Giveaway: Top 11 Family Music CD Releases from 2012

Music Collection Giveaway:
Top 11 Family Music CD Releases from 2012

We’re giving away an amazing CD collection of our top 11 family albums released this past year. Find out how you can enter to win this entire collection below. Deadline to enter is: Jan 19, 2013 by 11:59pm (EST).

Last month the winners of the Fids & Kamily Music Awards were announced, with a stellar list of new CDs released this past year!

Launched in 2006 and inspired by the Village Voice’s long-running “Pazz and Jop” music poll, the Fids & Kamily Music Awards poll is the first compilation of year-end kids and family music “best of” lists from critics, writers, radio programmers, and others involved in the music industry. Fifteen favorites are selected from outstanding releases, along with five honorable mentions, including kids and family albums from mainstream/adult artists, seasoned kindie artists and some fantastic newcomers!

For the sixth year in a row, Hilltown Families has participated as a judge for the Fids & Kamily Music Awards.  Check out the winners at and be sure to add some of these winners to your family music collection.

To start off the new year, Hilltown Families is giving away a collection of eleven CDs of family music released this past year.  Several are winners of the Fids & Kamily Music Awards, and several others are releases we voted for and think are a must for your family music collection! Find out how you can enter to win this entire collection below.  Deadline to enter is: Jan 19, 2013 by 11:59pm (EST).

Can You Canoe? — The Okee Dokee Brothers

Vote as the best family album of the year in the 2012 Fids & Kamily Music Awards, this album highlights a month-long journey Joe and Justin of The Okee Dokee Brothers spent traveling down the Mississippi River.  During their trip they composed songs that make up this award-winning album.  Special guests include Garth Hudson (The Band), Elizabeth Mitchell (Your Are My Flower) and Morgan Taylor & Rachel Loshak (Gustafer Yellowgold), and includes a DVD with music videos and footage from their trip.  Joe and Justin guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show in June this past year.  Listen to the podcast and check out a few cuts from their new album along with tunes from other artist they selected, and one of their videos: HFVS Guest DJ, Joe & Justin of The Okee Dokee Brothers Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Science Fair Spare the Rock Records

In 2010, in response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Spare the Rock Records put out the award winning compilation album, Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti, raising over $50,000 for Haitian relief! This past year they did it again with the amazing compilation CD, Science Fair, raising money for Girls Inc.’s work for science education for girls.  Placing second in this year’s Fids & Kamily Music Awards, Science Fair features exclusive tracks from Mates of State, Laura Veirs, Elizabeth Mitchell, Frances England and many others!

Blue Clouds  Elizabeth Mitchell & You Are My Flower

Released by Smithsonian Folkway Recordings, Blue Clouds placed fifth this year in the Fids & Kamily Music Awards.  Putting a contemporary touch to traditional folk songs, and using simple arrangements to rework classic rock songs by Bowie, Hendrix, Morrison and others into folks songs, Mitchell has complied a new album that is already a classic!

Mr Diddie Wah Diddie  Randy Kaplan

This past summer Randy Kaplan guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show, spinning songs by bluegrass, folk, calypso, and broadway masters, alongside cuts from his new country-blues and ragtime CD, Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie.  Placing seventh in the Fids & Kamily Music Awards, Randy Kaplan’s newest CD, Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie, pays tribute to America’s blues masters on an album with rollicking lyrics the kids will love!  Listen to the podcast and get a glimpse into Randy’s new album and check out his video, “Ice Cream Man Rag.”: HFVS Guest DJ, Randy Kaplan Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Invisible Friends  Dog on Fleas

Ranging in style from Afro-pop to 60’s soul, Tin Pan Alley to bossa nova, Invisible Friends is an album the entire family can enjoy on road trips or Sunday morning PJ dance parties in the kitchen.  Lead singer Dean Jones guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show this summer, pulling together a show that featured a few cuts from Invisible Friends interlaced with music from other kindie and mainstream artists.  Give a listen to the podcast to sample a few songs on this award winning album (ranking eighth on the Fids & Kamily Music Awards!): HFVS Guest DJ, Dean Jones Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Family Values  Charity & the Jamband

We can’t speak highly enough of Charity & the Jamband!  As Hilltown Families number one pick for the year, Family Values is a album that celebrates family and community.  Understanding that all things peaceful must first start in our own hearts and homes before moving out into our community, Charity Kahn has crafted songs that are intelligent and from the heart.  She tells stories set to music that is funky, with grooves and lyrics that talk up to kids and their grown ups!  Charity has guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show many times. This past Thanksgiving, through music and story, Charity explored some of the many things we have to be grateful for in our lives, including songs from this new album.  Give a listen to the podcast anytime: HFVS Thanksgiving Episode with Guest DJ, Charity Kahn (Radio Show/Podcast)

Can’t Wait  Grenadilla

“Layered voices textured with Kwela flavored rhythms, up-beat melodies, a touch of Cape Town Jive and a hint of the blues,” is how Grenadilla describes their newest release, Can’t Wait.  This past spring Debbie Lan from Grenadilla guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show, putting together a show with music from South Africa, including songs off of this new CD.  Get a glimpse by listening to the podcast: HFVS Music from South Africa with Guest DJ, Debbie Lan (Radio Show/Podcast)

