Saturday, April 08, 2006

***The RTTs***

Who is the best bar band in the world? Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band? Elvis Costello’s Attractions? Neil Young’s Crazy Horse? That debate will go on forever. The best (juice & snack) bar band in the U.S.A.? The RTTs! That’s right boys and girls, rock and roll for the whole family!

The RTTs, aka the Rhodes Tavern Troubadours of Washington, DC, released their rockabilly-flavored contribution to the world of children’s music, Turn It Up, Mommy! back in late 2003. Mix together the retro rock of Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds’ super group Rockpile, the countrypolitan twang of Rodney Crowell, and some tasty guitar licks a la Pete Anderson, Dwight Yoakam’s guitarist, and you have a loose estimation of the RTTs sound.

The set kicks off with “Snack Time”, in which a kid wonders aloud, “Who was the genius that came up with juice boxes, string cheese, and Goldfish?” Next, you can hear the swampy lope of Creedence Clearwater Revival in “Learning My Letters”, a tune that details the frustration of deciphering the 104 squiggles that make up the alphabet, if you count upper- AND lower-case AND cursive letters. And no, “Big Train” is not yet another “choo choo whoo whoo” kids’ song. It is, in fact, about Walter Johnson, pitcher extraordinaire for the old Washington Senators!

Dad gets specific mentions in the songs “Sherpa”, “My New Hero”, and “April 14th”. “A Sherpa”, explains Dad, “carries lots of luggage across the Himalayas”, which is the way he feels sometimes when he packs for a trip to the park. But Dad is a hero because he can swim well, he’s honest, and he can do the Boogaloo. And the 14th of April makes Dad say unrepeatable words, notices the kid. Mom is on both ends of the volume spectrum with “Turn It Up, Mommy!”, a full out rocker that makes digs at the Wiggles, Raffi, and Barney all in one breath; and “Thank You Mommy”, a soothing final song that pays tribute to Moms (and wives) everywhere.

These guys have been at it for a long time, so they have the sound down, the production is clean and bright, and their musicianship is stellar. Is it a kids’ CD? Is it meant for adults? Anyone and everyone in the family will dig this music, and that’s the point.