Must-Hear Music Monday: Sing Along with Caspar Babypants

Sing Along with Caspar Babypants

Caspar Babypants is preparing to release his fourth awesome kids album, Sing Along, on August 16th.

Is this one really good just like all his others? Why, yes it is! Caspar has a great approach to kids music: keep it simple so little kids can sing or bounce along, but make it interesting for grown ups, too. What a concept!

You’ll see this approach in songs like “Ba Ba Black Sheep” and “Ring Around the Rosie“, songs everyone knows but that get a new twist on this album. He also takes subjects even the littlest listeners can relate to, like “Crawling, and turns them into fun songs!

But one of my favorite things about Caspar Babypants is that he seems to be friends with just about everyone in the music industry (he must be a nice guy) and they all want to help him out with his albums. Weird Al Yankovic plays accordion on “Long Long Dream” and has created an amazing accordion solo, plus the beautiful Frances England helps out on a couple songs too, my favorite being “Sun Go“.

But the very, very best song on the album without a doubt is Rachel Loshak’sBaby Cloud“. Caspar describes it as “haunting.” It’s just perfect. Go listen to it now.

Caspar says he makes music “to help families sing together and relax and open up and endure stressful times with humor and grace.” You’re doing it, Caspar. Keep up the good work!

Sing Along will be available August 16th.


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.)

Must-Hear Music Monday: Down at the Zoo

Down at the Zoo

Down at the ZooOne of my favorite bands is Belle and Sebastian and one of my all time favorite albums is Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Yes, I suppose that is music for grown ups, but my son loves this album, too!

Anyway, when I heard that Mick Cooke of Belle and Sebastian was creating kids’ albums I just had to check it out! Recording under the name Too Many Cookes, Mick’s newest album is Down at the Zoo and it’s just lovely.

The album is all about animals and their antics in the zoo. Elephants, monkeys, alligators… they’re all here. The lyrics are simple and wonderful fare for preschoolers and toddlers. Easy to sing to and full of life and imagery.

But what I really like is the quality of the music itself. The horns are tremendous throughout the album and it’s fun to talk to your kids about the different instruments you can hear in each song. My favorite song on the album has to be Sarah the Seal. Just so happy and free!

Check out the new album on the Down at the Zoo Facebook page and listen to one of the songs from the album here: We are the Tigers.

By the way, did you know that tigers like to eat chocolate pie?


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.)

Must-Hear Music Monday: New Video by Renee & Jeremy

Share This Video

Renee & Jeremy are simply awesome as is. Their music is melodic and beautiful. But they also seem to know all of the coolest artists around and when their songs are accompanied by animation… well, it’s perfection.

See for yourself:


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.)

Hilltown Spring Festival: Local Music Giveaway

CD Giveaway: 10 CDs From Massachusetts Based Musicians!

Gaia Roots joins us again this year at the 5th Annual Hilltown Spring Festival. Find out how you can win their CD, along with nine other CD from musicians featured at this year's festival! -- This is the second year Hilltown Families has been a major sponsor of the festival, and this year we are delighted to sponsor a third stage at the festival, The Hilltown Families Family Stage! Our line-up of award-winning Massachusetts based musicians is worth the trip to the festival alone, but there are two other stage with equally impressive, locally based musicians, including Appalachian Still, Boxcar Lilies, Gaia Roots, Misty Blues, Swing Caravan, and many others! -- And we have a collection of ten CD from a sample of bands you can see at the festival this year (details below). (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Hilltown Spring Festival Features 18 Musical Performances on 3 Stages

The 5th Annual Hilltown Spring Festival happens this Saturday, May 14th from 10am-7pm at the Cummington Fairgrounds in Cummington, MA!

Check it out! The music line-up for the festival includes 18 musical performances on three stages:

LOCAL MUSIC GIVEAWAY: 10 CD’s!