Chocolalala  Mister G

Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Mister G, put out another excellent CD this year, Chocolalala. This new collection of original bilingual songs spans musical genres… from bossa nova to ska, funk to folk, rap to pop.  Songs that are educational teach young listeners basic concepts while engaging adults with captivating Latin rhythms.  In his monthly vlog on Hilltown Families, “Under the Hat: Independent Music Education,” Mister G goes a step further with his music, taking viewers into the backstory of songs released on this award-winning CD, and insight to the process of music making.  Check out his column to see his vlog: Under the Hat: Independent Music Education.

The Hero in You  Ellis Paul

Known for his deeply felt and socially conscious songwriting, often about heroes, Ellis Paul was inspired by his two daughters to write about people who contributed something to their world.  The result… The Hero in YouHeroes featured on this educational CD include both well known and little know heroes. “These people did amazing things, but they can also inspire young people today to go out and do something out of the ordinary to become the heroes of their own lives,” explains Ellis Paul about this new release.  Last winter Ellis guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show, including songs from this new album. Check out the podcast to get a sample of songs: HFVS Guest DJ, Ellis Paul Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Love is a Superpower  Ben Rudnick & Friends

We’ve loved Ben Rudnick & Friends since the beginning!  Hailed as a founding member of the modern family music scene, Ben Rudnick & Friends continues to be a beloved band all family members will enjoy with their tenth release of Love is a Superpower.  The band is good, really good… carving out their own unique music style that blends neo-western swing, bluegrass, folk music and flavors of rock. High quality musicianship seeps out slowly and steadily with each song, mixed with catching lyrics to which Ben Rudnick’s vocals bring wit and charm.  In the late summer, Ben guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show, bringing us a show all about love, including cuts off of this new album.  Here’s the podcast and video to get a sample of this new CD: HFVS Love Episode with Guest DJ, Ben Rudnick (Radio Show/Podcast)

Middle of Nowhere  Elska

Receiving an honorable mention in the Fids and Kamily Music Awards, Elska is a newcomer to the kindie music scene.  Elska is a fictional character living on a newly formed Arctic island where explorations are set against playful modern music and the delicate voice of Shelly Wollert.  Songs like “Arctic Fox,” “Midnight Sun in the Arctic,” and “Winter Bear” tell stories of Elska on this new island and what she discovers.


Hilltown Families has been serving Western MA since 2005 as a grassroots communication network! Being able to share community building events, community based educational opportunities, and community service experiences over the years, along with terrific music that brings families and the community together is song, has been a great honor! Share with us your wishes for the next year(s) and be entered to win this fantastic family music collection of 11 CD’s released this past year. To enter for a chance to win simply:

  • POST YOUR WISHES FOR A NEW YEAR AS OUTLINED ABOVE IN THE FIELDS BELOW (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  • FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  • LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  • ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  • PLEASE CONSIDER SHARING ON FACEBOOK by selecting the Facebook icon below.
  • We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline to enter for a chance to win is: Jan 19, 2013 by 11:59pm.

HFVS Guest DJ, Ellis Paul Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:


Enter to win a copy of Ellis Paul's new CD, "The Hero in Me" by emailing us at with "Ellis Paul" in the subject line by midnight, Feb 22nd.

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
Feb. 18th & 19th, 2012
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

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Ellis Paul ( and his musical friend Flynn provide today’s Guest DJ spot, spinning some of their favorite tunes. Included in today’s playlist are songs from Lead Belly, Leon Redbone, Dan Zanes, Bill Harley and Justin Roberts. The set leads off with two songs from Ellis’ brand new family album, The Hero in You: the title track and “Nellie Bly.”  

Known for his deeply felt and socially conscious songwriting, often about heroes, Ellis Paul was inspired by his own two growing daughters and four years of performing for families to write about people who contributed something to the world through their work and art. His first family music CD was Dragonfly Races. Read Hilltown Families’ interview with Ellis when Dragonfly Races was first released: The Dragonfly Races: An Interview with Ellis Paul.


  • Ellis Paul – “The Hero in You” [The Hero in You]
  • Ellis Paul – “Nellie Bly” [The Hero in You]
  • Leon Redbone – “Polly Wolly Doodle” [On the Track]
  • Lead Belly – “Jimmy Cracked Corn” [Blues Routes Leadbelly]
  • Dan Zanes & Friends – “Hop Up Ladies” [House Party]
  • Jeannie B! And the Jelly Beans – “Sugar Buzz” [Sugar Buzz]
  • Ellis Paul – “Albert Einstein” [The Hero in You]
  • Thomas Dolby – “She Blinded Me with Science” [The Golden Age of Wireless]
  • Laurie Berkner – “Froggie Went a-Courtin'” [Victor Vito]
  • Brady Rymer – “It’s All How you Look at It” [Look at my Belly]
  • Ellis Paul – “Woody Guthrie, Working Man” [The Hero in You]
  • Bill Harley – “Wacka Wacka Woo” [Wacka Wacka Woo & Other Stuff]
  • Mel Brooks and Marlo Thomas – “Boy Meets Girl” [Free to Be… You and Me]
  • Justin Roberts – “Roller in the Coaster” [Way Out]
  • Vinx – “You are my Sunshine” [The Mood I’m In]

Dragonfly Races: An interview with Ellis Paul.

