Music Review: The Wild World of Wildlife

We’re Wild for Wildlife!

Kids love animals—real ones, stuffed ones, it doesn’t matter.

My son, Ivan, has two animal favorites right now: the Discovery Kids Smart Animals Scanopedia (he loves the sound of the turkey gobbling) and Birdie’s CD The Wild World of Wildlife. Oh, and his kitten, Murray, of course!

Birdie’s CD is a fun collection of songs all about animals, from reptiles to mammals, fish to birds. Most of the songs will teach your kids a little something about the animals (did you know that the Fiddler Crab shoves sand in its mouth, picks out the food, then spits out the leftover sand as a ball?) and some will just make your kids want to dance, like Shake Your Tail Feathers.

I personally like that Birdie adds some life lessons to the mix as well, as in the song Elephant in the Congo that teaches kids about how precious the elephant is and that we humans shouldn’t harm it.

So get out your shakers, put on your dancing shoes, and check out The Wild World of Wildlife. Animal lovers unite!

You can learn more about Birdie’s Playhouse at her website: www.birdiesplayhouse.com or on her Facebook page.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amber BobnarAmber Bobnar

Amber lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her “free time” writing about being a parent of a disabled child on WonderBaby.org or about the family’s musical adventures around Boston on BostonChildrensMusic.com. But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy. info@bostonchildrensmusic.com. (Originally posted at Boston Children’s Music.)

New CD Releases: Brian Vogan & Keller Williams

New Music from Brian Vogan & Keller Williams

Keller Williams: Kids

Mark your calendars: Keller Williams will be hosting the Hilltown Family Variety Show on Saturday, January 22nd from 9-10am on WXOJ 103.3FM (Northampton, MA)

Brian Vogan: Sing a Little Song

As much as I like to think of myself as being totally plugged in to the kids’ music scene, lately I’ve been stumbling upon artists that I really should have already been listening to, but I’m only now discovering. That’s OK! I don’t need to be hip—I’m just on a quest for really good family music.

I found that in Brian Vogan’s new CD, Sing a Little Song. This CD catches you with the very first whimsical song, “How to Fly,” with nice light sounds and beautiful harmonies. I also love “Cross the Street” and “Wash Your Hands,” because they’re life-lesson songs that are actually fun to listen to!

Brian and his Good Buddies (that’s his band) are currently rocking in Seattle, but hopefully they’ll make it out to Boston soon. Meanwhile, check out their new CD. You can also watch their video for “That’s How a Pumpkin Grows” to get a feel for their mellow rock and rich instrumentation.

Keller Williams: Kids

Keller Williams is another artist that’s new to me, even though he’s about to release his sixteenth album. Of course his newest CD, Kids, is his first CD for… well… kids.

I was first attracted by the guitar (and Ivan always reacts so positively to accomplished guitar), but what really got my attention was the beat. Each song sways and moves to its own beat and rhythm that you just can’t help to respond to.

The fourth track, “Hulahoop to da Loop,” is a perfect example. It almost sounds like something from Stomp or Blue Man Group that just builds and builds on itself. It’s really a trip!

The humor on this album is just the sweetest. Songs about Taking a Bath” to get the stink off your feet, or about Good Advice (never pick your toes and then pick your nose because then your nose smells like your toes and that’s not good—that’s bad), or how Mama Tooted.” Well, you get the point.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Amber BobnarAmber Bobnar

Amber lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her “free time” writing about being a parent of a disabled child on WonderBaby.org or about the family’s musical adventures around Boston on BostonChildrensMusic.com. But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy. info@bostonchildrensmusic.com. (Originally posted at Boston Children’s Music.)

Lesson Songs: Teaching Kids Manners, Hygiene and Healthy Eating

Lesson Songs

Jeremy Plays Guitar just came out with his new album, Use Your Words, full of songs that teach kids lessons (like how you should use your words rather than whine). It made me think of other fun lesson songs that teach kids about manners, hygiene, or eating healthy in entertaining ways…

Jeremy Plays Guitar: Use Your WordsMy favorite song on Use Your Words is House Rules, a song that tells us what “we should and should not do” because “we don’t live in a zoo.” Kids learn that “no biting” is a good rule, but they also learn that “yes sharing” is important, too. Check out Jeremy’s new video for Jump So High, too!

