Welcome to Kids Rhythm and Rock’s third annual Children’s Music Roundup! For those of you new to the blog, each year I compile a list of my favorite albums, then organize them by categories that change from year-to-year. Normally I would have had this list up by the middle of December, but 2020 being 2020, it threw a last minute curveball that delayed things a bit.
The past year was a time filled with incredible challenges for children’s music. The pandemic found performers having to completely redefine how they brought their music to the masses, racial and social justice came to the forefront, and the GRAMMY controversy spurred the children’s community to action. Through it all though, one constant remained – children’s music continued to grow in ways that left listeners enthralled, enriched, and entertained. So let’s say hello to 2021 by taking a look back at the year that was in Children’s music. Don’t see your favorites in the list below? Add them in the comments!
Note: There has been a lot of discussion in the past few weeks regarding albums by BIPOC performers. I have denoted those albums with an (**).
Wide World of Music
Fiesta Global performed by Flor Bromley**
Live in LA performed by Aaron Nigel Smith & 1 World Chorus**
Songs Across the Pond performed by David Gibb and Brady Rymer
In November Brady Rymer released the four track EP, Angels in the Snow, a mini-collection of original holiday songs. Today it’s my pleasure to help premiere the video for the EP’s second track, “Why, Daddy, Why?” In this tune, Rymer and the Little Band That Could cleverly give voice to the confusion that a group of impatient siblings feels while they’re waiting at the top of the stairs for mom and dad to call them down to see all that Santa has delivered. The inquisitive refrain of “Why, Daddy, Why?” is performed to a rocking, horn-filled beat that is perfectly paired with retro-infused graphics that recall Christmases long ago. Parents will enjoy the nod to all that mommy and daddy do to put the finishing touches on “Santa’s work” while children will relate to the difficulty that comes with having to wait to see what Santa brought. Enjoy the video for “Why, Daddy, Why?” (along with Rymer’s incredible red, sequined jacket) below and make sure to check out the full EP on your favorite streaming service.
By nature, children’s musicians are a generous group of people with big, loving hearts and during this pandemic, their spirit of giving has only grown. Today I would like to highlight the latest music fest from Chicago’s own Wendy & DB. Over the past six months, not only did this dynamic duo release a new album, Hey Big World, they also launched a monthly Kids Music Festival to benefit organizations such as this month’s recipient, No Kid Hungry. Making sure that children have access to proper nutrition and healthy food is a passion of Wendy’s and is extremely important in this time when so many children are doing remote learning and don’t have regular access to proper meals. It is the hope of Wendy & DB that these music fests will increase awareness of this issue as well as raise moneyto help ensure children all across the country receive the food they need to fuel their minds and bodies.
Each month, Wendy & DB are joined by 2-3 different friends from the world of children’s music. During the concert on September 16, in addition to music from Wendy & DB, fest attendees will also enjoy performances by Val Smalkin, Brady Rymer, and Falu. For more information, visit the Kids Music Festival event page. Can’t make it to the Kids Music Festival this month? Wendy & DB will be hosting a fest with an all new musical line-up the third Wednesday of each month from now through the end of the year.
For a preview of the fun that you’re going to have during the hour-long festival, enjoy Wendy & DB’s newest video, “Kitchen Band.”
Welcome to the second annual Kids Rhythm and Rock Children’s Music Roundup! Oh what a year 2019 was for children’s music with a cornucopia of sounds, fantastic messages and moments of fun combining for a true wealth of musical riches, Whether you check the CDs out from the library or listen to them on your favorite streaming service, all of the albums below are definitely worth a listen (or two, or three…).
Best Animal Album Covers Come for the covers, stay for the amazing music! Swamp Romp Performed by Johnette Downing with Scott Billington Winterland Performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers
Be Mindful, Be Kind
The Love Performed by Alphabet Rockers KindredPerformed by Renee & Friends Under the Big UmbrellaPerformed by Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could Ageless: Songs for the Child Archetype Performed by Jon Samson
November 13 is World Kindness Day. Established in 1998, World Kindness Day is celebrated around the globe – from the US to Japan and Nigeria to the United Arab Emirates. Acts of kindness, both big and small, are encouraged as a symbol of the things that we, as a global community, can accomplish if we are good to one another. One of those small acts that is easy to do no matter your age, is to wear a cardigan. This year, in honor of Mister Rogers and the message of kindness that he spread, Pittsburgh TV station WQED is encouraging everyone to grab my favorite kind of sweater, take a picture and tag it #CardiganDay.
