Steamboat music critic from Warren Truitt on Vimeo.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
In honor of South African songstress Miriam Makeba, who passed just two weeks ago, here's a short review of one of her indispensable albums, Sangoma, recorded in 1988 for Warner Brothers Records. A Sangoma is a traditional healer in southern African cultures, and these songs reflect that sense of history.
All the tunes are sung in Xhosa, a South African dialect, but don't let that deter you from enjoying these prayer songs, parables, lullabies, and gathering songs. Makeba is accompanied by a group of female singers on these traditional melodies, sometimes with sparse percussion, often a cappella style. Good vibes and a joyous spirit radiate from every song on the album.
A great way to introduce your young ones to the beautiful world of music from our beautiful Earth. And, this being 2008 and all, you can immediately download the album or songs for your family's listening pleasure.
Monday, November 24, 2008
In my extremely humble opinion, Dog On Fleas are one of the few kids' bands who make an effort to stretch out and grow as artists. Dig their riverboat/back porch/one-microphone approach on 2003's Cranberry Sauce Flotilla, and their solid pop/rock/world sound on 2006's When I Get Little. This year's Beautiful World, their fifth CD for kids, is a great collection of unmistakablely Dog On Fleas tunes, augmented by analog Moog synthesizers and whispers of electronica.
The album kicks off with the title tune, which mixes 6/4 and 4/4 metres with piccolos and flutes to create a world music ode to our world. Next is John Hughes' thumping tune of affirmation, "Star Tonight," then comes the head bobbin', in-your-face bass of "Do You Wanna Know My New Dance Step?" or, as my wife exclaimed, "Hey! Justin Timberlake for kids!" And the mysterious-sounding "Water Planet," with its Zappa-esque horn/woodwind arrangement, views Earth from an alien perspective.
John Hughes' beautifully simple "The Beach Song" puts your toes right in the Hawaiian sand, and the rockin' "Dumpling" takes a metaphysical look at existence. The wonderfully nonsensical "Lima Bean," featuring vocals from Lorette Velvette and Uncle Rock, contains awesome lines like "Lima Bean's lookin' in a full-length mirror /Singin' Rod Stewart so the whole town can hear her"; the Ben Folds Five-inspired "Crawl To Your Mother" is then followed by a waltzing "Where Would You Fly?" featuring Ben Richter's musical saw.
"I Love Your Accent" celebrates one world made of many people with the mantra "I love your accent! Where ya from?"; the buzzing new wave/rowdy New Orleans rock of "Unbirthday" dares listeners to sit still! Good vibes are flowing on the vegetable-lovin' "Sittin' in the Field," while the jazzy "Balloon Man" asks the amusing question, "Do you like Pop Music? Ahh ... probably not!" And the album ends with the pretty pop of the word-filled "Birds of a Feather", and the quiet lullaby to tiny tots 'round the world, "Babies," featuring Frances England.
This Hudson Valley, NY, collective of musicians and artists have been performing together for ten years now, and their combined experience together as bandmates and songwriters just makes them that much better. Look around you: it is a beautiful world, and Dog On Fleas are happy to tell you all about it.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wow, only a week until Thanksgiving! Just for the occasion, I've put together a list of downloadable Thanksgiving music for kids over on my About.com site for your last-minute holiday party planning.
The list of iPod-ready Thanksgiving songs includes favorites like Laurie Berkner, Dog On Fleas, John McCutcheon, and The Uncle Brothers, as well as lesser-known tunes by folksinger Si Kahn, kids from the Quincy Choral Society, Jewish Music superstar Debbie Friedman, and a 1956 recording of children from Brooklyn's P.S. 24.
Save me a slice of pumpkin pie!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
There are thousands of Christmas music CDs available for kids and their families, but what about music that celebrates Kwanzaa?
