Under the Big Umbrella performed by Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

“Different is beautiful, just like a rainbow, just like the colors that shine. Different is beautiful, just let your colors show. Yours go perfect with mine.”
– “Different is Beautiful” from Under the Big Umbrella

Brady Rymer’s 10th studio album with The Little Band That Could is filled with important messages for every listener that are inspired by those striving to create cultures of kindness in their families, schools, and communities. The opening, title track, “Under the Big Umbrella” was written for Lincoln Center’s inaugural Big Umbrella Festival, a celebration for children with autism and their families. The perfect way to kick-off the album, this song invites everyone to sing and dance however they want under the accepting protection of the big umbrella.

The upbeat, positive messages continue throughout the album in a collection of original and cover songs that encourage listeners to be kind to themselves and one another as well as to do good out in the world. In a departure from his kindie rock style, Rymer is joined by Sonia De Los Santos on a country-tinged bilingual version of the Woody Guthrie tune, “Don’t You Push Me Down,” while on his groovy take on “I’m Coming Out,” Rymer fills breaks in the song with children’s answers to the question, “What do you want the world to know?” Additional covers include Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” and the Beatles “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

Children will enjoy the original songs just as much as the covers. From “You Do You” to “Thank You for Being You” the importance of being happy and confident in yourself is emphasized without ever becoming overly didactic or touchy-feely in sentiment. My personal favorite is “The Smile Shop.” I love the concept of a store that has aisles and aisles of smiles for every occasion – the school picture smile, the shy smile, the playing in the park smile. Backed by a rhythm that demands listeners clap along, this tune would be a perfect introduction to activities where children talk about, write about or draw those things in life that make them smile.

Rain or shine, families will find themselves right at home Under the Big Umbrella.

Kindred performed by Renee & Friends

I don’t know about you, but I’ve reached my limit for the negativity and self-righteous snarkiness that I encounter online. So, this past weekend, I took a break from the internet. I decided no social media, no email, no surfing the web. I was going to dedicate myself to the beautiful weather and those people around me. And you know what? The weekend was lovely, peaceful and restorative. Just what I needed.

I discovered something else that I needed. While looking for something this evening, I knocked over a stack of new music on my desk and before straightening it, I reached in and blindly grabbed a CD. And the album I pulled out was Kindred. This was just what I needed. What a beautiful collection of music! It is the perfect antidote to all of the things in the world that bring you down.

Those familiar with Renee Stahl’s first Renee & Friends album, Simpatico, will not be disappointed with these new collaborations. Kindred is filled with gentle, soothing songs that can be enjoyed by the entire family. The opening track “Kindness is Cool” sets the tone for the album. Performed by Renee & Jeremy, this reminder of the importance of being kind to one another is wrapped in catchy lyrics highlighted by the refrain, “I’ll be for you. You’ll be for me. Kindness. Kindness.” This is followed by the dynamite performance by Renee’s 12-year-old-daughter, Amelia, on “Super Fragile World” as well as a lovely cover of the Cat Stevens tune, “Where do the Children Play” with vocals by Renee and Ziggy Marley.

It’s hard to imagine a rap by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo being overshadowed by anyone, but that’s exactly what happens on “Leaders of the World.” While Skidoo’s words are powerful and strong, it’s the beauty of the vocals of Addi Rose, Amelia Dektor and the Cold Spring School Chorus that truly capture the essence of this song.

Additional friends on this album include Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell who join Renee in their rendition of the classic, “High Hopes.” Finally, there are two tracks that allow Renee’s crystal clear voice to shine.  “Nothing and No One” focuses on the fact that there is nothing in the world that could take away a mother’s love for her children and could easily be used as a lullaby. The last track on the album, “How Did You Get So?” is a gorgeous song that asks a child – how did you get so sweet/smart/beautiful? It is the perfect ending to a much needed album. Every family would benefit from taking a few minutes, unplugging from the outside world and taking in the messages of Kindred.