot about doing a “10 Best” list, but the music for children this year was so diverse and so dynamic, there was no way I could limit my choices. What I decided to do instead was to make a list of my favorite albums of the year, then break the list up by categories. (If I reviewed an album here, I’ve included the link.) So, without further ado, here is the 2018 Children’s Music Roundup!

Most Amazing Album Covers:
Come for the covers, stay for the fantastic music!

Blue Skies and Sunny Days performed by Frances England
Wake Up the Dream performed by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

 

Be Mindful, Be Kind:
Music to guide our everyday lives.

Every Voice performed by Kira Willey
Dog on the Floor performed by Raffi

 

Oh, to be Little:
Perfect tunes for the preschool crowd.

Come Together performed by Jeanie B!
High Five! performed by Laura Doherty

 

Sounds of Summer:
Winter may soon be upon many of us, but these albums are good anytime of the year. 

Camp Andyland performed by Andy Z
Fireflies performed by Mister G

 

It’s Science!:
Who knew science could be so fun?

Giants of Science performed by The Pop Ups
Kidz STEM Songs performed by Dan Crow and Friends
Zoom a Little Zoom: A Ride Through Science performed by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer

 

Life Through a Special Set of Eyes:
Meet Jamey, his cat and his new puppy as they partake in the joys of summer. 

Kitty Cat Under My Wheelchair performed by Steve Pullara and His Cool Beans Band

 

 

For Fans of the “Who Was/ Who Is” Series:
What better group of people to learn about than Nobel Laureates? 

Legion of Peace performed by Lori Henriques Quintet featuring Joey Alexander

 

 

Where in the World…:
Music inspired by cultures from around the world.

Falu’s Bazaar performed by Falu (India)
La Luna performed by 123 Andrés (Central and South America)

 

Jazziest Jams:
Everything’s groovy in this collection.

All the Sounds performed by Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats

 

We Only Have One Earth:
Celebrate all the creatures, great and small, on this planet we call home. 

Back to the Land performed by Hot Peas ‘N Butter
Why Why Why? performed by Ants Ants Ants

 

 

 

Introducing:
Who can resist a bilingual playground? 

Happy Land is Tierra Feliz performed by Mi Amigo Hamlet

 

 

Musical Moms:
There are many moms on this list, but the moms below can’t be categorized!

Songs for Sisters and Brothers performed by Vered
Strawberry Wind performed by Jessie Baylin
Tour Guide performed by Cheri Magill
Wild is Everywhere performed by Sara Lovell

 

Music for a Cause:
Hold Tight, Shine Bright performed by 25+ children’s artists 
This album was created to help keep families together. All proceeds go to RAICES Texas.

 

And finally –

Just Because They’re Awesome:
Building Blocks performed by Tim Kubart 
Family Photo Album performed by Recess Monkey
Hand in Hand performed by Suzi Shelton

 

 

 

Did your favorites make the list?? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

Fids and Kamily Music Awards 2018

It’s that time of year again. Time for the “Best of…” lists to start appearing. First up in the land of children’s music is the 13th annual Fids & Kamily Music Awards. Voted on by a stellar collection of folks familiar with the fantastic offerings from the children’s music industry, this list of the Top 10 albums of 2018 for kids and families is a list of “must haves” for every collection. Don’t forget to take a look at the Honorable mentions, they are great ones to have as well. Keep an eye out in the next couple of weeks for the first ever Kids Rhythm and Rock best of the year list. Also on the horizon, the GRAMMY nominations for Best Children’s Album in December, followed shortly thereafter by School Library Journal’s “10 Best Children’s Albums” for teachers, librarians and families. Are there any albums you wished had made the Fids and Kamily list?

