Wednesday, June 28, 2006

***Farmer Jason***

Alt country, Country Music, country rock ... call the music on this CD what you will, but it sure beats the hell out of anything you would hear on CMT today. Ever wondered what a typical day on a farm would be like? Well, you've come to the right place. Farmer Jason will personally take you on a guided tour of A Day At the Farm!

Jason Ringenberg spent several years as ringleader of Jason and the Scorchers, and if you ever got a chance to see one of their rowdy shows or listen to any of their riproaring rock/country hybrid records, you'll recognize his trademark eeeeelongated vowels. A Day At the Farm, Jason's first CD as Farmer Jason, was released in 2003 on Chapel Hill, North Carolina's, Yep Roc Records. The album begins with a rooster's crow, which lets everybody know it's time to "Get Up Up Up!" (check out the awesome hook in the middle eight). Then the semi-autobiographical "Guitar Pickin' Chicken" livens up things even more. A banjo accompanies the bumpy ride of "Whoa There Pony", and the real rock begins when the "Tractor Goes Chug Chug Chug". "I'm Just an Old Cow" pays homage to Johnny Cash's Sun Records era, followed by the foot stompin', guitar crunchin' "He's a Hog Hog Hog". Then come two great Toddler Time singalongs, "The Doggie Dance" and "Little Kitty". A fiddle and a banjo anchor the old time mountain music of "Corny Corn", and some spicy Cajun flavor is added to the rollicking "Hey Little Lamb", another oughta-be-a-chart-topper. Finally, everybody settles in for the night with "Sundown On the Farm", Jason's peaceful duet with Tahra Dergee, star of Nashville Public Television's Tahra Time.

So, this is what it would be like to have the nicest, most patient, rockin'est uncle, ever, walking around with you on his farm. Jason narrates between each song, giving short descriptions of the chores and animals of each upcoming tune. This is the perfect CD for a 30-minute drive, when you can let your little one's imagination take over. Or put this one on while you play farm on the living room floor. Even though you might have missed it when it first came out, A Day At the Farm is a definite must-have. It's just amazing that kids' albums exist which include at least four songs that could be in the Country Music top ten charts. And that's the way it should always be.

Check out some of Farmer Jason's favorite things to do and places to visit in Pennsylvania this summer!

Friday, June 23, 2006

***Joel Caithamer***

Why isn't this guy more famous? I mean, he's got the rockabilly sound down pat, he sings about big bad wolves and Evel Knievel, and he's incredibly busy in his own library ... check out Joel Caithamer's ACTIVATE! and get ready to rock the town!

The album opens with an upright bass-slappin' song where ol' wolfie admits that, yes, I am a "Big Bad Wolf", but I'm not that bad. Then we find out that "Bobby's Been Bad but Wanda's Been Worse", after an overdriven harmonica solo blasts out of the speakers and a babysitter's worst nighmare is described. Kitty's been out "Cattin' All Night", complete with a film noir soundtrack, including a finger-snapping 5/4 break. A spooky tune describes A Series of Unfortunate Events' "Master of Disguises", the evil Count Olaf ... but then Joel cranks up the volume again with a bio of Evel Knievel, a librarian's musical explanation of the Dewey Decimal System that would make Sun Records proud, and a rock and roll ode to a vine full of briars. The rock continues with a "Taxman"-like tune about Sunday morning pancakes; a jazzy story of the life of a sock monkey, featuring a very singalongable 5/4 chorus; and the album ending, organ-heavy tune dedicated to stubborn eaters.

Caithamer went all out for ACTIVATE!, from the cover's retro graphics, to the blue suede shoes inlay card, to the screen print image of a vinyl LP on the CD itself. But the album goes way beyond gimmicky kitsch: Caithamer's songwriting skills, his band's stellar musicianship, and the wholehearted effort he put into this project show that he's serious about the fun he's having. Besides being head of children's services at a branch of the Kenton County Library in Kentucky, Caithamer has developed, along with the Greater Cincinnati Television Educational Foundation, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and Success By Six, a series of multimedia materials available for use by teachers and librarians. Check out his work at Considering his impressive work across the Midwest, and the two CDs now under his belt, Joel is one of those guys we wish we had more of in our public libraries. Get ACTIVATE! and, as Joel himself said, "Play loud!". You'll find out why he should be more famous.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

***Baron Von Rumblebuss***

A tasty musical sandwich: a stack of supremely sunny powerpop songs surrounded by a couple of slices of buzzy new wave tunes, seasoned with meaningful lyrics and a dash of silliness ... mmmmm, it must be Ride the Redd Zeppelin!

North Carolina-based, Mississippi native, Tray Batson is a Music Therapist who has worked with children for years. The songs on this CD began as part of Batson's music therapy classes, presented through his New Vibrations Music company, where he specialized in developmental music for little ones, emphasizing movement, self-expression, rhythm patterns, and musical concepts. This all developed into the character of ... tah dah ... Baron Von Rumblebuss! He borrowed a couple of musicians from fellow Carolinian band the Squirrel Nut Zippers to play drums and bass guitar and created a highly entertaining collection of tunes that deal with feelings, playground crushes, dancing, and, of course, robots!

"Come On Aboard" invites the listener to join the Rumblebuss ride in an energetic fashion, while "Fancypants" keeps the toddlers dancing with a James Brown-like workout. Then the rock and roll magic begins...The Kinks-inspired "Feelings" explodes with lots of guitar and splashy cymbals, and the jaunty "I Like to Feel Cool" portrays the joyful swagger of a preschooler. "The Sun is Coming Up" celebrates the wonderfulness of life's smallest details (and check out the awesomely beautiful middle section), "Supergirl" borrows from the early Who to describe a kid's admiration of a playmate, and a slide guitar helps "Bear Bottom" paint pictures of some silly situations. The CD ends with "Rock Robots", the hit that Danny Elfman forgot to write for Oingo Boingo, and "What Goes Up Comes Down", which would feel right at home on Berlin's first album.

