Benny and Friends performed by Benny Time

One of the things that I’ve discovered this past year is that there is a wealth of children’s performers in Australia and New Zealand that I previously hadn’t heard a lot about here in the States. But with performers across the globe embracing the digital market, that is changing. A couple of months ago I was introduced to the talented, Australia-based Benny Time and would like to share his latest effort with you. For his fourth children’s album, Ben Thatcher (aka Benny Time) skillfully combines themes to create songs that speak to the beauty of nature while applauding the fact that we are all unique (“The River, The Mountain”), emphasize the importance of reusing and recycling so that the world and its inhabitants can be happy (the gospel backed “A Little Recycling Adventure”), and celebrating how wonderful each of us is but how much better we are when we’re together (“How Great We Are”). Along the way, Thatcher treats us to three versions (punk, surf, and beat) of the tune “Cars Are Everywhere” and the delightful “He Needs to Wee” about a boy who just as he is about to walk on Mars, talk with a dolphin, or find the end of the rainbow, realizes – like so many young children – he needs to wee.

Not only is Benny and Friends a wonderful showcase for Thatcher’s lovely vocals and spot on songwriting, but it also is a solid introduction to children’s music performers from that area of the world. Throughout the album Benny is joined by Australian songsters The Beanies, The Tiptoe Giants, Lah-Lah, and Justine Clarke as well as New Zealand standouts Claudia Robin Gunn and Itty Bitty Beats. Not limiting the album to just his friends in the southern hemisphere, it is New York’s own East Coast Inspirational Singers who bring the soul to recycling.

Benny and Friends will be available this Friday on all the usual streaming services. For a little taste of what is to come, take a listen to “Little Grey Cloud (It’s ok to Cry)” a song about grief and sadness that is sure to touch your heart.

Song Spotlight – “Stuff!” Performed by Esther Crow

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.” 

 

“Stuff!” performed by Esther Crow is available on all streaming platforms.

Song Spotlight – “Joy, Spice, Soul”

In children’s music, something incredible happened as a direct result of the pandemic – collaboration. Sure, artists worked together on occasion before, but never like they do today. “Joy, Spice, Soul” is a perfect example of just one of the amazing collaborations happening right now. On this uplifting track, two-time GRAMMY winner Lucy Kalantari is joined by brand new GRAMMY winner Falu and GRAMMY nominee Fyütch in creating a slice of happiness. In this jazzy, upbeat tune, the basic melody remains constant as each of the performers brings their own style of music (jazz, soul, classical Indian) to the lyrics. When their voices join together, it’s pure magic. As they aptly declare, “We bring different flavors but sing the same song/Brothers and sisters let’s all sing along.” Take a listen below while you dance around the room celebrating the “Joy, Spice, Soul” in life!

Video Spotlight – “I Choose Happy” performed by Birdie

“I choose happy, it looks good on me. I choose joy and I am free.” These are the opening lines to the chorus of “I Choose Happy,” the newest song from Birdie (California-based duo Teresa Gasca-Burk and Gary Burk). Sung while children play in the park, laughing, and enjoying being with one another, these lyrics, as well as the rest in this sweet, up-tempo song, encourage young viewers to embrace the goodness in life and share it with those around them – a message and reminder that we could all use once in a while. Watching this video, you’ll have no choice but to smile and be happy!

Falu Takes Home the GRAMMY!

After Covid-related delays, the 64th Annual GRAMMY awards were held today. All of the nominees in the Best Children’s Album category hit the red carpet (check out their social media feeds!) in Las Vegas looking dapper and divine. After a controversy laden nomination process last year, the 2022 GRAMMY nominees were the most diverse field yet featuring albums from 123 Andrès, Pierce Freelon, Falu, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, and the vast array of performers known as 1 Tribe Collective. In the end there could only be one winner and this year’s award went to two-time nominee, first-time GRAMMY winner Falu for her album A Colorful World! Huge congratulations go out to Falu and all of the nominees. Once again you have proven how beautiful, powerful, and fun children’s music can be.