Leeny & Tamara: Sharing the Same StarsSpeaking of sharing, I’ve always loved Leeny & Tamara’s Taking Turns on their album Sharing The Same Stars. With a classic rock-and-roll beat, the song presents situations to kids (like two kids wanting to use the same color crayon) and gives them solutions. Amazingly, the song really works as a song and a lesson. Leeny & Tamara are great at that!

Brian Vogan: Sing a Little SongBrian Vogan’s newest CD, Sing a Little Song, has a great hand washing song called Wash Your Hands. It can be hard to find a good song about hygiene—so often they’re just so preachy. But this song seriously rocks! And it’s fun to sing “wash your hands, wash your hands, stop the germs if you can” while showing your kids how to wash at the sink.

Okee Dokee Brothers: Take it OutsideAnd since we’re talking about cleaning up at the sink, you’ve got to check out Wash Your Face from one of my favorite bands, the Okee Dokee Brothers, on their newest album, Take It Outside. I love this CD! These guys are so silly and have such a wonderfully bluegrass style. I love that their lyrics are so clever and witty—I’m still finding new sly jokes in their songs!

Lemonsquare: Music for FunSo we’ve got basic rules, sharing, and keeping clean down… what else do we need to teach our kids? How about eating healthy? There are lots of kids’ songs about food, but often they’re about ice cream, candy, or macaroni and cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course). But if you’re looking for a song about eating veggies, check out Lemonsquare’s “Very Veggie” on Music for Fun. They sing about tasty vegetables and encourage kids to eat anything that’s green so that they can call themselves “very veggie,” too!

Are you looking for songs to teach your kids other lessons or do you have special lesson songs that you want to tell us about? Let us know!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Amber BobnarAmber Bobnar

Amber lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her “free time” writing about being a parent of a disabled child on WonderBaby.org or about the family’s musical adventures around Boston on BostonChildrensMusic.com. But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy. info@bostonchildrensmusic.com. (Originally posted at Boston Children’s Music.)

Mind of My Own: France England’s Newest CD

Frances England: Mind of My Own

Frances England: Mind of My Own

Mind of My Own, due out November 9th, has a frenetic energy that is exciting and contagious!

You know when you hear an artist for the first time and they just grab you? That’s what happened for me when I heard Frances England’s new CD Mind of My Own.

On the one hand I was upset with myself for never having listened to Frances before, but on the other hand I was excited that she has two other CDs! I immediately ordered Fascinating Creatures and Family Tree. She’s just glorious!

If you’re familiar with Frances’ earlier work, then you already know about her sultry voice, creative lyrics, and timeless melodies. Her songs are easy to hum to and often the choruses are easy to sing to your kids later to get them to calm down. Many of the songs on her first two CDs are very soothing, but her new CD, due out November 9th, 2010, has more of a frenetic energy that is exciting and contagious.

As with many mommy artists, Frances’ music has grown with her kids. You can hear in this album the emerging independence I’m sure she’s seeing in her sons. The title song, Mind of My Own, is all about finding your own way while also maneuvering through all the rules your parents place on you. I absolutely adore the song Red Balloon where Frances describes a child growing in perfectly poetic language:

I’m a red balloon
I’m a full moon rising
I’m an apple tree
I’m a lemon drop
I’m a flower petal
I’m heavy metal
I’m two years old and I’m nonstop
I’m two years old and I’m nonstop

In the song To Be we hear Frances really appreciating the simple things in life. As parents we all know how sobering it can be to suddenly see the world through our kids’ eyes and realize the beauty of a flower or triumph of climbing a tree.