The Hilltown Spring Festival has 18 performances on 3 stage and Hilltown Families has a collection of 10 CD’s to giveaway, to one lucky winner! What a great opportunity to add a large collection of great local music to your CD collection that the entire family will enjoy.  Here’s what we got goin’ on:

Gaia Roots ❁ Motherdrum
Through song, rhythm, dance and story the women of Gaia Roots weave together traditions from around the world and they continue to pass on these traditions and create unity through music. Performing as an ensemble for over 17 years, they have traveled together to the Caribbean, West Africa and other parts of the world to perform and immerse in world music, drumming, singing, dance, and culture and to collect handmade instruments and traditional fabrics utilized in performances.

Radio Free Earth ❁ And Don’t Forget It! 
Just a fun, fun band,” says Sirius Satellite Network. — Like some great pirate radio station in the sky, Radio Free Earth ignores boundaries to play the good stuff “they don’t want you to hear,” familiar songs you’ve never heard before, and songs you’ll remember you’d forgotten. The band dubs its style Crossover Music because it’s paradoxically acoustic and electric, rootsy and innovative, funny and serious, and political and spiritual.

Lui Collins ❁ North of Mars
One of New England’s first and brightest stars,” says the Boston Globe — Folk singer/songwriter Lui Collins has been performing, writing and recording since the 1970s, earning international acclaim for her music. A native Vermonter, Collins’ early music education included classical studies on piano, violin and French horn, followed by a major in music theory at the University of Connecticut. Lui abandoned formal music studies after three years of college, in favor of the vibrant folk music scene of northeast Connecticut.

Sarah Pirtle ❁ Pocketful of Wonder
Sarah Pirtle is an award-winning author and musician who writes and sings for all ages. Pocketful of Wonder, her ninth recording, received the Gold Award from Parents’ Choice, and in 2007 she received the Magic Penny Award for lifetime achievement in children’s music. On this album, the opening song, “Let’s Go Outside,” is the central message. This fabulous album encourages families to spend time together outside and supports a childhood nourished by the wonder of the earth.

Mister G ❁ Bugs
Mister G bursts onto the national family music scene with his adventurous second CD release, Bugs. — “With this new record, Mister G manages to capture the energy and engagement of his wildly popular live shows,” write Bill Childs of WRSI’s Spare the Rock. — Mister G is Ben Gundersheimer, a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter/producer who spent 20 years as a rock frontman and solo artist before transitioning to making family music. The first student to garner a songwriting scholarship to Berklee College of Music, who has won 10 ASCAP awards, Ben toured internationally before going back to school to earn a Masters degree in elementary education.

Ben Rudnick & Friends ❁ A Frog Named Sam
Ben Rudnick & Friend’s 7th CD, A Frog Named Sam, is filled with energy, fun and excellent musicianship. — “On the title track alone, the funky vocal breakdown is worth the price of admission….” says Time Out New York Kids — The title track tells the story of Sam, a country frog who heads off to the big city to fulfill his dream of singing for big audiences. With success, he misses his friends and returns to sing for them back at the pond. The acclaimed American roots Style family music band, Ben Rudnick & Friends (BRF) will join us this year on the Family Stage.

The Boxcar Lilies ❁ Heartwood
“There is nothing like the great three-part harmonies of the Boxcar Lilies to send a shiver up your spine,writes the Greenfield Recorder. — Heartwood is The Boxcar Lilies’ debut studio release.  Their spine-tingling and innovative harmonies are the hallmark of this record.  The Boxcar Lilies are a high energy and engaging Americana trio with a knack for heavenly three-part harmony and exceptional songwriting!

Appalachian Still ❁ Feelin’ Alive
Appalachian Still is an acoustic string band out of Northampton, Massachusetts playing high energy Americana that combines oldtimey mountain music with bluegrass, rock, and folk. This New England group has managed to create a unique sound that is distinctly their own yet remains rooted in the heart of Appalachia. Drawing from a repertoire of traditional tunes, original material, and covers, this band combines traditional music of Appalachians with many “modern” influences like Old Crow Medicine Show, The Grateful Dead, Fountains of Wayne, Norman Blake, and The Avett Brothers.

