Esther Crow brings audiences another Earth conscious video in “Christmas Socks (Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose),” her follow up to October’s “Homemade Halloween.” This time around, Esther and her sock puppet friends encourage viewers to explore ways to repurpose items like jam jars, coffee tins, and wrapping paper into gifts and decorations. Esther never shies away from her message, but wraps it in a fun melody with a 1950’s flair (featuring a kazoo solo!!) that will have listeners chanting “recycle, reuse, repurpose!”
As a child of the 80s, I grew up having a great appreciation for homemade costumes. My mom was incredibly creative (If you showed her an egg carton, she came up with half a dozen uses for it. Show me an egg carton, I see an egg carton.) – she could knit, crochet, paint ceramics, and most importantly, sew. Whether it was a new blouse or dress, doll clothes, or holiday decor, she could do it all. And when it came to Halloween, my mom’s creativity and skill really got a chance to shine.
Each year as October 31st rolled around, my sister and I were allowed to let our imaginations run wild. Once in a while we got a store bought costume, but for the most part, our costumes were homemade. We would often combine items from around the house with things that my mom made. One year, my gym shorts and tennis shoes were the perfect accompaniment to an exotic bird mask while the next year, I raided my mom’s closet for jewelry and scarves to be a fortune teller. My sister on the other hand went a little grander, portraying things like a Hershey’s chocolate bar, a jack o’lantern, and a slice of watermelon.
I had forgotten about these costumes until I watched the video for Esther Crow’s new holiday song, “Homemade Halloween.” As soon as I heard the opening lyrics to this rocker of a tune, my Halloween memories came flooding back. One of the things I love most about this song, aside from the nostalgia factor, is that not only does it encourage creativity, but also sustainability – a theme that runs through much of Esther’s music. If the kids in your life haven’t chosen their costumes yet, watch “Homemade Halloween” for inspiration then look around the house to see what wonderous outfits you can create.
It’s Earth Day! Celebrate this rock we call home with a new, high-octane tune from Esther Crow. Disheartened by ever-growing landfills that contribute to the climate crisis and inspired by purging some of her own “stuff,” Esther wrote this song to encourage families to be greener and consider donating items they no longer want rather than tossing them in the trash. Produced by Dean Jones, this call-and-response rock song which features Esther’s eight-year-old son on mandolin and violin, gets the message across in a gloriously frenetic way. After jamming along, listeners will surely be left with the desire to take a good hard look at all their “stuff.”
Welcome to Kids Rhythm and Rock’s fourth annual Children’s Music Roundup! For those of you new to the blog, each year rather than doing a best of list, instead, I compile a list of my favorite albums.
2021 was an amazing year for children’s music with innumerable new artists making their way into the spotlight while more established acts continued to create incredible music and forged new musical partnerships with those they met along the way. Let’s say hello to 2022 by taking a look back at “the year that was” in children’s music. Don’t see your favorites listed below? Add them in the comments!
Be Mindful, Be Kind
Music to guide our everyday lives.
- A Mind of Your Own performed by The Bright Siders
- Maybe by Next Year performed by Kid Pan Alley
- Frogs and Birds performed by Lindsay Munroe with Raffi
- Yoga Dreamland performed by Putamayo
Fun, fantastic tunes to brighten any day.
- A Colorful World performed by Falu
- You Are Magic performed by Allison Faith Levy
- 28 Days performed by Little Miss Ann
- Make it Happen! performed by Stacey Peasley
- I Am performed by Shine and the Moonbeams
This was always my favorite Jeopardy! category. In this case, it’s a fun way to group the jazziest jazz, the quirkiest tunes, and songs on some popular topics together.
- Seconds performed by Ben Tatar and the Tatar Tots
- It’s for You performed by Flula Borg and Go Banana Go!