Video Premiere – “A Fish Named Dog” performed by Michael & the Rockness Monsters

Michael Napolitano, founder of Rockness music, returns with his extremely talented Rockness Monsters on their new album Monster’s Ball, which comes out today. Filled with all original songs written by Napolitano and co-produced by children’s music guru Dean Jones, this is kindie rock at its best. The songs on this album range from the joyful celebration of “S M I L E,” which praises the power of a smile when shared out in the world, to the driving bass line and rock laden instrumentation of the interactive movement song, “Growing Bigger.” Along the way, listeners will enjoy getting on the “Party Train,” learning the styles of dance from over the decades and around the world as they are listed in “People Places Dancing,” and following the instructions on how to move like a robot in “Robot Song.”

Michael & the Rockness Monsters strip things down a bit for the track, “Beautiful Day,” before telling the story of a trip that Michael’s family took in, “Les Lumières de Paris.” Michael’s family’s exploits make another appearance on the album for the tune, “A Fish Named Dog.” Based on the real life experience of his daughter wanting a dog, this song tells the tale of Michael’s daughter being told instead of a dog, she could get a fish, and his daughter in turn naming the fish…dog. To get a small taste of what’s in store when you give Monster’s Ball a listen, check out the video for “A Fish Named Dog” below. If you are looking for fun, interactive music to use with that Kindergarten and up crowd, this album is for you!

¡Alegría! performed by Sonia De Los Santos

In ¡Alegría! the follow-up to her wonderful album, Mi Viaje: De Nuevo León to the New York Island, Sonia De Los Santos explores the theme of joy and happiness. The term ¡Alegría! literally means joy and in the album’s liner notes De Los Santos brings even more depth to the term by explaining, “In some parts of Latin America it is often used to cheer someone up. We say ¡Alegría! to remind each other that there is something to be happy about. I find this so beautiful.” So do I. Throughout the twelve songs on this album, Sonia reminds us to find the happiness in both the exciting times as well as the quiet moments in the day.

Eight of the songs are originals and feature Latin American rhythms like cumbia, curralo and huayno. A whole host of traditional instruments make appearances as well, like the gaita flute from Colombia which features prominently in “Mariposa Montuna,” that celebrates the incredible migration undertaken by monarch butterflies each year and in “Mi Papa Va a Comprar” that mentions the conga, trumpet, accordion, jarana and kalimba.  Complex vocals are woven together with fast moving melodies to create gorgeous musical tapestries in songs like, “Calibri Amarillo” and “Los Pajaritos.” De Los Santos strikes a well-chosen balance between the quick moving songs and quieter moments by including tracks like “Amopolita” and the English lullaby, “Daisy Mae” featuring beautiful harmonies performed with Elizabeth Mitchell.

Additional songs performed in English include the playful tune “Hey Little Bunny!” featuring Caridad De La Luz aka La Bruja and “Songs for the People,” based on a poem written by African American poet Frances Ellen Watkins in the 1800s, with Dan Zanes and Claudia Eliaza taking lead on the vocals. “Donde Tú Estés, Wherever You Go” is the sole bilingual tune on the album. Originally written in English by children’s folk icons Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, De Los Santos has added Spanish translations to the lyrics and the three perform the song together to close out the album.

*A 32-page booklet of liner notes is included with the album. De Los Santos includes an introductory note to each song along with complete lyrics, helping to further enrich the experience of ¡Alegría!.

Experience a taste of the joy from this album with the video for the title track, “¡Alegría!” below.

 

Video Spotlight: “The Grass is Always Greener”

I have been a big fan of Suzi Shelton’s latest album, Hand in Hand, ever since I first heard it way back in June. The lyrics are fun and engaging and the instrumentation uplifting. This combination makes many of the songs stick in your head so that you find yourself randomly singing them in the shower, in the car, or even at work (being a children’s librarian, no one even gives this a second glance). One of my favorite songs, “The Grass is Always Greener,” now has a green screen video that was shot at YouTube Space NYC to go along with it. Featuring Suzi, her bandmates and a delightful assist from Tim Kubart, this is the perfect way to start off the week. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

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