Pat & Tex LaMountain ❁ A Few Miles Later
Pat & Tex LaMountain have been singing, writing, performing and harmonizing together for over 30 years. Writers of dozens of songs, they have developed a diverse collection of material that includes American standards, swing tunes, folk, rock, bluegrass and country. Their music has been described as “upbeat and rhythmic, inspirational and sensitive…catchy…with Pat & Tex there’s heart and soul.” Songs that touch us through melody, message and harmony. Their music is a blend of Pat’s crystal clear vocals with Tex’s tenor voice and unique flat and finger picking styles.

Misty Blues ❁ Roadhouse Revival & Electric Juke Joint
All members of Misty Blues, being lovers of the blues genre, noticed a deficit of blues in the Berkshires that focus on the multitude of talented and influential female performers. Misty Blues pays homage to the older blues music made popular by the bold and brassy women of its time, while still paying respect to the more contemporary female artist that carry on their rich traditions like Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton, Billie Holiday and Tracey Chapman.

HOW TO WIN

Your chance to win a 10 CD package of Massachusetts based artists is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  Here’s how… Read the rest of this entry »

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.)

Sunny Day: Elizabeth Mitchell’s Newest CD

Elizabeth Mitchell: Sunny Day

'Sunny Day' offers "handmade music" which invites listeners to join in. As Amanda Blake Soule, the author of "The Creative Family," notes in the 28-page full-color booklet enclosed with 'Sunny Day,' "These songs bring our attention to the magical, mysterious, fabulous and special simple moments of everyday living." They provide a soundtrack to brighten any day, "inspiring family connection and togetherness," as Sooule says.

Elizabeth Mitchell’s new CD, Sunny Day, came out earlier this month and at just the right time for my family.

With the air getting crisper and school back in session, kids will invariably pick up (and bring home) fall colds. It’s no fun for anyone. When both mommy and child are feeling under the weather the best thing for everyone is to relax and take it easy.

Yes, I realize this is easier said than done, but Elizabeth’s soothing voice and mellow tunes really helped my son to calm down, rest, and focus on getting better rather than on how awful he felt. And that helped mommy feel better, too!

Elizabeth sings many traditional folk songs from around the world, but combines them in her seamless style. Her voice and arrangements are soft and safe; you can’t help but feel comfortable and comforted while listening to her music. It’s perfect music for after-school-wind-down time, for snuggling, or for just feeling happy and at home.

To get a feel for Elizabeth’s style, try listening to her version of Mr. Rabbit or the Japanese song Ooki Na Kuri No Ki No Shita De (Under the Big Chestnut Tree), two of our favorite songs on the new album.

If you’re looking for something easy to listen to, something you can pop in the CD player when you’ve just about had it with all the noise and the distractions, you’ve found it. Relax. You’re entire family deserves it!


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.)

Minnesota’s Newest Kids Band: The Bazillions

The Bazillions

Take a tablespoon of Recess Monkey, add a heaping cup of The Hipwaders, and stir in a bit of power pop to even out the heavy rock flavor, and you’ll have the recipe for Minnesota’s new kids’ band, The Bazillions. Yum!

The Bazillions is the family-friendly iteration of the grown-up band The Humbugs, but their kids’ fare sounds much happier (though their grown-up songs are actually very good, too).

As the Bazillions they sing about Mac -n- Cheese and a Super Sonic Rocket Bike, perfect for the younger generation. Their lyrics are witty and silly and, above all else, they rock!

Their new album, Rock-n-Roll Recess, features the requisite Hello and goodbye songs, but done in a decidedly rock fashion (very cool) and the last two tracks are lyric-free recordings of previous songs so you can sing along at home karaoke style. Kids love that.  Read the rest of this entry »

Must-Hear Music Monday: Jungle Gym

Jungle Gym

Justin Roberts isn’t just a musician; he’s a phenomenon. When we hear that Justin has a new CD coming out, we begin pining for it immediately. We don’t worry if it will be good or not—it’s just a question of which songs we will love the most.