Frances says: “As a mother of two, it… feels really good to use song writing as a way of reflecting on daily family life. It’s such a precious time but too often we all lose sight of how significant it is because of our crazy schedules. For me, writing and singing these songs serves as a reminder that this stage in our families’ lives is golden.”

That’s a good reminder for all of us. Please check out this CD when it’s released in November. You’ll be so glad you did!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Amber BobnarAmber Bobnar

Amber lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her “free time” writing about being a parent of a disabled child on WonderBaby.org or about the family’s musical adventures around Boston on BostonChildrensMusic.com. But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy. info@bostonchildrensmusic.com. (Originally posted at Boston Children’s Music.)

New Music Worth Adding to Your iTunes Children’s Mix

New Music from the Flannerys & Caspar Babypants

Sometimes when you’ve listened to a lot of music you begin to feel a bit satiated; you start thinking that you’ve heard all the good stuff so why listen to anything new?

I don’t think this is uncommon. At this point my children’s mix on iTunes has 951 of our all time favorite kids songs—and I’m not kidding when I say we love every single song and wouldn’t give any up. But do we really need to add any more?

We still listen to new music, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to add something new to my mix—I mean, those 951 songs would take over a day to listen to from beginning to end. I think we’re good. I was just about ready to throw in the towel and call my mix complete when we were sent two new CDs to review from the Flannery Brothers and Caspar Babypants. They made the cut and now we’re at 983.

FLANNERY BROTHERS

Flannery Brothers - New Explorers ClubWe’ve been fans of the Flannery Brothers since we first heard Broccoli Yet back in April of last year (why does that seem like such a long time ago?) when their song was in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition.

They’ve since released two albums, Love Songs for Silly Things and Wake Up Songs, and have a third, The New Explorers Club, due out in October. I hear a fourth, Dance Songs for Silly Things, is currently in the works. Do these guys ever sleep?

I’m always amazed by the talent of these brothers. What did mama Flannery feed them when they were little? Their music is rich and thick, like a hearty bowl of corn chowder (made with fresh corn just bought at the Farmers’ Market, of course). The layers of instruments and inter workings of sound are so impressive, but I’m always most taken by the lyrics. Flannery songs are fun, adventurous, and encourage kids (and parents) to get up, dance, get outside, and just experience life to the fullest. One of my favorite songs on the new album, Swallowed a Bug, is a hilarious take on the phrase, “It was totally worth it:”

I swallowed a bug,
but it was totally worth it.
It was sunny outside,
the day was perfect.
I was running through the green grass,
the bug was in the air,
and neither of us thought we’d meet each other there.

And you get the same message in the song The Elements. Who cares if it’s too hot or too cold outside, just get out there and have fun!

It’s hard to pick one favorite tune on this album, but if you can only listen to one song, I’d say give Kitchen Floor a try. On the surface it’s a song about being silly and laying down on the floor in the kitchen, but really it’s about being comfortable in your home and with your family—listening to mom cook dinner, smelling the spices, feeling the sun come through the window, and knowing you’re safe and at peace. Ah… what a feeling!

The New Explorers Club will be released on October 19th, 2010.

CASPAR BABYPANTS

Caspar Babypants - This is Fun!I know there’s been a lot of buzz over Caspar Babypants’ first two kids’ albums, Here I Am! and More Please!, but I have to be honest with you… I just never took the time to check him out until receiving a review copy of his newest album, This is Fun.

That was silly of me. Caspar Babypants rocks!

Caspar Babypants is the kid-friendly pseudonym of Chris Ballew, the lead singer of The Presidents of the United States of America. His songs as Caspar are very much designed for the youngest musicophiles, babies and toddlers, which is a nice change from the usual hip, quirky kindie rock that appeals more to elementary school aged kids. Itsy Bitsy Spider and Shortnin’ Bread just got a much needed makeover!

Caspar’s songs are stripped-down-simple in a very light and airy way. These songs encourage you and your little one to move with the music together: stomp your feet, bounce up and down, wave your arms around. Perfect for mommy and me time! But they’re also entertaining enough for older kids… and mommy too!