- What Kind of World? performed by Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats
- Planetary Promenade performed by Billy Kelly
- From My Head to My Toes performed by Music with Mandy
- Ponderosa Bunchgrass & the Golden Rule performed by The Oot N’ Oots
Regional Superstars You Should Know
It’s easy to forget that our talented local performers aren’t well known all across the country. Here’s some from the past year everyone should give a try.
- All Together Now performed by Esther Crow (New York)
- Music Makes Me Happy performed by Katie Dwyer (New York)
- The Grumpytime Club performed by Carrie Ferguson (Massachusetts)
- Sing Your Song Performed by The Harmonica Pocket (Washington)
- All Together performed by Kathryn the Grape (California)
I dare you to try and sit still while listening to these albums!
- Crayon Kids performed by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
- Ready, Set, Go! performed by Divinity Roxx
- Invisible performed by Father Goose
- Family Tree performed by Fyütch
- Slow Clap performed by Koo Koo Kangaroo
Unique Musical Stylings
There was nothing else quite like these albums this year.
- Young Maestros, Vol. 1 performed by Tracy Bonham (these could be showtunes)
- Black to the Future performed by Pierce Freelon (Afrofuturism)
- Folk for Little Folk, Vol.1 performed by Gordie MacKeeman (award-winning fiddling)
- Okay to Be Different performed by SaulPaul (rap)
- The Beat Bach Symphonies performed by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (rap with a symphony orchestra)
- The Strawberry Band performed by The Story Pirates (music based on children’s stories)
Visiting with Old Friends
- Let’s Go! performed by Laurie Berkner
- Love Me for Who I Am: The Remix performed by Brady Rymer
- Sharon, Lois & Bram Best of the Best Live performed by Sharon, Lois & Bram
- We’re All Fruit Salad performed by The Wiggles
Wide World of Music
These albums feature music in Spanish, Spanish and English, and music from as far away as New Zealand.
- Activate performed by 123 Andrés
- Pachamama performed by Flor Bromley
- Danilo & Chapis, Vol 1 performed by Danilo & Chapis
- Esperanza performed by Sonia De Los Santos
- Sing Through the Year performed by Claudia Robin Gunn
- A Mi Me Gusta Ser Yo *It’s Ok To Be Me performed by Twinkle Time
With a Little Help From My Friends
2021 was a year of amazing partnerships and collaborations.
- All One Tribe performed by 1 Tribe Collective
- Let It Out! performed by Mil’s Trills
- Let Love Be Your Guide performed by Dan & Claudia Zanes
Esther Crow made her entrée into children’s music with her band Thunder & Sunshine’s 2017 album, This is Thunder & Sunshine. Just a handful of years later, Esther returns with All Together Now, her first solo album for families which is set to be released on June 25. The first video from the album, “It’s so Easy Being Green” debuted on May 21 and detailed simple ways we can help the planet by changing our daily habits. Today, I am pleased to premiere “Hard to be Happy,” the second video from All Together Now.
Written in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Esther says of “Hard to be Happy,” “I was hoping to find a way to reach the very young, and to highlight the importance of empathy for others and acceptance of ourselves. I continue to struggle with the fact that people are persecuted for the color of their skin, or for whom they love.” To that end, the video features a conversation and duet between Bernie the Bee and Moonice the Cow, two of Esther’s signature paperbag-style felt puppets. In “Hard to be Happy” Moonice is struggling with the fact that instead of being black and white, Moonice is red and purple, while Bernie is coming to terms with being a bee who loves anchovies instead of flowers. While each character is facing challenges and things that make them sad, they know that they will be ok because they have each other.
Created by Jeff Lewonczyk, the simple nature of the puppets makes the theme of being yourself in order to be happy even more accessible to young listeners. The static background, puppetry, and music with a message gives “Hard to be Happy” a retro vibe, calling to mind children’s programs of the 70s and 80s. Bernie and Moonice (and Esther too) give listeners much to think about. “Hard to be Happy” ends with a courage-filled pledge that we should all adopt, “We’ll live our lives unafraid. We’ll be brave.”