And Justin has been receiving some much deserved accolades in the mainstream press lately. The New York Times wrote about him in April and I was glad to see that the reporter was a true fan who recognized Justin as a “natural poet,” quoting some of his best lines from classic songs like Picture Day and Sandcastle.

Justin was also featured in a recent article in Time Magazine, which was accompanied by a video interview online.

At his root Justin is an incomparable lyricist. His songs move smoothly from verse to chorus and are divine to sing along to. He gets you thinking, laughing, and every so often even crying—and sometimes that can all happen in the same song (like From Scratch, which gets to me every time I hear it).

His new CD, Jungle Gym, is no exception. The songs take the perspective of a child, but in a way that we can all relate to. We all know what it feels like to get an unexpected day off—whether we’re a kid finding out school’s canceled due to a Snow Day or a mom who’s just been given the afternoon to herself. And in the song Never Getting Lost, is he really singing about a child getting lost in a mall or about losing our way in life and needing to reconnect?

Justin’s new CD is set to release this week but can be pre-ordered now. In the meantime, you can check out this video for Obsessed by Trucks:

And once you’ve got your new CD and you’re singing every song by heart, you’ll be ready for Justin’s upcoming performances, including the Regattabar in Cambridge, MA on July 25th. Yes, it’s time to get excited.

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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.)

Must-Hear Music Monday with Amber: Five New Releases

Must-Hear Music Monday

We’ve been listening to lots of new—and some not so new—music that’s super cool. Local favorite Liz Buchanan recently released a new CD and so did Princess Katie & Racer Steve. And did you know that the ever-awesome Recess Monkey have a new CD coming out in June?

Here are some highlights from our new collection of favorites:

Liz Buchanan

Liz Buchanan Singing All the Way HomeLiz’s new CD is simply a sweet collection of kids’ songs with a very folksy and traditional feel. These songs are great for little kids and toddlers. Liz has a rich singing voice that’s both beautiful and friendly that really attracts kids, especially shy ones. Her shows are very interactive and kids just seem to feel free to dance and be themselves with her.

I love the song “Hey, Dr. Knickerbocker” for its perfect guitar arrangement and sing-along-to lyrics and Ivan just adores “The Hand-Clapping Rap” where you clap the syllables of food words. Such a simple idea gets him so excited!

Liz is planning a CD release party at the Regent Theater in Eastern MA in October. Her concert will kick off their Family Fun Series this fall!

Princess Katie & Racer Steve

Princess Katie & Racer Steve Tiny CoolPrincess Katie and Racer Steve may have been around making kids’ music for a while, but we’ve only just discovered their music and we’re quickly becoming huge fans! Their new CD, Tiny Cool, is like a cartoon rock party in a box. Just add some dance moves and you’re all set!

The songs are interspersed with little skits spoken by Katie and Steve and they’re just hilarious (ever hear a princess really try to get her enchanted forest animals to sing with her? It doesn’t work out so well!), but the real fun is in the songs. Just listen to clips from “Clelia’s Party” and “Tiny Cool” and you’ll see what I mean. It’s like a book you can’t put down—in music form!

Recess Monkey

Recess Monkey The Final FunktierThe guys from Recess Monkey have been busy preparing for their next project: A trip into outer space! That’s right, the funky cool kids’ band from Seattle is releasing a new CD in June and it’s all about space and what you’ll find there. I guess you could say that The Final Funktier is technically a concept album focusing entirely on one theme, but instead of becoming dry or forced, this really works! From songs about satellite brothers who never leave you alone to beat-box robots every song on this CD is a keeper.

Along side the silly songs is Galax Sea,” a questing song asking listeners to think about what might by on the other side of the galaxy. It’s almost epic in its scope and really quite lovely to listen to, plus the guest vocals on this song are amazing. The Final Funktier includes vocals from two of my all-time favorite artists, Morgan Taylor and Rachel Loshak (from Gustafer Yellowgold), as well as Caspar Babypants, The Not-Its, and other big time children’s rockers. Very cool! – The Final Funktier will be available for sale in June but you can pre-order your copy now!

The Okee Dokee Brothers

Okee Dokee Brothers Kids with BeardsAnother band we’ve just discovered even though they’ve been around for a while is The Okee Dokee Brothers. These guys play a mean guitar and banjo plus they’re simply hilarious. They kind of remind me of Flight of the Conchords for kids, especially with songs like “Robot”. Did you know that robots can’t sing? Neither did I!

The Okee Dokee Brothers definitely cater their music to both kids and adults alike by including jokes or references in their songs that the parents can appreciate, like when their song “Wash Your Face” spoofs George Michael’s “Faith” with lines like “Well, I guess it would be nice if you would wash your face I don’t know any face that could replace you.” Give them a listen and see what you think. They’re new album, Take It Outside, is available for pre-release on their site now.

Gina Sing

Gina Sing TogetherLast, but certainly not least, you might want to check out the new album from Gina Sing titled Together. Gina’s another vocalist with such a beautifully rich voice and I love the kids she has singing with her on her album. Gina sings many traditional songs like “Tingalayo” or “I Love the Mountains” but she always adds her own fresh spin to the song. “Head n’ Shoulders, Baby” is a great example. It’s not just “head, shoulders, kness, and toes”—oh no—Gina has you jumping and bopping to a whole new take on this classic. She’s a lot of fun!

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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.)

Family Music Review: Shall we rock a bit? Yes, we shall.

Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child Banner

Shall we rock a bit?  Yes, we shall.

This month, let’s look at some music that’s just good straight ahead rock for kids.  It’s not, to be clear, all head-banging, and some of the CDs below are certainly varied in styles, but these folks set out to make various flavors of rock records, and that’s what they did.

John Carlin’s first record, First Time for Everything, was mostly performed by Carlin himself.  It was a good guitar-based record, fairly straightforward but with some killer hooks.  Now he’s gone and gotten a full band, and it really makes the record come alive.  The songs have more energy – the second track, “Meet You At the Playground,” nicely evokes the excitement of outdoor play with a sweet mandolin track, while “A Dinosaur Named Fred” builds to an almost Buffalo Tom-esque chorus.  Most notably, the record incorporates music from around the world, especially Brazilian samba and bossa nova without feeling forced.  (There’s the “varied” part.) Plus he includes one of my favorite songs from seeing him live, “Eliza,” with a great organ part and some nice harmonies.

Rudnick is a Boston-area family musician with a familiar story – as parenthood began, his songwriting turned to songs for his kids. For over a decade now, he’s been releasing relaxed-but-never-sloppy music that just feels right, with intricate tunes and playful lyrics. There’s more than a little Grateful Dead influence here, both in the rambling style and the Americana reworkings of classic songs (“Old Joe Clark,” “Erie Canal,” etc.).  Rudnick has released a number of records, but this is probably is best.  One change, whether conscious or not, is that at least these tracks are, on average, a minute or two shorter than most of the tracks on past albums, and I think that makes them largely better.

The Sippy Cups’ previous full-length CD, Electric Storyland, is surprising psychedelic rock for kids – surprising because nobody had really done it before.  In retrospect, it seems obvious that music inspired by early Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and so on, mixed with modern alternative rock energy, would be perfect for kids.  The band has released one online-only EP, One Day Soon, made up of quieter music, since Electric Storyland, but the new full length has been a long time coming.

That full-length, The Time Machine, is similarly good, but with a different focus than Electric Storyland.  As the band members’ kids have gotten older, the songs seem to have gotten a bit more mature.  This is still kids’ music, don’t get me wrong, but it’s more about elementary school age kids’ situations and problems and joys than the previous record.  “My Daddy’s Lucky Charm,” for instance, describes how the title object keeps a family from unraveling; “One Day Soon” (which also is on the EP of the same name) sweetly deals with the aching desires of kids to be able to do more than they can; and so on.  The music is still largely along the same lines as Electric Storyland, with maybe a bit more modern rock vibe than classic or psychedelic rock – no matter the label, though, it’ll work great for your kids and you.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Childs & Ella

Bill Childs

Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, which airs on Saturday mornings on 93.9 The River (8-10 AM, 101.5 in Brattleboro) and 103.3 Valley Free Radio (7-9 AM). He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at show@sparetherock.com

High Concept, High Reward (Music Review)

High Concept, High Reward
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

Sesame Street Playground CD & DVD

Sesame Street Playground CD & DVD

CDs aimed at kids are rarely what the industry calls “high concept” – that is, with a Big Theme running throughout, or a clever idea at their core.  Sure, you occasionally get the food-themed record or the alphabet/number collections, but rarely anything more than that.  This month, a few releases that break the mold and, mostly, pay off with their gamble.

Putumayo Kids – Sesame Street Playground: There’s no better concept yet this year: Sesame Street songs from around the world, plus a DVD with a handful of videos from international editions of the essential kids’ series.  And Putumayo pulls it off, from the Dutch opening to a Chinese “Rubber Duckie” to a French “La Chanson de l’Amité” that sounds exactly as French as you’d hope, to the driving Israeli “En Den Dino.”  It’s not perfect – at least for me, I can think of a lot of U.S. songs I’d put ahead of “Elmo’s Song” to represent the domestic version of the show – but the highs easily outweigh the lows.  (And I probably just resent Elmo, coming as he did after I was done with the show.  Like Scrappy on Scooby Doo; can’t stand him either.)  The DVD just adds to the fun, giving kids a look at what Sesame Street is like overseas.  www.putumayo.com

Yes to Running

Yes to Running

Bill HarleyYes to Running: Harley is a very funny musician and storyteller, well known for both his kids’ stuff and his commentaries on NPR’s All Things Considered.  Frankly, his studio CDs have always left me a little underwhelmed, but this two-CD set, recorded live at a high-energy show in Montana, helps me understand his success.  Harley’s at his core a storyteller (even in his songs), and clearly thrives on audience participation.  You don’t need to get past the first track (“I Like to Sing”) to get a sense of the sheer fun that must be seeing him live.  The CDs also include several lengthy musical stories, including the very funny “Mom and the Radio.”  He’s utterly engaging and has a great sense of comic timing, and has a bluntness and self-deprecating wit that kids no doubt will love (noting that “only an idiot” would sled down a huge hill, and that they did, “because we were idiots”).  Add in his willingness to good-naturedly mock parents along with himself and it’s a lot of fun.  It’s not as big a concept as, say, Sesame Street Playground, but it’s definitely a CD that’s much more about the whole than any of its parts.  www.billharley.com

Spanglish Wrangler

Spanglish Wrangler

Will Thomas – Spanglish Wrangler: Now Miami-based Will Thomas performs relaxed alt-country with a blues touch, more or less, with lyrics in, as the title suggests, some Spanish, some English – Spanglish – in every song.  The arrangements and production have a bit of a G. Love/Jack Johnson/Ben Taylor vibe, with a couple of songs based on classics (“Cucaracha” based on Earth Wind & Fire’s “September,” and “They Call It Spanish Monday” on T. Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday”).  If you’re looking for some Spanish language in your kids’ environment, this is a great, accessible, non-cheesy record, with some gentle humor (“Broccoli,” for instance, involves a kid’s bargaining for more – yes, more! – broccoli).  While there are a handful of songs out there with both English and Spanish (the Jimmies’ terrific “Spanimals” comes to mind), this is the first kids’ record I can remember that reflects the reality in many households of both languages intermingling.  It sounds effortless but hits the spot.  www.willthomas.com


Bill Childs & Ella

Bill Childs

Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, which airs on Saturday mornings on 93.9 The River (7-9 AM, 101.5 in Brattleboro) and 103.3 Valley Free Radio (8-10 AM). He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at show@sparetherock.com

Music Review: Compilation Junction, What’s Your Function?

Compilation Junction, What’s Your Function?
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

Compilations: All too often, as I’ve observed before (and as you’ve likely noticed), they’re leftovers or donated rarities that should have stayed rare. No matter how good the cause, the “unreleased track” from your favorite band frequently turns out to be something left over from a high school battle of the bands.

But for some reason, that seems not to be the case as much in family-friendly music. Recent years have brought, among other releases, the excellent Play and the mostly-great For the Kids series; go back a few years and you get Bloodshot Records’ The Bottle Let Me Down and the incredible Stay Awake collection of Disney covers from folks as varied as The Replacements and Tom Waits.

The pace isn’t slowing. Below, some fun records that will introduce you to a lot of bands you’ve probably never heard before, some from kid-oriented performers and some from performers who have never done anything for kids.

Ditties for Kiddies: This release of mostly bluegrass and alt-country tracks, benefits Little Kids Rock, a non-profit that brings free musical instruments and instruction to public school kids. You probably haven’t heard of almost anyone on this CD (I hadn’t), which makes finding its delights even more fun. The lead-off track, “Pickle Juice,” done by the Deep Fried Pickle Project (who put the CD together), is hilarious and catchy, and a sense of humor and whimsy that persists throughout the CD. Other highlights include “Birthday is Over,” done by Shinyribs (the solo project of Kevin Russell, front man for the Gourds) and my favorite song on the CD, “Daisy,” singing the praises of a VW bus, done by Deadwood Revival, with gorgeous harmonies and evocative lyrics. These aren’t kids’ bands, but you’ll wish they’d do more stuff for kids. www.cdbaby.com/cd/dfppap

High Meadow Songs: Along the same lines, musically, but with a bit more serious tone, is this release, a benefit for an arts scholarship program in the Hudson Valley of New York. Unlike Ditties for Kiddies, this record features a lot of performers who have done music for kids in the past – Dog on Fleas, Elizabeth Mitchell, Medeski Martin & Wood – but a number of more general audience performers too – Jay Ungar & Molly Mason and Debbie Lan, and others. It’s a gentle CD that works a bit more subtly than some. Mitchell’s “When Spring Comes” is a little bittersweet (“When spring comes, there’s nothing you can hide”) but overall joyous, and her “Handsome Molly” with Dog on Fleas will make you wish they’d do a full record together. www.highmeadowarts.org

Funky Kidz: No! Don’t run away, just because of that wacky “z” at the end of “kid”! This is so much better than you’d think given that spelling conceit! It’s made up of classic songs – both standards (“This Land is Your Land,” “Froggy Went a Courtin”) and more recent (“You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” “Yellow Submarine”) performed by some of the best New Orleans has to offer, including Bonerama, The Radiators, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Ingrid Lucia, and more. Most attempted funk for kids ends up sounding like you’re in the New Orleans section of a theme park – not this. This is the real deal, and it sounds great. Just ignore that “z.” www.funkykidzmusic.com

Rock ‘n’ Roll Coochicoo Revue: All that folk and funk is fine, but you want to rock out some? This release, from the Boston area, may be for you. It’s smart, funny in parts, and pretty varied, featuring tracks from Tanya Donnelly (formerly of Throwing Muses and Belly), Bill Janovitz (from Buffalo Tom), and many other New England rockers. Chris Colbourn’s song about Emily Dickinson, “V for Verlaine,” may be the highlight for kids who want to rock and write poetry.


Bill Childs & Ella

Bill Childs

Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, which airs on Saturday mornings on 93.9 The River (7-9 AM, 101.5 in Brattleboro) and 103.3 Valley Free Radio (8-10 AM). He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at show@sparetherock.com

Be Really Good at What You Do

Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child Banner

Be Really Good at What You Do

What makes a CD work?