I've compiled a short list of great Kwanzaa albums over on my About.com site, but I know there have to be more out there. If you know of an excellent Kwanzaa CD (or out-of-print LP), or if you're a musician who has recorded an album of songs celebrating the Seven Principles, please feel free to leave a comment or make suggestions.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
For the second time in three years, Justin Roberts earns the number one rank in the annual Fids & Kamily Awards for best children's music. His album Pop Fly comes in atop this year's impressive list of kids' CDs, including Frances England's Family Tree and They Might Be Giants' Here Come the 123s.
Here's the complete 2008 Fids & Kamily Top Ten, along with 10 honorable mentions and 47 nominated albums.
Posted by Warren Truitt at 1:16 PM
Thursday, November 13, 2008
West Virginia-born, Portland, Oregon-based Johnny Keener throws his musical influences into the pot and dishes out a great collection of rootsy, bluesy, Americana for kids and their families. Long John is his second CD for children, the first being 2006's Elephants Over the Fence. Check out Keener's solo album for grownups, as well as his work with the band Yoyodyne.
Long John kicks off with Henry Thomas' classic "Fishin' Blues," made famous by The Lovin' Spoonful on their 1965 album Do You Believe in Magic, and by Taj Mahal on his 1968 album De Ole Folks at Home. Next is the rockabilly raveup "Run Around," a tune that would be right at home on a Buddy Holly 45.
From the old to the new and somewhere in between: the title tune is a call-and-response African-American field song, followed by a cover of The Apples In Stereo's powerpop "Energy," from last year's New Magnetic Wonder. And then comes a spirited cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Down On the Corner," their hit from 1969's Willy and the Poor Boys.
"I Don't Want It" is a sea shanty/waltz, followed by a Stray Cats-like version of the folk tune "Cat Came Back." Then there's a cover of Cat Stevens' great singalong, "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out," written for the 1971 film Harold and Maude. The album ends with the quiet shuffle of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds," and Johnny's own take on the oldie "Mockingbird."
Super folk/rock/blues for the entire family!
Friday, November 07, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
I'm happy this morning, happy that there's so much excitement in the air after last night's election, happy that the shitheads who always complained about the government finally got up off their lazy asses and voted, happy that my little boy got to go into the voting booth with me and see how important everyone's voice is.
The atmosphere was absolutely electric up here in the North Jersey/NYC area last night: I swear we heard a celebratory roar of the masses when the winning numbers were posted online and were aired on television. I listen to Matt Pinfield on WRXP in the mornings, and grown men, big burly dudes from Queens, Brooklyn, and the Jersey Shore, were calling in today on the verge of tears talking about how happy and excited they were about the election. Times ain't gonna be easy, but they sure are a'changin'.
So, in honor of President Obama, dig Pete Seeger and Lee Hays' classic but incredibly relevant "Tomorrow is a Highway." Download the song, listen to it with your kids, and talk about what's goin' on.
"Tomorrow is a Highway"
Tomorrow is a highway broad and fair,
And we are the many who'll travel there.
Tomorrow is a highway broad and fair,
And we are the workers who'll build it there;
And we will build it there.
Come, let us build a way for all mankind,
A way to leave this evil year behind,
To travel onward to a better year
Where love is, and there will be no fear,
Where love is and no fear.
Now is the shadowed year when evil men,
When men of evil thunder war again.
Shall tyrants once again be free to tread,
Above our most brave and honored dead?
Our brave and honored dead.
O, comrades, come and travel on with me,
We'll go to our new year of liberty.
Come, walk upright, along the people's way,
From darkness, unto the people's day.
From dark, to sunlit day.
Tomorrow is a highway broad and fair
And hate and greed shall never travel there
But only they who've learned the peaceful way
Of brotherhood, to greet the coming day.
We hail the coming day.
Words by Lee Hays Music by Pete Seeger (1949)
TRO - (c) 1950 (renewed) Folkways Music Publishers Inc. New York, NY
Sunday, November 02, 2008
"Picnic in the Graveyard" is pretty much the best damn song about Day of the Dead yer gonna find! Sounding like nothing less than a lost Los Lobos single, this track from Robert Warren's 2006 CD, Plays Well with Others, is a great introduction to the sentiment behind this ancient Mexican tradition.
Posted by Warren Truitt at 5:37 AM