Welcome Spring performed by Little Miss Ann

Chicago’s Little Miss Ann kicks off spring 2022 with her new EP, Welcome Spring. Released through 8 Pound Gorilla Records and produced by Dean Jones, Welcome Spring is a joyous celebration that lifts the spirits. Featuring an array of special guests like Suzi Shelton, Uncle Jumbo, and Flor Bromley, each song is filled with lyrics that engage and delight listeners with repeating choruses that encourage singing along. Multi-layered instrumentation and top-notch production gives the pop tunes a fun edginess while highlighting themes such as the arrival of spring, the universal consumption of rice, and the fact that there are so many ways to be happy, smart, brave, etc. The title track, “Welcome Spring,” is out today and  aptly captures all the emotions that come with finally being able to shed your boots and mittens and tell Old Man Winter that he’s no longer needed. The video features a brilliant color palette that paints the perfect springtime picture while an inclusive cast of diverse characters revel in the change of the seasons. Check out the video below. The full Welcome Spring EP is available on streaming services beginning April 1.

Video Spotlight – “Thanks to the Doctors and Nurses” performed by Daria

Welcome to the second of two videos in this spotlight series highlighting songs that have come out in this new phase of the pandemic-era. Following up Monday’s “Fauci Ouchie” is the latest single from Daria, “Thanks to the Doctors and Nurses.” With four decades of experience as a songwriter, folk singer, and ethnomusicologist, Daria uses her expertise as a pioneer in world music for children to create a beautiful tribute to the women and men who continue to work tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy, whether or not there is a pandemic. The unusual melody line of “Thanks to the Doctors and Nurses” takes unexpected dips and turns while being perfectly paired with engaging animation that features a diverse cast. This video will engage children and leave them wanting to show a little kindness by saying thank you to all of the doctors and nurses they encounter in their lives.

Video Spotlight – “Fauci Ouchie” Performed by Joanie Leeds

The coming week is going to be very interesting. After two years of masking and social distancing and vaccinations, we are now entering a new stage that basically says, “it’s ok to go back to life as you knew it.” For some, it’s a time of jubilation. For others, it’s a time of uneasiness. No matter your view on it though, I hope that we are all able to be respectful of one another’s decisions (to mask, or not to mask) and to show one another kindness in the days and weeks to come.

This week, as we work our way through this next stage in the pandemic, I am highlighting two recent children’s music videos. Today’s video comes from GRAMMY-winner Joanie Leeds and was just released on Friday. Featuring Joanie and her six-year-old daughter Joya, “Fauci Ouchie” is a fun, catchy tune with the goal of taking the scariness out of getting vaccinated. While the lyrics specifically mention the Fauci Ouchie, the song and video are general enough that it could be used for years to come to ease the fears of young children as they face the many vaccination shots that are necessary throughout their early lives.

Video Spotlight “Alien Babies From Outer Space”

I always enjoy it when an artist moves beyond their typical musical stylings and tries something new. That is exactly what Steve Pullara & His Cool Beans Band did recently with the video for their latest single, “Alien Babies From Outer Space.” This fun, quirky, electronica-filled tune is brought to life with retro-fueled imagery that recalls the early days of science fiction films. Children will love bopping around to the beat while watching the escapades of the adorably portrayed alien babies who are “coming to take us away!” 

You Are Not Alone from Alphabet Rockers

If you’ve been on social media in the past couple of weeks you’ve probably seen people posting about the 10 Year Challenge, which is just a picture of you from 10 years ago and one from today. As I was mulling over how to celebrate the release date of You Are Not Alone, the beautiful new picture book from Alphabet Rockers, I remembered this challenge and decided to take a stroll down memory lane and check out some of their early albums from my local library’s prolific music collection. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the first album I picked up…

…was from 2012!! That’s right! A decade ago, before they became the powerhouse champions for social justice they are today, Alphabet Rockers was creating a dance party of “learning, fitness, and early literacy.”

Fast forward 10 years to today and the debut of You Are Not Alone.

While Alphabet Rockers still believe in the things that made Go! so special, their messages have changed to reflect the world in which we live. You Are Not Alone is a bright, engaging picture book which encourages young readers (and as you’ll see below, young viewers) to love who they are, to celebrate all identities, and to “use their voices against hate.” The illustrations beautifully tell the story and when combined with the lyrical prose (“You don’t know me, but I bet you see the sun rise and set like I do…If you really knew me, when you’d see me you would think: You are Powerful, You are brave, You are brilliant”), makes readers want to reach out a hand to those around them and say, “You are not alone. I got you.” To learn more about how the story for You Are Not Alone came about and the process of creating the illustrations, visit We Need Diverse Books for a Q&A with Alphabet Rockers and illustrator Ashley Evans.

Check out the companion music video and song for You Are Not Alone below.

1 2 3 20