Full disclosure – Halloween is kind of a big deal at my house. New decorations started arriving in June this year. First it was a couple of blow mold black cats in the living room, then it was black cat pumpkin figures peering from unexpected places (and often getting mistaken for our actual black cat) when the Grandin Road fall catalog appeared in July. As we slowly cruised into autumn, it was a few Halloween goodies from the local grocery store on the kitchen table soon to be followed by bowls and plates and platters as prices were slashed to make room on store shelves for the Christmas decorations. Plans are being made for our annual Halloween costume party with evening discussions often surrounding what the lighting should look like, what theme we should go with throughout the house this time, and what creepy food we should serve. And then there’s the outside decorations. Did I mention that work on the light show began back in January? January!! It’s going to be amazing.
Decorations aren’t the only thing essential to Halloween. So is a good soundtrack. After all these years of celebrating All Hallows Eve, I have a pretty prolific collection of Halloween themed music, but as with any holiday, there is always room for more. So what better way to start off the spookiest of seasons than with a brand new song from Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats? Released last Friday, “Flick of My Wrist” is a fantastically orchestrated tune that allows Kalantari’s rollicking vocals to dance around the lyrics as they describe the exploits of a young witch whose use of her power leads to unexpected results. It would be absolutely ghastly if you dared to leave “Flick of My Wrist” off of your Halloween playlist! Take a listen, and Happy Haunting!
When he’s not busy these days being part of the entertaining duo Randy & Dave, Dave Kinnoin and a whole host of friends (including Randy Sharp and Red Grammer) are busy making music as Grin Brigade. The group’s second album, All I Do Is Hop, is filled with 29 songs that cover an incredibly wide range of topics. One of those tracks is the “Dog Alphabet Song.” While the tune is fun to listen to, there’s nothing quite like watching the video that goes along with it. The dog days of summer may already feel like distant memories, but this video featuring dogs of every shape, size and breed, will be the uplifting hit that your fall needs. Brighten any day by watching with the young dog and animal lovers in your life. Can’t catch all the types of dogs as they go by? Check out the lyrics (and chords if you want to try playing it yourself!) here. Enjoy!
This morning the nominees for the 20th Annual Latin GRAMMY awards were announced. The nominees in the Best Latin Children’s Album category are a diverse and delightful group. Be sure to try the albums below before the winner is announced on November 14.
Did you know that National Grandparents Day officially became a holiday on August 3, 1978? In the early 1970’s Marian McQuade, a resident of West Virginia and advocate for the senior population, began campaigning to have Grandparents Day recognized in that state. Through her efforts, in 1973, West Virginia became the first state to proclaim Grandparents Day a holiday. McQuade’s quest didn’t end there and in 1978, President Carter designated the Sunday after Labor Day as Grandparents Day. And this year, that special day is Sunday, September 8.
What better way to celebrate Grandparents Day 2019 than with a delightful new song from Stephen Michael Schwartz? Whether your grandma and grandpa are the ones that you were born with or special seniors that you hold dear to your heart, all grandparents will be touched by this upbeat, special message of love from a grandchild. “Grandma and Grandpa” appears on veteran children’s performer, songwriter and member of Parachute Express, Schwartz’s latest solo album, Ditto Kiddo. Click here to get a sneak “peak” at the songs in this new collection and click below to enjoy “Grandma and Grandpa.”
Chicago-based children’s music artists Wendy Morgan and Darryl Boggs don’t just talk the talk, they also walk the walk. Along with writing music about helping protect the environment, the animals within it and general messages about having love for one another, for years the duo has donated part of the proceeds from their albums to the VH1 Save the Music Foundation and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots. While the target audience for the music from their albums is at the preschool through early grade school level, Wendy & DB make time each year to work with local middle and high school students throughout the Chicagoland area to create music that is important not only to the students, but to the larger global community as well.
At the end of 2018, Wendy & DB worked with the HHW Youth Gospel Choir, Easter Seals, A Better Life for Kids, and ABLFK African Signers to create the video for their uplifting song, “Way is Peace.” As the song goes, “Let me show you the way. The way is peace. Let me show you the way. The way is love.” The pure joy of the younger children, the powerful voices of the teens and the messages for peace at the end of the video work together to convey an incredibly simple yet so often unheeded message. All of the proceeds from the sale of “Way is Peace” go to Cure Violence Global.
With their latest song, Wendy & DB take on the topic of immigration. To ensure that the message of “We the People” was properly conveyed, they worked very closely with the students at Chicago’s Sullivan High School where over 80% of the student body is immigrants themselves. Over the course of several months, Wendy, DB and bandmate Dean Rolando worked with Sullivan’s music department as well as several English as a Second Language students to create the lyrics of “We the People.” The images in the video combined with these lyrics depicts the immigrant experience not just of these incredible students but of so many throughout our country. Proceeds from “We the People” as well as the Sullivan High School students version of the song go to the immigrant support organization RefugeeOne.
In the follow-up to Legion of Peace, a beautiful album dedicated to an amazing array of Nobel Peace Prize winners, Lori Henriques returns to her light-hearted yet earnest style with her new album What Do You Wish. Originally released as a solo-voice and piano, cabaret style song on Lori’s 2013 album The World is a Curious Place to Live, “Everlovin Water” has been reimagined for 2019 with an arrangement that features a full funk band. With Schoolhouse Rock as inspiration, Henriques takes her passion for good, clean water and teaches children what happens to the water in your body. To capture the essence of “Everlovin Water,” Henriques enlisted the help of her brother Joel, a Portland-based artist. With his use of brightly colored graphics that feature a full cup of water, the sun, and twinkling stars, Joel created a video that through its simplicity allows listeners to truly concentrate on the fun and informative lyrics while grooving to an awesome beat. Click on the link below to enjoy the premiere of “Everlovin Water.” Make sure to stay all the way to the end for an adorable visual surprise. Check out all the songs on What Do You Wish when it is released on Saturday, August 31.
Montana-based Cowboy Andy and the Salamanders follow their celebrated album Bubbleswith 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 albumRise 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.
Josh Lovelace (of the adult rock group NEEDTOBREATHE) returns with a follow-up to his 2017 debut family album, Young Folk. On Growing Up singer-songwriter Lovelace captures universal life experiences that affect everyone no matter their age like friendship, family, the birth of a baby and saying goodbye to those we love. His solo voice is occasionally joined to great effect by children’s backing vocals on the twelve Americana-tinged rock songs in this collection. While there are plenty of hand-clapping and toe-tapping moments on this album, they are tempered by other tracks such as the gorgeous “You Are Loved,” “Let’s Go Drive” which captures the peaceful moments of unplanned family drives, and the beautiful blending of voices on the Frances England duet, “Butterfly” which encourages listeners to reach your light and follow your dreams.
A couple of unique moments are found toward the beginning of the album. The first is in the classic rock sounding “Traveling Band (When I Grow Up)” which tells the tale of a youngster who wants to be in a traveling band and lists a who’s who of performers – like Elton on the keys who makes the people want to shout – who could be in the band too. The second moment is the song “Calypso.” Unlike anything else on the album, it calls to mind ocean breezes and your toes in the sand as people in the neighborhood are encouraged to dance the calypso.
With Growing Up, Josh Lovelace has created that rare family album that sounds like adult music, has lyrics and melodies with kid appeal, and a production value that makes every song sound like it should be on the radio. A must have for family listening.