I’ve actually taken This is Fun to my son, Ivan’s, physical therapy as a way to encourage him to move with his therapist. It worked wonders! The easy beats and directive lyrics got Ivan bouncing, taking steps, and balancing better than he’s ever done before—way to go Casper Babypants!

If you can only listen to one song on This is Fun, check out Baby and the Animals. I LOVE this song! A little baby and her animal friends live on an island, hang out on the beach, and play together in a band: “Coconuts and music is the all-day diet.” So cute!

This is Fun will be released on November 2nd, 2010.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amber BobnarAmber Bobnar

Amber lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her “free time” writing about being a parent of a disabled child on WonderBaby.org or about the family’s musical adventures around Boston on BostonChildrensMusic.com. But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy. info@bostonchildrensmusic.com. (Originally posted at Boston Children’s Music.)

Amber’s 2010 Spring Picks: Hilltown Family Variety Show (Podcast/Radio Show)

Like This!

LISTEN TO PODCAST

Amber’s 2010 Spring Picks
Playlist by Amber Bodnar of Boston Children’s Music

Amber has put together a list of her and her son’s top 12 songs from this past spring of musicians who perform in MA, chiefly in the Boston area, with many who have performed here in Western MA too.

Visit both Amber’s site, Boston Children’s Music (Eastern MA) and check here on Hilltown Families (Western MA) for recommended family concerts, music and ticket giveaways.  Between the two we’re bridging the state to let families all throughout MA know about great concerts for families!

Featured Video: “Willy Won’t” by Debbie and Friends
This is a new song from the new Debbie and Friends CD. It’s a song about Debbie’s nephew Will, who makes silly faces when his picture is being taken. See how many famous places Willy visits and learn “why” he does what he does in pictures!


Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
June  26th & 27th, 2010
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

listen NOW | listen on WXOJ | archived shows/podcasts request a song | subscribe to free podcast | contests & giveaways | myspace | facebook | twitter


PLAYLIST BY AMBER BOBNAR

  • “Two Mommies” by Alastair Moock [A Cow Says Moock]

Alastair released his first children’s album, A Cow Says Moock, last year and it’s amazing. He has a sort of folk/blues sound and covers some cool old songs, like “Fishin’ Blues” and “Spaghetti in My Shoe.” He does a lot of shows at Club Passim in Harvard Square and always sells out.

  • “A Frog Named Sam” by Ben Rudnick & Friends [A Frog Named Sam]

BR&F released their newest CD, A Frog Named Sam, in 2009. This is their fifth CD and even though we love all of them, I would say this newest one is probably our favorite. BR&F have an American roots/bluegrass style that is just so family friendly and I love that they always include a nice instrumental or two on each album. They perform all over Mass and are Arlington favorites.

  • “So, So Happy” by Debbie & Friends [More Story Songs & Sing Alongs]

This song is off of D&F’s newest CD, More Story Songs & Sing Alongs, released earlier this year. D&F’s have a wonderful way of taking familiar stories and nursery rhymes and turning them into something new and exciting. Ivan has always loved their “Three Little Pigs” song, but I think “So, So Happy” is his new favorite. D&F also have a really cool animator who has been creating fun videos for their songs (you can see them here: http://debbieandfriends.net/fun.php). D&F play all over Mass. Their shows are very interactive and perfect for young kids who have never been to a full band show before.

  • “Shake!” by the Flannery Brothers [Wake Up Songs]

The Flannery Brothers are from Maine and they are making quite a splash in the children’s music scene. Their newest album, Wake Up Songs, just came out this year and it is a short, six-song CD intended to help get your kids out of bed in the morning. We really do listen to this CD every morning! Their shows are super energetic and that energy is contagious. They’ve been playing more and more shows in Mass and they’re getting to be very popular. They’re working on a new CD set to release later this year.