(The smarty-pants [smarty-panteses?] among you are already launching into a detailed discussion of microgrooves and laser technology. I don’t mean “work” like that, doofuses.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about that question lately, not just in the kids’ music genre but more generally. And I’ve realized that the key for me is for an artist to do what they do well. That’s why, more often than not, publicity material bragging about how a CD includes “everything from rock to hip hop to smooth jazz to klezmer music to dissonant modern classical” (note: not an actual quote) is a warning sign, not a positive. Sure, some bands can pull it off, but most of the time, that “jack of all trades, master of none” cliché turns out to be based in truth. So this month, let’s take a look at some records where the artists aren’t trying to be more than what they are, and it works.

Barenaked Ladies, Snacktime

With their frequent jokiness, it might come as a surprise that Barenaked Ladies haven’t previously come out with a record for the kids – especially since, as they point out, the bandmembers are now outnumbered by their kids (more than doubled!). But Snacktime is in fact their first full-length release for the whole family. Happily, they haven’t dumbed down their often-overlooked songwriting skills for their jump into the kids’ music pool. Instead, they’ve retained the infectious poppy tunes, clever lyrics, and occasionally surprising insights (consider the sweet “Things” lyrics: “There are things that make me mad, but you are not one of them/There are things that make me sad, but you are not one of them/There are things that make me Dad, you seem to be all of them.”). What you’ll mostly love, though, are the hilarity on songs like “Crazy ABCs,” with non-traditional words for each of the songs – i.e., “A is for Aisle,” “P is for Pneumonia,” and the like. Reunited with Michael Phillip Wojewoda, who produced BNL’s early Gordon release, Snacktime is exactly what you’d want a BNL kids’ CD to be like. www.bnlmusic.com

Daddy A Go Go, Rock of All Ages

Athens, Georgia-based John Boydston has been making straight-up guitar rock for families for going on a decade now, and his kids – quite young when he started – are now part of the band, playing on a number of the tracks here. There’s no mystery here, but sometimes you just want to rock out, and the Boydston clan provide a great soundtrack for doing so – even including a blistering cover of “What a Wonderful World.” www.daddyagogo.com

Dean Jones, Napper’s Delight

Jones, of the terrific Hudson Valley family band Dog on Fleas, has done more than come up with a great album title (referencing, of course, the groundbreaking “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill gang). Jones, while certainly putting together what could be considered a lullaby CD, hasn’t taken the easy way by just recording a bunch of quiet songs with acoustic guitars. It’s just as creative as any of his regular band’s work, but just happens to be mostly a bit mellower. It’s not a release that instantly grabs you, but if you get it, I bet you’ll pull it out pretty regularly – especially if you’re stuck in traffic with snarly kids. www.dogonfleas.com, www.cdbaby.com/deanjones.

Melissa Errico, Lullabies & Wildflowers

Tony-nominee Melissa Errico (for best actress in Amour) and frequent performer on Broadway, on TV, and in feature films, had a baby a couple of years ago. As with so many performers, the experience of becoming a parent – late nights, singing, and so on – triggered a record. But most performers don’t have the incredible voice of Errico. Listening to Lullabies & Wildflowers, you’re not remotely surprised to hear that she’s been successful on Broadway – it’s that kind of voice, pure, clear, and engaging. Unsurprisingly, the record is gentle and soothing. Even the slightly more up-tempo songs (the Gershwins’ “Someone to Watch Over Me” or Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers,” for example) will trigger at most gentle head-bobbing, not head-banging. The production is polished to a fine sheen, as you’d expect with her background and style of singing. That production approach occasionally makes some of the songs feel almost distant, which isn’t ideal for lullabies, and isn’t my cup of tea – but overall, that’s nitpicking. If you’re looking for a way to slow down at the end of the day, this will work wonders. www.melissaerrico.com


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bill Childs & Ella

Bill Childs

Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, which airs on Saturday mornings on 93.9 The River (7-9 AM, 101.5 in Brattleboro) and 103.3 Valley Free Radio (8-10 AM). He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families.

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