Batson's music is very reminiscent of the California-based Chris Von Sneidern and Illinois' Adam Schmitt, both powerpop giants in the mid-90s. The open, non-claustrophobic production on Ride the Redd Zeppelin sounds great, and the songwriting, both lyrically and musically, are far above what you would find on even the above average kids' album. Buy this one for the home, the classroom, the car, and crank it up!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

***Melanie Dill***

How to describe these CDs…a panoramic view of a great children’s television show without the visuals. Use your imagination and picture a wonderfully flowing, funny, sweet, highly entertaining stream of music, dialogue, and rhymes, and you have a good idea of what you’ll find in Melanie Dill’s series of Music for Learning CDs.

Rainbow Lemonade and its companion CD, Alphabet Parade, have been out for some time, but in anticipation of the third album in this series, I thought it was important everyone should know about these first two.

Well-played by a host of musicians and sometimes accompanied by children’s voices, the 24 songs on Rainbow Lemonade and 26 songs on Alphabet Parade are connected by spoken vignettes, multicultural hellos, and children’s musings. On Alphabet Parade the songs range from short and sweet singalongs like “Look Out the Window” to full blown productions like “The Parade!”, while Rainbow Lemonade contains swinging jazz numbers like the title tune and multipart songs like “After the Rain” (part stack-o-vocals harmonies with chamber orchestra, part punk rock mini-song, “Mud”).

Alphabet Parade, the first CD in Ms. Dill’s Music for Learning series, was released in 1998. The follow up, Rainbow Lemonade, came out in 2002, with a third title, Swingset Serenade, to appear this fall. Songs on Rainbow reference Alphabet, and I’m sure Swingset will incorporate ideas from both previous CDs, which will make owning all three that much more fun. The album artwork and layout for both albums are beautifully done, and the production on each is flawless, both great examples of self-released, indie kids’ music masterpieces.

Hot off the presses: Since the description in the first paragraph sounds suspiciously like an old time radio program, it only makes sense that Ms. Dill is at this very moment in negotiations with the University of Kansas’ KJHK 90.7 FM and National Public Radio to create a kids radio show taped live with an audience of children, and broadcast with additional songs and material interspersed throughout. Cool!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

***dog on fleas Live at Donnell !***

On Thursday, June 8, we had the privilege here at the Donnell Central Children's Room of hosting Hudson Valley's own dog on fleas, and they rawked!

They headlined our Summer Reading Club Kickoff Celebration with an afternoon of selections from their first three albums, as well as a few from their soon-to-be-released CD. The fleas added to the general rowdiness of the event by throwing in snippets of "I Believe in Miracles" and "Walkin' the Dog", which led to uncontrollable dancing and a massive upsurge in Summer Reading Club registration.

Thanks again for the show, guys!

Friday, June 09, 2006

***Parker Bent***

One of the joys of being a children’s librarian is putting together storytimes, music programs, and craft activities for kids, seeing what flies, finding out what sinks. Sometimes things are a roaring success, while other events are pretty much given a group shrug by the little ones. Parker Bent is a preschool music teacher in Beverly Hills, California, and through his daily work with kids he has honed his songwriting skills and perfected his music program presentation, and has wonderfully translated everything into his first CD, I Am Your New Music Teacher.

Your little ones can practice spelling and sounding out words with “26 Letters”, and shimmy to the Bo Diddly beat of “Froggy”, the story of an unusually named dog. They’ll also identify with the pre-school blues of the cowbell-driven “I Wanna Go Home”. Then, imagine Jack Black playing Miss Viola Swamp from Miss Nelson is Missing!, and you have the title song! Finally, the chugging Sheryl Crow-like handclapper “Count On” provides a great number-related singalong.

From the a cappella opener “AAA” to the western pastiche “Farewell”, Bent paints a sweet, funny, and rollicking picture of what one would expect to hear in his classroom. If his programs are half this fun, parents should be thankful Parker is part of their children’s early education experience. Word is he’s currently working on a full-on rock and roll album for kids, so look for great things to come from this young educator and musician.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

***Uncle Widget***

The most exclusive children’s music genre in existence? Electronic Ambient Lullaby Instrumentals. And as of this writing, Uncle Widget’s Bedtime on Mars seems to be the only CD that falls into that niche. Hey, Brian Eno for babies!

The CD’s subtitle, “Music for Children to Dream by”, aptly describes the contents, and both Uncle Widget’s website and the album liner notes describe the record’s purposes: to expose children to music from infancy, to get children interested in the relaxing and creative qualities of music, and to foster peace and creativity in sleeping children. All the music on the CD is original, except for the tiniest snippets of traditional lullabies embedded deep within a song or two.

The 11 song titles have a sort of “day in the life” order to them, beginning with “Carefree from Dawn” and “Song for the AM”, and winding down with “Bedtime on Mars”, “Until Morning”, and “Tucked In”. All wonderfully soothing, all interestingly detailed, and all professionally produced and arranged.

Besides working as a South Carolina-based youth minister, Bryan Murdaugh, Uncle Widget’s alter ego, writes praise and worship songs for Mass and paraliturgical events, and sets psalms to music for use in the Mass. Murdaugh is also the co-founder of bingbit, a liturgical and family music publishing company. Check out some of this busy guy’s works and musings at,, and Give Bedtime on Mars a listen. Relax.