  • “Panther Stamps Pants” by Gustafer Yellowgold [Mellow Fever]

Gustafer Yellowgold is the creation of Morgan Taylor, a multi-talented artist who writes, sings, and animates all at once! Each Gustafer song is accompanied by an animated video and the live performances are really spectacular as the band plays in front of a large screen displaying the characters. The songs follow Gustafer and his friends on their adventures that vary from the absurd to the inspirational. Morgan’s music is mellow and light and accessible to both kids and adults. He and his band are from New York but they have been coming up for regular shows at Club Passim in Harvard Square. Their newest album, Mellow Fever, is a must hear and there’s rumor that we can expect a new Gustafer album by early 2011.

  • “Owl Hootenany” by Vanessa Trien [Carnival Day]

Vanessa Trien is as sweet in person as she is on her albums. She’s the real deal! Vanessa is talented and full of energy, which is really saying something when you consider she’s also a mom to two young children. Her newest CD, Carnival Day, just came out last year and it is a must have. Owl Hootenany is probably my favorite song on the CD. Vanessa performs all around Mass, but mostly in the Boston metro area. She plays both big theaters and little charity events. Don’t miss out on one of her shows!

  • “Finger Puppets” by Little Groove [Building Blocks]

Little Groove, headed by lead singer Sara Wheeler, is another regular around town. Little Groove has put on big shows at TCAN in Natick and the Coolidge in Brookline as well as lots of smaller library shows. Sara’s style is almost celtic and very melodic. The music is mostly acoustic and kids just love her ladybug costume! Their CD, Building Blocks, was released in 2008. We love to listen to it in the afternoons when Ivan needs to calm down after a long day at school.

  • “Friends are on their Way” by Joe’s Backyard Band [Kick Up a Breeze]

JBB is from Rhode Island and their music is just beautiful. They play in a kind of folk rock style with lots of instrumentation, from harmonica to saxophone and everything in between. They’re really quite a sight when seen live. Most of their songs are about enjoying life and friends and that’s an important message for anyone! Their album, Kick Up a Breeze, came out last year.

  • “Yucky” by Judy Pancoast [Weird Things are Everywhere]

Judy, a musician from New Hampshire, has a way of making everything silly. Her shows are so much fun for kids as she gets them to pretend they are swimming through jello or meeting aliens. Her newest CD, Weird Things are Everywhere, came out last year and is a story told in both spoken word and song about a trip across the USA. As she travels across the country Judy talks about the books that have been written about each state. Judy is a big supporter of literacy programs and you can often find her performing at local libraries in Mass.

  • “I Came Out Backwards” by Leeny And Tamara [Sharing The Same Stars]

L&T are just fun. Most of their songs attempt to teach kids something valuable, but in an entertaining way, which is no easy feat! But L&T really do pull it off. Their shows are fun and super interactive – they encourage kids to come on stage and help them sing in the microphone. Their CD, Sharing The Same Stars, came out last year and has already won a Parent’s Choice Award. They’re from Gloucester and perform all over Mass.

  • “Pájaro Carpintero (Woodpecker)” by Mariana Iranzi [Aventura Collage]

Mariana is originally from Argentina and sings all her songs in Spanish. She has a delightfully rich voice and many of her songs remind me of the bosanova style. Her songs are playful and skillfully arranged. It’s hard to believe that Aventura Collage is her first CD! She’s both a music teacher and performer in the greater Boston area and she performs regularly at the Children’s Museum.

  • “Elephant Hide and Seek” by SteveSongs [Marvelous Day]

SteveSongs is such a staple of children’s music in New England and he’s become a big star now that he’s on PBS as Mr Steve! Marvelous Day is his fifth CD and the Elephant Song is just such a classic! Steve is one of those vocalists who is simply astounding and I love the silliness he injects in every song. Plus his back up singers, the Sensational Sillies, are phenomenal! And they’re little girls! Steve’s been doing fewer live shows lately and he also tours the country quite a bit, but you can still catch him back on his home turf now and then. But his shows almost always sell out so get your tickets fast when he’s here!

%d bloggers like this: