Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Papa Crow - Full Moon, Full Moon

Marquette, Michigan's Papa Crow has finally released his long-awaited album Full Moon, Full Moon, his third collection of music for kids and families. The project was funded by a PledgeMusic campaign that directs a portion of the proceds to Oxfam, an organization that works to find solutions to poverty and social injustice.

The album kicks off with "Daylight in the Swamp," a brief acoustic preview of what's to come on Full Moon, Full Moon, sounding like a Ronnie Lane outtake from Rough Mix, the album on which Lane collaborated with Pete Townshend. "I've Got a Feeling" isn't The Beatles' Let It Be track; instead it's a vaudevillian celebration of another wonderful day. Papa Crow then gets us "Moving to the Beat" with a breezy, ska-influenced tune that features a nifty instrumental break. The upbeat Alt Country tune "Great White Pine" provides an up-high view of the wonders of outdoor adventures, while the increasingly loud and rowdy "I Wanna Rock & Roll" introduces the instruments of the band, punctuated by a Papa Crow guitar solo. "Outside Sounds" catalogues aural experiences that occur throughout the day via some super catchy newgrass, and the traditional country-sounding tune "Bumpy Bump Road" would make a great live concert sing along. Next comes one of the highlights of Full Moon, Full Moon, "Give Some, Get Some," a waltzing Alt Country duet with Frances England that would make Emmylou Harris and Jeff Tweedy jealous.

"In All of the World" is yet another top tune on the album; the lighter-waving, soulful song is deserving of a cover by Daptone Records recording star Charles Bradley. Papa Crow's dad wrote "The Michigan Waltz," a tune of memories; think a quieter, more contemplative version of Palmer and Ward's classic "The Band Played On." "Fireflies" juxtaposes the unlikely instrumental pals of acoustic guitar and synthesizer, and celebrates sharing the wonder of natural nighttime flashlights with our young ones. The mandolin-driven tune, "Over the Rooftops," is a family sing along that has the instrumental feel of an old folk song from Great Britain. Sounding like a minor key Neil Young classic, the title tune "Full Moon, Full Moon" anthropomorphisizes our lunar neighbor and features haunting fiddle work by Sara Pajunen. Another highlight is "A Billion Stars" whose thoughtful lyrics, chord changes, and fingerpicking style sound like a mix of Nick Drake, James Iha, and Robert Pollard. On "The Sun is Yellow" Papa Crow duets with Liat Tova Lis, a singer/songwriter who is sort of a modern day Malvina Reynolds, and the two deliver a song about opposites so simple in its lyrical design it becomes almost cosmic. Full Moon, Full Moon comes to a close with a reprise of "Daylight in the Swamp." This second time 'round, the Green Garden 4H Club band give the tune a distinctive Irish lilt, and their song-concluding laughter is a perfect way to end the album.

Sure, Jeff Krebs has released several animal- and sound-themed EPs and albums for kids, but Full Moon, Full Moon feels like his first true collection. The songs on this release speak to the entire family, they're accessible to kids while still being intelligent, and they're catchy as hell. Let's hope the Kindie Rock world hears more from Papa Crow in the future.

Released October 8, 2014; Things That Roar

Track Listing
  1. "Daylight in the Swamp"
  2. "I've Got a Feeling"
  3. "Moving to the Beat"
  4. "Great White Pine"
  5. "I Wanna Rock & Roll"
  6. "Outside Sounds"
  7. "Bumpy Bump Road"
  8. "Give Some, Get Some"
  9. "In All of the World"
  10. "The Michigan Waltz"
  11. "Fireflies"
  12. "Over the Rooftops"
  13. "Full Moon, Full Moon"
  14. "A Billion Stars"
  15. "The Sun is Yellow"
  16. "Daylight in the Swamp (Reprise)"

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Little Miss Ann - Follow Me

Chicago's Ann Torralba has released several albums of family music over the past few years, each CD better than the last. Her latest, Follow Me, continues her string of organic, thoughtful, joyful collections of tunes for music-loving families.

Follow Me kicks off with a cover of "Someday, Some Morning, Sometime," a music-less Woody Guthrie lyric that Billy Bragg and Wilco refurbished with a new melody for Mermaid Avenue Vol. II. Ann performs a much more energetic reading than Bragg and Wilco's woozy, laid back version, giving the tune a "wake up, let's live!" feeling. The title track follows, continuing the "celebrate the day" vibe; then Ann asks, "Can You Make a Circle?" as the band perform an activity song for which Kristi Thom provided the lyrics. Ann brilliantly updates the old camp song "I Love the Mountains," aka "Boom De Ah Da," by giving it more of a jam band, danceable feel (dig the groovy tambourine and flute during the instrumental interlude!). And the droning musical accompaniment and the excitedly rushed vocals in the verses make "Two's Today" sound like a long-lost Velvet Underground song.

Rather than present a typical "I miss you" tune, the singer exclaims she "Can't Wait to See You" because she wants to dance, dance, dance with her friend, as early '90s jangle pop meets Jefferson Airplane in this great movement song. Daniel Littleton and Elizabeth Mitchell of You Are My Flower join Ann on "I Got a Light," one of the highlights of Follow Me, sounding like no less than Fairport Convention playing a Decemberists song. Ann then covers Frank Loesser's "Bushel and a Peck," a tune originally written for the Broadway musical Guys and Dolls and later made famous by Perry Como and Betty Hutton. The song was also covered by fellow kindie rocker Dan Zanes on his 2000 album Rocket Ship Beach.; here, Ann updates the tune by utilizing Chris Frumkin's funky clavinet and a crowd-participatory wordless chorus. Ann then performs "Jolly Ole' Soul," an original song that sounds like it could be an ancient nursery rhyme performed by The Incredible String Band. Follow Me comes to a gentle close with the counting song, "Three Little Pumpkins," a sort of neo-bluegrass alternative to the old storytime standby "Five Little Ducks."

To my ears, the songs on Follow Me are more "feels" than compositions; Little Miss Ann seems to be writing from the soul rather than trying to document literal events with cookie cutter arrangements. It sounds as if these songs came together in the moment for Ann rather than her trying to fit a traditional "I must construct a song that fits a certain children's music style" mold. And we listeners are better off for it!

Released May 1, 2014; Late Bloomer Records

Track Listing
  1. "Someday, Some Morning, Sometime"
  2. "Follow Me"
  3. "Can You Make a Circle?"
  4. "I Love the Mountains"
  5. "Two's Today"
  6. "Can't Wait to See You"
  7. "I Got a Light"
  8. "Bushel and a Peck"
  9. "Jolly Ole' Soul"
  10. "Three Little Pumpkins"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Alternative 4 from The Beatles

OK, I realize that the point of this release is to promote upcoming remastered music, but, c'mon, the song selection could have been a bit more imaginative. iTunes recently offered up a free four-song EP of solo material by those guys who used to be in The Beatles: John's “Love," from 1970’s John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Paul's “Call Me Back Again," from Wings’ 1975 Venus and Mars, George's “Let It Down,” from 1970’s All Things Must Pass, and Ringo's “Walk With You," from 2010’s Y Not.

A much more darkly amusing quartet of tunes would have included "How Do You Sleep?" and "Too Many People," John and Paul's respective musical "fuck you" directed toward each other right after the band's breakup. Also, George's "Sue Me, Sue You Blues," his desperately frustrated reaction to the legal wranglings that roiled within the Beatles camp post breakup, and poor Ringo's "Early 1970," the loveable drummer's message of "I miss you guys, let's get back together," would have nicely rounded out four solo Beatles tunes that revealed the Fab Four's individual takes on a difficult time in their personal and musical lives.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Happy Autumn Equinox!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

It's Good to Be Back!

After a short stint at another media outlet, I'm back at good ol' Kids Music That Rocks. I'll be digging deeper into stuff I like: kindiependent bands and performers, obscure oldies, grownup music that kids might like, and weird tunes that probably appeal to nobody but me.

If you have music you'd like me to check out, please feel free to send me a message at my new email listed over there in the left-hand column. Can't wait to hear what you've created!

It's good to be back!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

***Dean Jones***

I've been a die-hard follower of Dog On Fleas since I found Cranberry Sauce Flotilla over four years ago. Became a bigger fan after getting to see them live at the Donnell Central Children's Room when I worked there. Got to the point of obsessive stalkerism when Dean Jones released Napper's Delight in 2007. Now Jones has upped the ante on his second solo disc by getting The Felice Brothers involved, resulting in one of the best family albums of 2010.

Check out a full review of Dean Jones' Rock Paper Scissors over at About.com!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

***Roy Handy and The Moonshot***

Ever wonder what it would sound like if Neil Young and Crazy Horse made a kids' album? Think on it no more, music lovers, Roy Handy and The Moonshot are here! The "group" is actually Gerry Stanek doin' the solo thing, and his debut CD, (I'm Gonna Be) Your Best Friend, borrows heavily from the loud, loping sound created by Young and his legendary backing band.

Stanek says that the entire album was conceived and recorded in a mere three weeks. This, and the fact that half the songs are under two minutes long gives the album an immediate, shambolic, but not messy, sound and feel ... kinda like your uncle's band playing in the garage. Amusing side note: all the song titles are followed by three exclamation points, except, of course, the lone tender-hearted (but still pretty loud) tune "Sometimes You Need to Be Cuddled."

The album kicks off with a song from the canine's point of view, "I Am a Dog!!!" complete with guitar solo and howls, followed by the Who-like chordfest, and second single from (I'm Gonna Be) Your Best Friend, "Crayon Man!!!" And the loping "That's a Great Idea!!!" which includes a few suggestions that are sarcastically categorized as "great," would give Atlanta kindie rocker Daddy A Go Go a run for his money.

Stanek dips into Jason and The Scorchers' amped-up version of country rock to declare that "Socks are Overrated!!!" while the Crazy Horse influence resurfaces on Stanek's ode to his comforting "Blanket!!!" Some big ol' chunky chords, a la Bachman Turner Overdrive, describe the awesomeness of the "Playground!!!" and a great T. Rex boogie celebrates the "Hotdog!!!"

The lighter-hoisting "Sometimes You Need to Be Cuddled" slows down the pace a little with some Teenage Fanclub-inspired chord changes and the admission that we all need a hug every once in a while. But then the breakneck speed of "Pancakes!!!" wakes everyone up again, highlighted by a ridiculous solo that'll have yer budding juke box heroes air guitaring all over the living room.

The straight-ahead rocker "Shopping List!!!" details a trip to the grocery store, while "Space Kitty!!!" the first single from the album, would be a perfect theme song for a Saturday morning cartoon. The album ends with "Moonshot!!!" a raging tribute to space travel that would make Alabama garage rockers The Quadrajets proud. If you dig the rowdy, grungy, guitar-driven rock and roll of, say, Ragged Glory or Rust Never Sleeps, Roy Handy is right down your alley. Play this one LOUD!