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.
For a very long time, only a handful of musical genres were represented in children’s music. Then came kindie music which started to break away from the “traditional” styles and sounds that were offered for kids. With the door now open to artists from outside that traditional mold, we’ve begun to see music that truly reflects the listening preferences of families by spanning a multitude of genres including country, rock, jazz, hip hop, and now, the blues.
With their new album, Into the Little Blue House, Chicago-based Wendy & DB (Wendy Morgan and Darryl Boggs) give a Master Class in creating the blues for young listeners. Combing their love of entertaining and educating children through music, Wendy & DB crafted a collection of songs that both teach children traditional blues tunes as well as introduces listeners to songs that lift them up in both mind and spirit. The album is given layers of depth with guest vocalists and an entire crew of Chicago blues musicians.
“Little Blue House” is the perfect first track for
Into the Little Blue House . With lyrics that encourage listeners to feel free to express their feelings and really be themselves, “Little Blue House” strikes all the right chords as it welcomes young folks into the rich world of the blues. Take a listen below. Into the Little Blue House will be available on Friday.
So many wonderful collaborations popped up in the past couple of years that blended artists and genres that we never would have previously imagined. I’m so excited today to add a new partnership to that list -Jazzy Ash (Ashli St. Armant) and Red Yarn (Andy Ferguson). I’m not sure what took this duo so long to get together but I’m glad that they did because the combination of Jazzy Ash’s jazz infused style and Red Yarn’s folk/Americana sensibilities perfectly combine to create music that tells stories and entertains all at the same time.
Their full-length EP, Sing Together will be out on October 7. Today, however, it is my pleasure to premiere “Sing Together,” the title track from their upcoming album. This folky tale features a wide variety of woodland creatures who each have their own unique voices but when they sing together, they create a beautiful song. If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, “Sing Together” will do just the trick. Enjoy!
First recorded in 1726, the term Davy Jones’s locker has always called to mind images of a murky, watery grave inhabited by an evil spirit of the sea; and at first glance, this version from New Zealand’s Jackie B and the Mini Band is no different. Soon though, three fearful little pirates find themselves learning the importance of kindness and friendship. Jackie Bristow’s lyrics and music (including a haunting chorus that will draw listeners in and won’t let them go) combine perfectly with animation by Brad Goosen and illustration by Edmund Ifflen to create a visual adventure that elevates the song’s storyline, taking it in an unexpected direction. Rich with details, children will discover new surprises with each viewing.
For the last decade, I worked in a community where the majority of families had at least four children, which meant at any given time they were struggling to find music that would appeal to a range of ages and musical tastes. Often the solution to this dilemma was musical or movie soundtracks. Now there’s a new option – Street Corner Symphony. What began in 2010 as an a capella group created to compete on the second season of NBC’s The Sing Off (they were the runners up) has developed over the years into a deeply talented quintet who recently released Jukebox, their first album of family music,
From the first note to the last, this collection entertains while lifting the spirits. The title song is signature Street Corner Symphony, capturing that doo-wop sound and pairing it with clever lyrics with a child inquiring, “hey daddy, what is a jukebox?” followed by asking about a boom box, and finally an iPod. This track along with “Ode 2 Phone” which is a fantastic 90s power ballad about losing phone privileges (and the fear of losing everything on the phone during that down time) will have great tween and parent appeal. Street Corner Symphony keeps things moving with a version of “Atomic Dog” that would make George Clinton proud, and a groovy beach party tune all about “Swimming.” And move over “Cha Cha Slide” – there’s a new dance in town that’s going to get everybody moving and it’s called the “Street Corner Shuffle!”
Jukebox isn’t just good for getting you moving. As the band said, “We wanted to write about simple truths on this album. Being able to express yourself is such an important practice for the whole spectrum of life so we wanted to encourage expressing love and gratitude.” And that is exactly what they have done. From the second track which gleefully encourages children to “Be Brave” when confronting big and little things in life to the techno-esque “Kindness is Timeless” and the good advice in “Attitude of Gratitude,” that message comes through loud and clear. And nowhere is that love more evident than on “You Make Me Love,” a beautiful duet between father and son Maurice and Matthew Staple, whose love for one another and those around them can be felt in every single word.
Jukebox is a real triumph. Welcome to family music, Street Corner Symphony! We’re glad you’re here.
The world of children’s music experienced a devastating loss recently with the unexpected passing of Morgan Taylor. The creative force behind Gustafer Yellowgold, a little drop of sunshine come to Earth, Morgan’s talent as an artist and a musician led to two GRAMMY-nominations as well as Audible’s award for Best Children’s Audiobook. Over the past few days there has been an outpouring of love from those who were friends with Morgan and those whose lives had been brightened by his music. Even though I never had the privilege of meeting Morgan, I was fortunate enough to see him perform in 2018 at the Children’s GRAMMY-nominee concert in New York City. When he first appeared on stage, you weren’t sure what to expect from this unassuming guy carrying a guitar, then the magic began and Morgan put on a truly delightful performance that was a treat for the ears and the eyes. The world may be a little darker place without Morgan Taylor in it, but through the legacy of Gustafer Yellowgold, his light will live on. A GoFundMe page has been created to assist Morgan’s family.