The Dragonfly Races: An Interview with Ellis Paul
by Sienna Wildfield

Dragonfly Races (CD cover)

There’s a lot of great music and there are many musicians that my daughter and I have become very fond of since we started our musical exploration together. Living out in the rural hilltowns of Western Mass, we do a lot of driving around – giving music we’ve received for review our undivided attention as we travel from Chesterfield to Northampton, Hadley, Amherst and back. When we come across a song my daughter especially likes, she (being my focus group of one) clues me in with a simple request from the backseat of the car, “Mommy, can you put that on repeat?” That’s the indication from the peanut gallery that we’ve got a winner, adding it to our song list of “must play” for an upcoming episode of the Hilltown Family Variety Show.

But the real litmus test of quality family music comes when we’re traveling as a family. The day we drove to Springfield and back we played The Dragonfly Races by Ellis Paul, and not once did my husband turn it down. He even made faces of agreement and pleasure while listening. But the moment of truth came when HE put on the repeat button. Ladies and gentlemen … we have a WINNER!

Ellis Paul’s newest CD, and first family album, The Dragonfly Races is an album of discoveries and adventures that lead the listener through fantasy and fun, masked in allegories with threads of social commentary. So while we listen as a family, our 5 year old is enjoying the fable of a fair maiden and a misunderstood monster in “Abioloa” while we’re reflecting on the underlying social commentary the story is revealing. As my daughter listens to the songs more and more, questions slowly arise as she searches for more of an understanding.

With The Dragonfly Races, Ellis Paul, the father of two girls, wanted to craft an album that was representative of the morals he wanted to impart to his children. Songs that might inspire getting involved and taking action while bringing about peace. To follow is an interview with Ellis that takes a look at the challengs of being a father of two young girls, including how his music becomes that vehicle that imparts the morals he looks to share with his children.


SW: Your newest album, The Dragonfly Races has become a favorite with my family. Everyone enjoys listening, and appreciates your songs on different levels. What inspired you to put together a family album and how does this differ from albums you’ve previously produced?

Ellis: I wanted a recording for my kids to grow up with that represented the kinds of things I wanted them to hear in songs. I also want them to know the difference between a trite, silly song and a thoughtful one.

SW: As they’ve been described, your songs offer a “unique sensibility about life and the possibilities of childhood.” What do you think it was about your childhood and life experience that makes your sensibility unique?

Ellis: Well, I come from a small town in Maine, and I think small towns give birth to big dreamers, and big optimism. I was around a lot of farmland and nature, and I think that’s why so much of it seeps into the songs.

SW: I understand that you have a pretty extensive performance schedule with nearly 150 shows a year in North America and Europe. How do you manage your family life while on the road?

Ellis: It’s difficult, and I am always looking for ways to do it more gracefully. Adding kids shows should help a lot, because the matinees are added without adding days away from home. Then maybe I can take some weekends completely off! The challenge is keeping everyone happy. My wife does the vast majority of the care taking. I am in lifelong debt to her for that.

(c) Ellis Paul

SW: Throughout The Dragonfly Races you joyfully take the listener on several journeys and adventures, sometimes with a destination, other times not. In “Because Its There” you sing of historic adventures: of traveling to the moon, the bottom of the sea, and mountain tops, just because they’re there. In “Pinwheel” a young boy is lifted off the ground to drift magically through the sky as he explores the world below. And in “Road Trip” you and your buddy Flynn sing about all the wonderful destinations in America that make a road trip through the U.S. so unique. What is it about the “journey” we experience in life that inspires you to celebrate it through your songs in this album?

Ellis: Exploration is how we learn. From the moment we are crawling on the floor in a bedroom looking at all the nooks and crannies a room has to offer. Exploration leads to the discovery of cool things and interesting places, but mostly, by exploring, we discover something about ourselves and our relationship to our world.

SW: Hands down, my 5-year old daughter’s favorite song on The Dragonfly Races is “Abiola.” She often asks me to explain the story following the song, which opens a dialogue between us about how she can be brave and kind to others, while exploring her own personal truth and following it through. I think you’ve down a lovely service to young girls by crafting a song of fantasy underscored with social commentary. Can you share how you developed this story and how you hope your own daughters may be influenced by its underlying message?

Ellis I wrote the song with Antje Duvekot, who brought the genesis of the idea to me. We were looking for a female heroine for the album, and the story unfolded and gave me a beautiful one. I want each of my girls to be an Abiola, to question authority, to come to their own conclusions, and then to act and participate in positive change. Read the rest of this entry »

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