Life on a Trampoline performed by Randy & Dave

I have to admit, I’m really digging the trend of the story song. And singer/songwriters Randy Sharp and Dave Kinnoin are experts at it. On their second album together, Life on a Trampoline, they tell such quirky stories such as ” Enjoy It While You Can” about a family who works in a cannery, “Last Time I Was Here” about a good-natured child who accidentally causes some pretty big mishaps and “A Weird Thing Happened” about the strange experience a child has when his ball goes over the fence.

Many of the songs on the album are silly ones, but others like the fantastic “Squadoosh” and “We Don’t Share” go a little deeper. “Squadoosh” is the perfect song to share with children who are afraid of the dark or convinced that a scary monster is hiding in their closet. In this song, the child’s fears are put to rest when the light is turned on because Squadoosh is an entirely different kind of monster. “Zilch, zip, zero-nada’s all he’s made of. He’s nothin’, and nothin’s nothin’ to be afraid of at all.” In “We Don’t Share” the child tells her sibling/friend about all the wonderful things that might be missed out on in the future because the friend won’t share things like a big piece of pie or the remote with her.

All twelve songs on this album are engaging with songs like “Semolina” being a good jumping off point for discussions about nutrition, foods from around the world or a story starter about inanimate things. Containing a mash-up of musical genres, multi-layered lyrics and sophisticated instrumentation, Life on a Trampoline is a delight that listeners young and old will want to hear again and again.

**Note for all you musicians out there, the liner notes to Life on a Trampoline contain all of the lyrics AND chord charts for each song.

New Albums from Old Friends

Several albums were released over the busy summer months by some of our favorite artists. Here are just a few that everyone should have in their collections.

Camp Songs performed by Ella Jenkins & Friends (released June 23)
It’s hard to believe, but Ella Jenkins, the grande dame of children’s music, has been recording music with Smithsonian Folkways for 60 years. Recording camp songs is something that she had wanted to do for over a decade so when her voice wasn’t strong enough to take the lead on the 25 songs chosen for this album, she enlisted the help of the children and parents from Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music along with Kate and Tony Seeger to bring each song to fruition. The result is a rich compilation of folk songs, sing-alongs, nonsense songs and rounds capturing America’s diversity.

 

Time Machine Guitar performed by Ralph’s World (released August 4)

Ralph Covert’s latest Ralph’s World album is a raucous voyage through time that provides fun history lessons about such subjects as Ben Franklin, King Tut and Christopher Columbus. A 1960s/1970s rock treatment is given to many of the songs while others get a jazz or Latin music flair.

 

 

Lead Belly, Baby! performed by Dan Zanes and Friends (released August 25) 

This introduction to the music of the incomparable Lead Belly is presented by Zanes and a whole host of guests including Father Goose, Sonia De Los Santos, Elena Moon Park, Aloe Blacc and Chuck D. The fifteen folk songs are given a modern twist making them easily accessible to today’s audiences.

 

 

Laurie Berkner: The Dance Remixes performed by Laurie Berkner (release September 22)

This collection presents 14 of Berkner’s classic songs such as “We Are the Dinosaurs,” “Bumblebee,” and “Telephone” in a way that listeners have never heard them before. Each of the songs is given an EDM makeover that will really appeal to older children who want to listen to “grown-up” music but aren’t quite ready for grown-up lyrics.

Rock-n-Roll Yearbook Performed by The Bazillions

With school having already started (or starting very soon) all across the country, this is the perfect time to shine a light on Rock-n-Roll Yearbook, the latest album from The Bazillions. This, the fourth album of kid-friendly rock-n-roll from the Minnesota based band is filled with everything that we’ve come to expect from the group – fun, smart lyrics set to jaunty melodies. The opening track, “Back at School” perfectly encapsulates what the first day of school is like and encourages lots of interaction from listeners (clapping, jumping, listening to teacher) while “New Pair of Shoes” captures the joy of getting a “so fast, jump high, supercharged new pair of shoes.”

One of my favorite things about The Bazillions is the skillful way they teach grammar and writing on their albums. This outing, it’s the “Wide Open World of Adjectives” and the writing rules of “Who What Where When Why.” The latter could easily be incorporated into language arts lessons on how to write a paragraph or as a story starter. The empowering messages of “You Could Be the One” (you can grow up to be anything you want), “That’s My Style” (you do your thing and I’ll do mine, and that’s cool) and “More To Be Done” (I’m learning and growing and together we can make change happen) are so important in today’s world of social media bullying and would work well as conversation starters both in the classroom and at home.

This delightful album will be a great addition to classroom lessons as well as family rockin’ out times.

 

If you’re not familiar with The Bazillions, check-out this video for their song, “Personification.”

 

Trippin’ Round the Mitten by Randy Kaplan

I have to admit, as a Michigander born and raised, Randy Kaplan had me at the title to his newest album, Trippin’ Round the Mitten. This, Kaplan’s sixth not-JUST-for-kids album, is filled with zany fun for the whole family. Clever, sophisticated lyrics lead listeners through the twists and turns of the 18 songs on this hour long album that features a smorgasbord of musical genres. Kaplan kicks things off with the rap heavy “Honk Honk” where you are directed not to squeeze his nose before veering off into a combination of original tunes as well as covers like the The Dead Milkmen’s punk-tinged “Beach Song,” and Maroon 5’s “Sugar,” which now has lyrics that describe the power of a child’s favorite “food group.”

 

Many of the songs written by Kaplan have subjects that will be familiar to parents and older siblings including a little boy who likes to run around without any clothes on in “Supernude,” the jazzy/funk/rap “Cat & Mice” about the escapades of a Dad and his son when mom is out of town on business, and the fantastic “On the Phone on the Toilet” which first leads listeners to believe this is the tale of a mom who is more interested in her phone than her son, but has a great twist at the end. The title track “Trippin’ Round the Mitten” is the only Michigan-centric song and will delight those who are familiar with the state as Kaplan lists off towns and roads from throughout the entire mitten. Randy’s wife, Julie May, shines on two of the songs, a cover of Pete Townsend’s “Sleeping Dog” and the lovely “Bye Bye Baby.”

No matter where you live, the combination of fun, yet informed lyrics with the wide variety of musical genres makes this an album that families will return to again and again.

Hot Nights by Gustafer Yellowgold

Gustafer Yellowgold, that little alien from the sun who found a home in Minnesota, returns on September 8 on the full-length album, Brighter Side from Morgan Taylor. Ahead of the new album’s arrival is the release of the first video from Brighter Side. “Hot Nights” tells the story of Gustafer’s struggles with insomnia when trying to get some sleep while living on the sun. Clever animation conveys the misery of poor Gustafer while also providing sly images like a roast toasting out the window or a row of Gustafer’s being cooked on the grill. Gustafer may have been living on the sun, but anyone who has had to endure a heat wave this summer will be able to relate! Enjoy!!

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! 🙂 )

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

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