Josh Lovelace returns with his third album for families, this time under the moniker Young Folk. Much like his last album (Growing Up, 2019), Moonwalking is filled with songs that will appeal to adults, entertain children, and will continuously be in demand. A talented singer-songwriter, Lovelace knows how to make parents chuckle and when to pull on the heartstrings. The title track “Moonwalking” opens the album and sets the tone for a seamless sound that lifts the spirits from beginning to end. Most adults will laugh along with the guy in the second track who likes to think life hasn’t changed much since becoming a parent but admits he’s just “a cool dad…in a minivan.” That pop sound continues on in songs like the fun imagination-filled “Mommy’s a Mermaid” and “Silly Time,” the perfect storytime break with a running time of only 1:15 minutes.
The theme of caring for one another comes out in the rockabilly laden “Wash Your Hands.” While it might feel like this message is no longer needed, if you’ve been in a public restroom lately, you’ll know that many people could use a reminder like this. It’s not just the humans who get special treatment on Moonwalking. A certain four-legged friend does too. “Rosie Cat” is a touching song about the love that comes when a feline joins the family. This song in particular spoke to me. As a former dog lover, when I rescued my kitty cat Coal almost 10 years ago, I too “never thought I’d love a friend like that.” Featuring a catchy refrain that begs for listeners to sing along, I may have serenaded Coal with the lyrics Coalie Cat instead of Rosie Cat, but that will just stay between us.
After taking us moonwalking and on perfect day beach adventures, Lovelace slows things down, first with “I Believe in You,” a gorgeous love letter to his children that will have young listeners asking you why you’re crying as you take in the words “Know that you will always be enough…You can always fall back on my love” and finally, with the closing track, the original lullaby, “Goodnight My Dear.”
With Moonwalking, whether Lovelace, as Young Folk, makes you laugh or makes you cry, he definitely leaves you feeling loved. A perfect album for family listening!
Family music artist Brady Rymer and his fellow performers in the Little Band That Could put the “rock” in kindie rock. From the very beginning of their children’s music career, the group never shied away from featuring electric guitars, keyboards, and drums to create a musical sound that kids and their parents alike would enjoy. With That Friday Feeling, the band’s 12th studio album, that rock and roll tradition continues.
From the first note of the title track to the last beat of the final song, listeners are treated to Rymer’s rockin’ signature melodies combined with lyrics that not only entertain, but emphasize the importance of living lives filled with joy, hope, and kindness. The eleven original songs include ideas for how to cheer someone up, an appreciation for the adorable animal babies of summer, the soft jam that follows the bunny tracks through the snow, and answers to that age-old-question, “If you had a super power, what would it be?” Also included is the beautiful tune, “Outline,” which says that we are simply outlines that are being filled with precious attributes like light and love which are represented by different colors of the rainbow and the upbeat “Gonna Sleep Well Tonight” whose goal it is to get kids moving and dancing and ready to fall into bed. The only cover on That Friday Feeling is “Yes We Can Can,” a funk song about helping one another out that was written by Allen Toussaint and made popular by the Pointer Sisters. Rymer and the Little Band That Could dig right in and give a performance that would make them all proud.
Even in its quieter moments, That Friday Feeling is filled with a joyful celebration of things in life both big and small. Listeners will quickly find themselves bopping their heads and singing along. That Friday Feeling is available this Friday, June 17.
It’s that wonderous time of year when children celebrate the end of school and public libraries launch their summer reading programs. Many libraries create their own themes, while others either use the iREAD theme, which this year is “Read Beyond the Beaten Path,” or the CSLP theme, “Oceans of Possibilities.” Both of these themes are fantastic and encourage young readers to explore worlds beyond their everyday experiences, but the one we’re going to focus on today is “Oceans of Possibilities.”
New Zealand-based Claudia Robin Gunn had no idea when she was planning the launch of her latest album, Sing for the Sea – Little Wild Ocean Friends, that it would perfectly coincide with American summer reading programs, but lucky for us, it does. Gunn’s newest collection of kindie folk is a double album packed with 24 original songs, all written and performed by Gunn. Featuring vocals that elevate her modern take on folk music, Gunn’s voice is at times almost ethereal, making it the perfect companion to lyrics that tell the tale of creatures found deep in the ocean. Each track has its own story to tell and is strengthened by the intentional way that each song focuses on only one creature or aspect of the watery environs. Animals spotlighted on the album include whales, squid, octopus, and jelly fish while rock pools, seaweed, and coral reefs are also shown special treatment. Although each song is packed with scientific facts, they are consistently entertaining and never feel didactic. All encourage listeners to use their imaginations and several like “Pirate Princess,” “Mermaid Parade,” and “Sandcastle Competition” promote the importance of play.
Along with Sing for the Sea – Little Wild Ocean Friends, Claudia worked with her sister Dr. Melissa R. Gunn and award-winning watercolor artist Elise De Silva to create a companion songbook that includes science notes and activity ideas for each song. Originally due out in July, when Claudia heard about the “Ocean’s of Possibilities” theme, she decided to give American audiences a chance to gain early access. The digital songbook and album are available now on Bandcamp (see https://www.claudiagunn.com/sfts for details and to hear a sample). Sing for the Sea – Little Wild Ocean Friends will be available via all the regular streaming services beginning July 8.
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.