Don’t let your celebration of World Kindness Day end with a sweater. Take a listen to “Drop in the Bucket,” the newest song from Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could. Filled with suggestions on easy ways that young people can be kind to one another, take inspiration from the song and add a drop of kindness to your bucket as we work together to make every day in the neighborhood beautiful.
“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.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe that Christmas is only two weeks away. It feels like we were just getting ready for Halloween and now 2018 is just around the corner. So, with the holiday season quickly approaching, the final children’s album that I would like to shine a spotlight on is Revvin’ Up the Reindeer from Brady Rymer and The Little Band That Could.
This collection of 13 all original songs is a joy to listen to from beginning to end. The amazing musicianship of Rymer and the band is evident in every song as they bring a rock feel to songs such as “Revvin’ Up the Reindeer” and “Hanukkah Rocks,” a little bit of Americana to “Trim the Tree,” and an almost old school country/western vibe to “Peace Be to All.” Delightfully, the lyrics are as well written as the music with “Christmas Peace” retelling the Christian story of Christmas, “Rainbow Candle” capturing the quieter moments of Hanukkah, and “Baby New Year” introducing listeners to that pudgy little baby who wears a top hat, diaper, and a sash.
While this album wouldn’t work in most school or library program settings, it is a must have for all libraries that have circulating holiday music collections. This new set of holiday songs are tunes that families can enjoy listening to together and parents won’t mind visiting again and again. For a little taste of what to expect, check out the video below or visit Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could on YouTube to see additional videos from the album.
Forget about Adele and Beyonce and the acts that performed during the prime time GRAMMY’s show. I want to talk about children’s music and the GRAMMYs. This past weekend I had the great privilege of attending the Children’s GRAMMY Award Nominees Benefit Concert in Los Angeles. All five of the performers/groups nominated in the Best Children’s Album category performed during a family concert to benefit the Symphony Jazz Orchestra’s music in the schools program. And what a concert it was!
The show opened with Frances England performing songs from her album, Explorer of the World. Normally, I wouldn’t note what someone was wearing but since you can’t tell from the picture, I want to mention that Frances had on the most adorable dress that looked like maps of the world. Perfect. During her set, Frances brought onstage Carlos Aguirre to join her for “Ballad for a Beatboxer.”
Following Frances England were three time GRAMMY nominees (and one time GRAMMY winner in 2013), the Okee Dokee Brothers. Their set of Americana songs from the album Saddle Up included “Jackalope” and “Somos Amigos” which included special guest and recent Latin GRAMMY winner for best children’s album, 123 Andres.
Things got even livelier when Recess Monkey took the stage. And yes, that is a pink suit that Jack is wearing. 🙂 They played songs from their album Novelties. Four days later and I still find myself singing, “Time to Make the Donuts.”
Then, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo took the stage. The room turned electric as all the kids were encouraged to get up and dance their hearts out to the unique hip hop sounds. The high octane performance contained songs from the album (which would win the GRAMMY the next day), Infinity Plus One.
The final act of the concert, Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could, took the stage and kept the energy going with songs from their latest album to be nominated for a GRAMMY, Press Play. The concert ended with a finale featuring all of the performers gathering on stage for one final song.
What a concert! Can’t wait to see who will be taking the stage next year!!
Are you looking for just the right songs to share in your classroom, during storytime or as a family on Valentine’s Day? From today through Tuesday, February 14 the wonderful variety of songs listed below are available as free downloads. There’s a little something for everyone. Pass along the love and kindness!
“Valentine (I Don’t Want to Be Yours)” – Justin Roberts “Lovestruck Unicorn” – Recess Monkey (2017 GRAMMY nominee) “L.O.V.E.” – Little Miss Ann “Love Bug” – Raffi “Closer to You” – Frances England (2017 GRAMMY nominee) “You Can Count on Me” – Lisa Loeb “Your Love Turns the World Around” – Brady Rymer (2017 GRAMMY nominee) “Loving and Kind” – Aaron Nigel Smith “Til There Was You” – Lucky Diaz “Cancion de Amor” – 123 Andrs
Looking for some kid friendly holiday songs to share during your family gatherings? Try this compilation of four of Laurie’s videos that are perfect for the holidays- “Candy Cane Jane,” “This Little Light of Mine,” “Jingle Bells” and the Laurie and Brady Rymer duet, “Children Go Where I Send Thee.” Do you have any favorite children’s holiday songs?